Following an appearance in the second round of the playoffs in 2012-13, the New York Knicks had great expectations going into the 2013-14 season. In the offseason bridging those two seasons, former GM Glen Grumwald made a series of moves that he believed would help the Knicks legitimately contend for supremacy in the Eastern Conference in that 2013-14 season.
The rest, as you know, is history.
The Knicks slumped, starting out their season 9-21 while ultimately finishing the disastrous campaign with a 37-45 record, good for 9th in the mediocrity stricken Eastern Conference. Something from that 2012-13 team that went 54-28 was greatly amiss, and this offseason, new President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson set out to repair the leaky ship that was (and still is, until proven otherwise) the New York Knicks.
I have to say, after being thoroughly disgusted by the play of the New York Knicks in the first three quarters of the season, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the Knicks fought for the 8th and final playoff spot. Lackluster after lackluster performance led the Knicks to a 21-40 record with 21 games left to play. It was a pivotal moment for the team; they could have wilted and allowed Denver (who owned the Knicks 2014 1st round pick, courtesy of the Carmelo Anthony trade) to have a high chance of receiving a top 5 selection in the draft, but alas, the team fought tooth and nail until the end for the 8th spot. In their last 21 games, the Knicks went 16-5, and hopefully, some of that momentum can carry over into the upcoming campaign.
In last year’s draft, the Knicks selected guard Tim Hardaway Jr. with the 24th pick. The young guard impressed immediately, and by the end of the season, earned NBA All-Rookie team honors. He has a high ceiling, and is one of the steals of the draft.
This year, though lacking a first round choice, the Knicks made a splash, selecting forwards Cleanthony Early, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, and Louis Labeyrie. It is too soon to tell whether Early and Antetokounmpo will turn out for the Knicks, but for now, I’d have to say that last year’s draft was more productive for the Knicks, even with just one draft pick.
The Knicks, with a bad history of using draft picks unproductively, actually came away from the draft with a promising player who will surely excite the Garden for years to come.
Last offseason, the Knicks re-signed guards J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni to multi-year contracts. Both guards had played an integral role on the 2012-13 team, and they were expected to maintain their roles in the upcoming season. Also, the Knicks re-signed sparkplug forward Kenyon Martin, who helped the Knicks down the stretch in their playoff run.
This offseason, the Knicks re-signed forwards Cole Aldrich and Carmelo Anthony. Anthony’s signing is a no-brainer if the Knicks want to contend in the upcoming seasons, and if he can buy into the Triangle offense that Derek Fisher will surely run, then the Knicks can be sleeper in the playoffs. The edge goes to this offseason, hands down.
Last offseason, the Knicks hardly made a splash in free agency, signing forwards Metta World Peace, Cole Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler as well as guards Toure’ Murry and Beno Udrih to add depth to an aging team.
By midseason, Udrih and World Peace were free agents, bought out of their contracts having made little impact when on the court, While Aldrich, Tyler, and Murry received little-to-no playing time.
This offseason, the Knicks did not have much cap room to make any large moves, but still managed to be productive in free agency, signing center Jason Smith with the “mini” mid-level exception.
It is too soon to tell which offseason trumps in this facet of the offseason, as the Knicks can still sign players to the rookie and veterans’ minimum.
Last offseason the Knicks made one large trade, hoping to gear the team up for an extended playoff run. The trade involved the Knicks acquiring forward Andrea Bargnani (and his large, immovable contract) from Toronto for beloved sharpshooter Steve Novak, center Marcus Camby, and a 2016 first round draft choice. The Knicks have made two trades in this offseason thus far.
The first trade involved the Knicks trading center Tyson Chandler and guard Raymond Felton for guards Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, and Jose Calderon as well as center Samuel Dalembert and two 2nd round picks. The second trade, a four-player deal, involved the Knicks trading Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Tyler for forwards Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw.
Phil Jackson worked magic in the first deal of this offseason, gaining talent while sending away again players with large contracts. That fact alone should give this offseason an edge in the ‘trades’ category when compared to last offseason.
This offseason was more productive than last offseason. With limited cap room and a roster with many seemingly immovable players and contracts, Phil Jackson made moves, and somehow infused the Knicks with talent and hope for the upcoming season.
When compared with last year’s stagnant, regressive offseason (though we are looking at it with the benefit of hindsight), this offseason is ten times better thus far, and maybe, just maybe, the Knicks can put together a playoff season, a feat that only a few months ago would have been unthinkable.