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2018 Knicks offseason checklist: Mikal Bridges, Trey Burke

Another Knicks season draws to a close on Wednesday night in Cleveland.
Mikal Bridges. (Photo: Getty Images)

For the fifth-straight season, the New York Knicks will not be partaking in postseason basketball as unremarkable basketball has become the norm at Madison Square Garden. 

The Knicks are going nowhere, this season being the fourth-straight 50-plus-loss campaign as they are destined for another lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. However, their inability to fully embrace the tank means it's likely they won't have a top-five selection. 

But this offseason provides president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry their first full summer in control of the team, providing them with a blank slate of sorts to try and rectify the mistakes of past regimes.

Here are three things the Knicks can do this offseason to help spark a legitimate rebuild:

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Keep Trey Burke and start him

Point guard Trey Burke has been a revelation in New York's backcourt, the 25-year-old getting called up from the G-League in January and wrestling the starting job away from Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay. 

Averaging just 21.2 minutes in 35 games prior to the season finale, Burke was averaging 12.6 points and 4.6 assists per game. Translate those stats to their per 36-minute averages, a time closer to what a legitimate starter sees, and the Michigan alum is putting up 21.4 points and 7.8 assists per game. 

It's far better than what either Ntilikina and Mudiay have provided and some of the best backcourt work the Knicks have seen in quite some time. It should earn him the starting job next season and beyond as long as he continues maturing into the floor general New York has seen over the past three months.

 

Draft Mikal Bridges

The Knicks are slated for a pick ranging from No. 8 to No. 10, which will see them lose out on the elite talent available in the 2018 draft class. That doesn't mean they can't obtain a future star in an area of need. 

Head coach Jeff Hornacek, who might not survive the summer with the team, admitted that his team needs a legitimate small forward.

"I think if you look around at the top teams that are in the league, they have multiple guys that are in the 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 range with length," Hornacek said in late March (h/t Newsday). "We had a lot of guys that are in the 6-foot-5 range. Just to get bigger at some of those spots and just continue to work on chemistry."

He's been forced to roll out Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee, natural shooting guards, along with Troy Williams at the small forward spot for a majority of the season after dealing Doug McDermott. 

Villanova's Mikal Bridges, coming off a national title, would fit the bill perfectly. At 6-foot-7, he is an above average 3-and-D prospect that can perform well on both ends of the floor thanks to his athleticism and length. While he isn't the most physical player, he would provide a sizeable upgrade at the position and allow Hardaway to return to his natural position at the 2. 

 

Stick with Ntilikina

Guard Frank Ntilikina hasn't enjoyed a particularly fruitful rookie campaign. His development has been slow, especially on the offensive side of the ball as he's been forced to cycle between point and shooting guard roles. 

On Monday night against the Cavaliers though, Ntilikina gave the Knicks a glimpse of what he might become, scoring a career-high 17 points on 16 shot attempts to go with six rebounds and five assists. 

That kind of aggression will be imperative if the Knicks are set on playing the 19-year-old more as an off-guard compared to a point guard. 

Regardless, this is a 6-foot-5 talent that could develop into an invaluable hybrid in the backcourt capable of playing both the 1 and 2. While he might not get a starting role if Burke and Hardaway are the go-to-guys, Ntilikina would still get plenty of minutes and become a major contributor if he can continue building his game at both positions.