5 stars the Knicks can target this year if they become available

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Apr 15, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) dribbles beside New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) in the second quarter of game one of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Apr 15, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) dribbles beside New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) in the second quarter of game one of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

While it looks like the Knicks are entering the 2023-24 season with a nearly identical roster to last year’s, the front office is surely still on the hunt for a star player who can elevate the roster into contention. Damian Lillard and James Harden have open but specific requests out, making it likely New York will look at the next available options.

Here are five stars the Knicks could potentially target this season, between now and the NBA Draft:

Joel Embiid

With Harden vocally against a return to Philadelphia, eyes have turned to his running mate and league MVP. Would Embiid stick around for a season with a worse team to see what the Sixers do with more cap flexibility next summer?

Or, could he request to jump to an immediate contender? It’s unlikely to happen during the season, and Philly would have to trade him within the division, something the Knicks could overcome with the ability to offer the best trade package.

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Embiid would be a monster fit, not only because of his incredible individual talent but because of what he brings at the five spot. The Knicks have struggled with spacing, having a permanent non-shooter playing in Mitchell Robinson. Embiid brings a much more dynamic and perimeter-friendly offensive game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The rumor mill is already churning with this name, as he’s shown a more open attitude to moving on from Milwaukee in recent interviews. After winning a ring there, his next challenge could be restoring New York’s former glory.

The Bucks’ secondary stars are creeping up in age and have dealt with an assortment of injuries, and after last year’s first-round loss to the eighth-seed Miami Heat, a slow start to this season could push Antetokounmpo elsewhere. As with the rest of these trades, the Knicks will immediately be competitive with their available assets.

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Plugging Giannis into a Tom Thibodeau defensive system would yield amazing results, and his gravity on the other end would make the Knicks a force.

Zach LaVine

The Lonzo Ball-LaVine-DeMar DeRozan-Nikola Vucevic Bulls era has not played out as hoped, with a first-round loss followed by a loss in the Play-In Tournament. They could look for a shake-up if this year doesn’t reverse the trend, with LaVine’s name already appearing in some reports.

While he’s not on the level of some of the other names on this list, LaVine would bring a major spark in scoring at what should be a lower price than an MVP-caliber name. He averaged 26.6 points on 52.1 percent shooting from the field and 37.1 percent from deep from February of last season, production not easily met around the league.

Nov 30, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) dribbles against Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half at Madison Square Garden.
Nov 30, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) dribbles against Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George or Kawhi Leonard

The Clippers’ two wing stars are going on year five of their championship chase in Los Angeles, with just one conference final to show for it. Both are extension-eligible, with little noise as to whether they’re happening and what they might look like.

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Should the team flame out early or fall short once again, they could look to blow up the tandem, with the Knicks hiding in wait. They’d have to adjust their offer relative to the injury risk that comes with one of these guys but would be trading for a major upgrade.

New York adding one of these big, elite wings might be finding the missing piece even if it isn’t the most polished. When healthy though, both have consistently played at star levels, especially in the postseason.

Donovan Mitchell

This is likely over a year away from coming to fruition, but the link between Mitchell and the Knicks is far from broken, despite last summer’s trade negotiations. If Cleveland decides to go in a different direction, especially with Mitchell’s looming free agency in 2025, the Knicks could try and swoop in for a second go.

The same logic from last summer remains, that Mitchell is one of the best young offensive talents in basketball, loves the city and would bring a big boost in athleticism and scoring. New York would be silly to not pursue him once again if given the opportunity.

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