After the NBA All-Star break, the contenders and pretenders are usually set. Locked into the second worst record in the Eastern Conference at 17-38, the New York Knicks are headed to their seventh consecutive losing season.
With a roster full of young players, the Knicks are looking to play out the string on another disappointing season. Still, there can be some positives to come out of the final 27 games.
Here are five goals the Knicks should focus on after the All-Star break.
Let R.J. Barrett flourish as a lead ball handler
The Knicks' most recent lottery pick is a central figure to New York's rebuild. Barrett has endured an inconsistent rookie season, but it's hard to blame him with New York's terrible offense.
Ranked second to last in the NBA, the Knicks offense is short on shooting. The team is ranked 28th in three-point shooting at 33.4 percent.
The ideal offense for Barrett would involve placing shooters around him to offer wide open driving lanes. Also, the Knicks have multiple ball-dominant players that include Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle.
Barrett's shooting is not strong enough to create space as an off-ball threat. Through the season, Barrett is averaging just 0.6 points per possession when he is the ball handler in the pick and roll.
He's going to have to improve his passing and finishing ability to become a lead option in the future.
Find out if the Julius Randle-Mitchell Robinson partnership will last?
Taj Gibson is not a long-term option at center. If the Knicks opt to cut Gibson before his contract becomes fully-guaranteed for next season, Mitchell Robinson should claim the starting center position. Randle is signed through at least the 2020-2021 season.
The Randle-Robinson tandem was a negative due to the Knicks' lack of spacing on offense. The pairing has been much more successful recently. In the past 31 games, Randle and Robinson are a plus-4.6 points per 100 possessions.
Some of the boost in performance can be attributed to Payton and Reggie Bullock, two players who did not play much or at all early in the season.
Look into buyouts for veterans
As the season nears its close, the Knicks are seven games in the loss column behind the Orlando Magic with 27 games left. Realistically, the team should pursue doling out minutes to their younger platers.
When the Knicks dealt veteran Marcus Morris to the Los Angeles Clippers, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for Kevin Knox to see an increase in playing time.
Since Morris' departure, Knox has struggled, playing only 14.3 minutes while shooting 27 percent from the field. Recently, the Knicks have played veterans Wayne Ellington and Moe Harkless more minutes than younger developmental talents like Knox and Damyean Dotson.
According to SNY's Ian Begley, there is a chance that Ellington could be a buyout candidate. Harkless has also been rumored to be on the buyout market potentially.
Give Mike Miller a fair chance
The Knicks have gone 13-20 since Mike Miller took over the team from the fired David Fizdale. Ever since Leon Rose was reported to take the president of basketball operations role in New York, coaches such as Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson have been thrown out as possible candidates.
On top of that, Knicks brand consultant Steve Stoute hinted at an eventual coaching change after the season while appearing on ESPN's First Take. Though the Knicks and Stoute released a statement to clear up Stoute's comments, the damage was done.
The interim tag speculation has been unfair considering Miller has made lemonade out of lemons with this team. Since he took over, the Knicks are a respectable 16th in defensive efficiency.
A weak shooting team from the perimeter, Miller has focused New York's offense on points in the paint. The Knicks are third in the NBA in percentage of total points in the paint (47.5 percent).
Alas, we're talking about the Knicks. Instead of an under-the-radar hire, the Knicks will look in the direction of the more high-profile names such as Thibodeau this offseason.
Scouting potential lottery picks
Over the past few years, the Knicks have received some credit for their ability to find gems hidden underneath the rubble in the bottom of the NBA draft. Robinson (selected 31st in 2018) and Dotson (selected 44th overall in 2017) stand out among current Knicks drafted in the second round.
On the other hand, the lottery has been a problem for the Knicks. Drafting ninth or higher in four of the past five years, the Knicks' recent track record has been shoddy.
Frank Ntilikina (eighth in 2017) and Knox (ninth in 2018) have not been able to prove themselves as quality NBA rotation players and have displayed limited development.
Selected third overall in 2019, the jury is still out on Barrett. He's shooting under 40 percent from the field and 61 percent from the free-throw line.
The one lottery pick that showcased potential stardom was Porzingis. An All-Star in his third season, Porzingis' relationship with the club soured and he was shipped out before last year's trade deadline.
The Knicks have not drafted well where it really counts. Missing out on players that were available like Donovan Mitchell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Bam Adebayo and John Collins has hurt for a Knicks team lacking a true young star talent to build around right now.
If the franchise rights the ship, drafting well will have to become a major priority for the team to reach success again.