The Knicks improved on Saturday.
They have improved their offensive profile.
They added finesse at both ends of the floor.
They gave Tom Thibodeau another reliable backup, and enabled the front office to tackle from a powerhouse – the backcourt – for a potential difference-maker if such a trade should arise.
That’s not up for debate, no matter how much you admire Obi Toppin, who has been dealt to the Pacers for future second-round draft picks, and felt Donte DiVincenzo (signed to a four-year, $50 million contract) is redundant. This list.
How much better?
That remains to be seen, and it won’t really be known for several months, when the 2023-24 season rolls around.
But it was clear when the Knicks were eliminated in six games by the Heat that they needed more shot-makers and offensive creators.
DiVincenzo, who came off a season shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range and averaging 3.5 assists for the Warriors, upgraded them in those categories.
Remember, while the Knicks had one of the best offensive teams during the regular season, tied for third in the league in offensive rating at 117.0, they still only shot 35.4 percent from 3-point range, which was 19th in the NBA.
They only shot 29.2 percent from distance in the postseason, the worst of the 16 teams that made it to the main draw.
The Heat basically dared them to beat them from the perimeter, and none other than Jalen Brunson could the Knicks.
DiVincenzo, who has a 36.2 percent 3-point shooting percentage, improves the Knicks from behind the arc.
Not only did he shoot nearly 40 percent from 3 last year, he did it in 5.3 tries per game, which is a huge amount.
And like Bronson, he’s a player with a high IQ who doesn’t make mistakes much, having averaged just 1.4 turnovers throughout his five-year NBA career.
Now, handling the 6-foot-9 Toppin weakens Nicks in one area – at the power forward in the second unit.
Except for trading, it is capped and you may not add anyone to this position.
RJ Barrett and Josh Hart were used on occasion there last year, which seems like a solution at the moment for next season.
Hart is an elite player because of his size 6-4 — the former Villanova star was fourth among guards in rebounds at 7.8 last season and tied for sixth in rebounding percentage at 12.4 — and Barrett’s 6-6 can be a compact weapon. Four men attack the slowest of the defenders.
Remember, Toppin only averaged 15.7 minutes in his final year with the Knicks, so there’s no heavy minutes to replace.
(As an aside, fans’ frustration with Toppin’s move is understandable. He was the No. 8 pick in the 2020 draft who didn’t really stand a chance and was then sent out for pick. Julius Randle. It wouldn’t change here, but the Knicks never found out which player used their pick. Top 10 players too.)
Perhaps the biggest reason this was a good day for the Knicks, though, is the odds the two moves create.
He is giving team boss Leon Rose flexibility if the opportunity presents itself.
He can move Emmanuel Kwikley or Quentin Grimes, and not worry about a lack of depth in the backcourt.
The Knicks have an abundance of guards and small wingers, and they are attractive players to other teams.
Rose is now in a position to use those assets should the right player become available.
Essentially, the Knicks traded Toppin for DiVincenzo.
They sent off a disappointing player who didn’t really have a role here for someone who expects to be much better.
Both players are about the same age; Tobin is 25 years old, and Divincenzo is 26 years old.
However, DiVincenzo’s signature doesn’t necessarily move the proverbial needle.
I wouldn’t classify him as a difference maker.
But he’s a quality player who’s just entering his peak and improving at the back end of the roster.
Nicks hit one single on Saturday.
If this is it for this season, after the franchise’s best season in a decade, it should be considered a success.