The Knicks have finished this utterly disastrous season. Ideally, the upcoming offseason is meant to catapult New York into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. Phil Jackson will use the NBA draft and free agency as tools to mend the Knicks issues.
The Knicks future hinders on this summer. There is the potential that this offseason will bear great change. New York has just four players under contract next year which means that there are 11 spots in need of filling. Phil Jackson and company have many decisions to make, both difficult decisions and no-brainers.
So, what are the no-brainers for the Knicks this summer?
Add Some Age
When the New York Knicks won 54 games in the 2012-13 season and finished second in the eastern conference veteran leadership was a big factor in that. Players like Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas played and Kenyon Martin all played a big part in that successful successful season. For the past two years the Knicks have had little to no veteran presence around and within their team and many believe that is a key reason why New York struggled mightily. In the season just gone Derek Fisher’s squad was extremely young and talented, but they desperately need the wisdom and guidance of those in the end of their careers.
When you look at all of the successful teams right now there is a nice balance of young to old. New York have 10 roster spots that need to be filled and the Knicks need to find that balance. Although the veterans didn’t play all that much in the 2012-13 season they still had a profound impact. The Knickerbockers do not currently a vocal leader in the team and don’t expect Carmelo Anthony to fill that void – we all know he leads with his play, not voice. Those who have wisdom are able to steady the team when on the wrong end of a 10-0 run on the run, they have plenty of playoff experience and they share their never ending knowledge with their younger counterparts.
In the past New York have had no veteran presence and this has hurt them. All of the elite teams have ‘old guys’ and they play a vital role down the stretch. The Knicks desperately need to age this roster.
Involve Derek Fisher in Everything
It seems as though Derek Fisher attempted to replicate Phil Jackson to begin the year. He did not have a style and he was leaning toward how his master coached him which could never work with this team in this era. As the season slowly progressed Fisher gradually improved and by the end of the season he was a solid coach – he found his own style. Fisher’s inexperience could ultimately cost the Knicks during free agency. Some players couldn’t care less if they had a young coach but to others experience and know-how is important.
The past season was Derek Fisher’s rookie year and as you know, it did go according to plan overall but he managed to coach the Knicks to 12 wins with a team of ‘scrubs’. The Knicks need to get Fisher involved in anything and everything to try and fast track his development. There are still areas where the 5x champion needs to improve (decisiveness, drawing-up plays, calling timeouts). Phil Jackson needs his disciple to be in the room on draft up, to attend meeting during free agency and also being involved with the Knicks’ summer league squad. Giving Fisher the opportunity to see all the action should give him more confidence heading into next season.
Acquire Draft Picks
The Knicks will have a top-five draft pick this year and that is all. New York is in a rebuilding phase and a solid group of young talent developing in the NBA development league can do no harm whatsoever. New York have deprived themselves of many draft picks over the past decade and it’s time that they got some of those back. Phil Jackson has made a few moves over the past year which has resulted in the Knicks having a stack of cash (trade exceptions) that they can use to purchase 2nd round draft picks.
The Philadelphia have had tremendous success over the past two years with this process. The 76ers have basically shipped all of their players who had big contracts for 2nd round draft picks which they then sell on draft night. Last year Philadelphia drafted K.J. McDaniels and Jerami Grant who both had stellar rookie seasons. Having plenty of draft picks in reserve for the years to come would mean that Phil Jackson would have bargaining chips when in trade talks.
Also, the Knicks could draft a player late in the 2nd round and for all we know he could pull a Langston Galloway.
Fill the Holes
The Knicks have holes all over the place. Phil Jackson needs to sign players who are specialists at doing a specific thing. New York’s front court was plagued by injury and they were forced to go small which allowed opponents to dominate the glass. This summer there are numerous free agents who rebound the ball – Brandon Bass, Amir Johnson, Tristan Thompson – and the Knicks have to get theirs hands on one or two of them. New York has absolutely no presence down low and in the paint which, as you’d expect, allowed easy bucket after easy bucket. The Knicks need to source a big-man who can clog the lane challenge and change shots. Also on the defensive end, Phil Jackson has got to acquire more, and better, perimeter defenders as the Knicks gave their opponents a red light to the rim last season.
The orange and blue have to get ahold of spot-up and knock-down shooters. The Knicks had no consistent three point threat until very late in the season. The result of having no shooters was that the Knicks couldn’t put points up on the scoreboard without immense difficulty. The triangle is a system which flourishes when there’s a big man down low who has a solid low-post game but New York has no low-post threat. Adding bodies that could finish around the rim would also be great too. Far to often this season did the Knicks blow wide open layups.
Through the draft, free agency and by trades the Knicks have to fill some of their many, many holes. These players do not have to be all-stars. Acquiring players who specialise in a certain aspect of the game is what the Knicks need. New York has a large sum of money in which they can hand out this summer and some of that should definitely got towards signing specialists.
Use the Stretch Provision on Jose Calderon – If Not Traded
Jose Calderon is set to make $15 million over the next two seasons and his play, thus far, as a Knick had been completely underwhelming. New York was actively trying to offload the Spaniard prior to the trade deadline. It was an attempt to shed salary and to gain even more cap space. Calderon has shoot poorly this season and his defense has been non-existent which has led to him being an unattractive option moving forward.
Activating the stretch provision means the the Knicks could waive Jose Calderon and pay his remaining $15 million over the next five seasons rather than two. Doing so would mean that Calderon would have a cap hit of just $3 million rather than $7.5 million. That means that the Knicks would have an extra $4.5 million to spend during free agency. Calderon’s disappointing play has led to him being incredibly difficult to trade. The 33-year-olds current production is not worthy of what he is earning.
If Phil Jackson cannot find a home for Calderon using the stretch provision would allow the Knicks to have more flexibility here, and now.
Pick-up Langston Galloway’s Team Option
Galloway, an un-drafted rookie out of St Joseph’s University, has been a revelation and one of the only bright spots for the lowly Knicks this season. Galloway ticks a majority of the boxes for Phil Jackson, he rebounds well, he’s a terrific defender and he can shoot the basketball. Don’t forget Galloway’s un-wavering confidence. Despite being a rookie he is a natural leader which the Knicks have been missing with Carmelo Anthony on the sideline.
Galloway has a two-year team option that can be picked-up this summer. For each of the next two seasons Galloway would earn $845 thousand which, for his current production – 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal along with having the clutch gene – is an absolute bargain. In the past New York has let go of too much young talent and by now the Knicks should’ve learnt from previous mistakes. There should be no hesitation in retaining Galloway.
Re-sign Alexey Shved
Alexey Shved is playing for his third team this season and he is extremely grateful to be in New York and to actually be playing rather than warming the bench. Upon arriving Shved has gotten better and better. He has put up 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game in his time with the Knicks. He has displayed an all-round skill set that, like Galloway, ticks the boxes. Shved adds something the Knicks have sorely missed; the ability to penetrate the defense and get to the free throw line. Shved has also been a consistent threat from long range.
The native of Russia has a qualifying offer of approximately $4 million and it is likely that New York will withdraw that. Despite this the Knicks should re-sign him, on a lower value contract, of course. Shved may not be a starter or a go-to player in the future but he’d be a solid rotation player who can score the basketball. It is not as though Shved is inconsistent, he has performed well on a consistent basis. ‘Consistent’ being the key word there.
Shved could be a cheap option and he can provide the Knicks with scoring off the bench. Re-signing Shved for less also makes him tradable if Phil Jackson goes down that path.
Re-sign Lou Amundson
Lou Amundson was acquired in the trade that sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert packing for Cleveland. Upon arrival it was thought that the journeymen wouldn’t last long. Amundson was signed to two 10-day contracts before being secured for the remainder of the season. He now holds the record for most starts while on a 10-day contract. Amundson has travelled the country but he may have found a home in New York City.
The Knicks should re-sign Amundson to fulfil the role he knows best.’Sweet Lou’ is best known for being a player who can come in for 10-15 minutes per game and provide defense and rebounding as well as the intangibles; energy and hustle. Amundson has done nothing but good things for the Knicks and he can be a cheap option to be the ‘energy guy’. The Knicks need to add veterans and role players and Amundson is exactly that.
Phil Jackson is after team players and people who can contribute in different ways. Amundson could brought back for under $1 million and add much needed defense and energy off the bench in short spurts.
Sign Players to Compliment Carmelo Anthony
As we all know there was no help for Carmelo Anthony this season. Despite drawing the defense’s attention no other player was able to consistently knock down shots. The triangle is a system that preaches on ball movement and it’s success hinders on that. Phil Jackson doesn’t necessarily needs to sign superstars to maximum contracts, but rather players to compliment his centrepiece.
Carmelo Anthony needs to be surrounded with perimeter shooters. It would also be ideal if New York could add a power forward or centre who can stretch the floor, a player like Andrea Bargnani – I’m not saying bring Bargnani back, but a player with a similar offensive skill set. Anthony also needs a point guard who can ignite the fast break, feed him the ball down low, penetrate and facilitate to others and the ability to shoot the basketball. Jose Calderon was a failure.
Carmelo Anthony has had his fair share of injury woes over the past three seasons. As a result he isn’t all that keen to play at the four spot as it means he has to hit the glass and risk getting pummelled. New York desperately needs someone, or multiple players, who can clean up the glass. That usually translates to a player who is well built and athletic, that’d mean rock-hard screens, strong finishes and plenty of offensive rebounds.
Staying with the defensive theme, Anthony needs a first-tier perimeter defender next to him – Langston Galloway is an example. If you can’t be beaten on the perimeter it means that the defense won’t collapse and it will no longer be open season from downtown. It would be ideal if Phil Jackson could find a two-way player; a sharpshooter who locks down the perimeter defensively.
Wait a Second, Give them some Time
New York and the Knick faithful had high hopes for both Cleanthony Early and Tim Hardaway Jr heading into the season. To the disappointment of many, both players have struggled immensely this year. A common theme amongst many fans is impatience. People are pleading for Tim Hardaway Jr to be traded – I have no objection to that – but it’s crucial to keep in mind that he’s only a sophomore. Derek Fisher pointed out to begin the season that Hardaway Jr was struggling with the system, and that over time things would improve.
After an ugly start to begin the season Hardaway Jr found his footing in the second half of the year. He has been forced to take on the role of being one of the primary sources of offense and he had difficulties doing so. As a neophyte Hardaway Jr struggled defensively and he didn’t help out on the glass but this season he has made small strides. It seems as though the message has gotten through that things don’t just happen, that you have to work for it. It would be a smart idea to keep tabs on the former Wolverine over the summer to measure his improvement and if he does not progress, the proceed to trading him.
It is absurd to say that the Knicks should give up on Cleanthony Early. To begin the season he was not in the rotation and Early suffered a knee injury which set him back. In his rookie season Early has played just 39 games. Early only became a regular in the rotation post the all-star break. The New York native has found a rhythm and he contributed down the stretch. The former Shocker has both a terrific attitude and work ethic, you can guarantee that Early will work and put in the hard yards this summer. Development doesn’t just happen overnight and for long-term prosperity youth is needed. Assigning Early to the Westchester Knicks next season, if he is not playing, would also further his development.
Don’t Just Sign Somebody for the Sake of Signing Somebody
At this point in time Phil Jackson has $34 million to spend, but it doesn’t have to all be handed out this summer. The 2015 free agency pool isn’t nearly as attractive as it was prior to the season. 2016 now looks to be the year to hit some home runs. A year ago both Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo looked like great targets but that’s far from the case now. Both of those two are as good as gone from their current teams but it’d be silly for New York to wave a max contract in their faces.
What I’m getting at is that there’s no rush or no pressure to spend all of the money this upcoming offseason. If the free agents are thinning and only one star is remaining there is no need to throw everything you can at them. It is better to wait than to overpay and cripple yourself for years to come. With the current system the Knicks can still be relatively successful with just Carmelo Anthony and a few second and third tier free agents. Phil Jackson does not need to burn a hole in his pocket.
The Knicks front of office has some pondering to do between now and the NBA draft. There is no doubt that tough decisions must be made and another overhaul is likely to come. Despite having to take many things into consideration their are still many no-brainers for the Knicks. Let the speculation begin!