Off season to-do list: Knicks

Nowadays there are few people outside of Spike Lee with the courage to admit they are Knicks fans. Forrest, happens to be one of the true New York faithful left that I know. He is on top of all things Knicks and what I would consider a pretty good NBA historian. He has interesting thoughts about the Knicks, and the NBA (but we won't get into those), anytime you talk to him about it, including ideas such as keeping Isaiah Thomas in a front office position because he is one of the best talent evaluators in the NBA, Nate Robinson as one of the most athletic players in the league, and Danilo Gallinari being a good draft pick. While he doesn't defend those positions in this piece, he does give us a pretty good look into the present situation for the Knicks and the optimistic future outlook for the team.

Let’s be honest. Despite the recent hiring of proven winners in the coaching spot as well as in the front office, this is a franchise in shambles. The Knicks have not been a playoff team since 2001, and no, no one should count the 2003-2004 team which had a losing record and was swept out of the playoffs by the Nets in humiliating fashion as a “playoff team”. As if the on-court troubles weren’t enough, recent estimates say that the Knicks lost over 187 million dollars under Isaiah Thomas, which would easily have been enough money to lock up Allan Houston and Antonio McDeyess through 2012 with max deals.

Any discussion of what the Knicks need to do to get back to being an elite team has to begin with the summer of 2010. Lebron James has indicated that he might be leaning towards signing with the Brooklyn Nets instead of the Knicks. Regardless, this class could potentially include Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Rip Hamilton, Amare Stoudemire, Manu Ginobili, and Carlos Boozer. One can already see that the Knicks are looking forward to that summer, signing Chris Duhon to a two year deal so he could come off the books in 2010 where the Magic were offering him three.

So, keeping that in mind, let’s go through the Knicks roster and determine each player’s value as a combination of their talent, fit in D’Antoni’s system, and their contract.

Stephon Marbury’s career is done. We already knew from his stints with Minnesota, New Jersey, and Phoenix that he was not the type of player who was able to carry his team to victories on a consistent basis, but at least he was putting up All-Star caliber numbers. His numbers have declined each year with the Knicks to the point where he is now averaging just 13 points and 5 assists per game. Respectable numbers, but not good enough considering that during the 2008-2009 season he will be the second highest paid player in the league. Throw in his off the court antics, and Marbury’s impact on the team is solidly negative. However, it is essential that the Knicks do not trade Stephon. They will probably receive plenty of enticing offers given the $21 million that his contract will bring off a team’s payroll after next season, but the biggest problem with recent Knick’s personnel moves has been trading away such expiring contracts and tying themselves up with overpaid, mediocre players.

Another failed experiment is Eddy Curry. Curry refuses to get in shape, attempt to play defense, or pull down rebounds (Even in his best season, he was a 7 footer crashing the boards at a pathetic 1 rebound per 5 minutes rate). He can’t shoot, dribble, or run the break, so D’Antoni can’t have much use for him. The Knicks should just hope that they can somehow get rid of Curry for a player of less value but with a better contract. Another intriguing option might be to just cut him. Curry is terrible, but it is almost guaranteed that another team will at least sign him to the veteran minimum, meaning that the Knicks could reduce the amount that his contract is counting against the cap.

Zach Randolph is not such a clear-cut case. Although he is due to make much more than he is worth ($14.5 million next season, over 17 million in 2010-2011), he is obviously an extremely talented player. I don’t care how bad the team was, anyone who can average 23 and 10 in the Western Conference can play. There are some character and work ethic issues, but there are plenty of instances of players who ended up being successful after the media and their fan bases had written them off as selfish head cases that would never really “get it” (see Stephen Jackson and Paul Pierce). Randolph is also a mobile big man with handle who has decent outside range, which could work out well if D’Antoni does in fact try to implement his run and gun offense with the Knicks. While Quentin Richardson is another player who has underachieved in a Knick uniform, he has had success under D’Antoni before. So it might be wise, knowing that he is a player who thrives in a fast paced offense, to withhold judgment on Q until his contract, which is $10 million coming off the books in 2010, expires.

Jamal Crawford is another player who, given his shooting prowess and his excellent ability to handle the ball (only 2.4 turnovers in 40 minutes per game last season, and a devastating crossover), could shine for D’Antoni. He is also the only player on the Knicks not in his rookie contract that one could make the case is making about the amount of money he deserves. Jamal has been one of the few bright spots on this team for the last few years.

Malik Rose is an expiring contract that could potentially be used as a trade chip at some point this season. Jerome James and Jared Jeffries are both bad players who the Knicks are just going to have to let ride the bench until their contracts are up.

The rest of this roster is made up of pretty talented young players who could potentially make a great set of role players when the Knicks start contending for the playoffs. Nate Robinson, David Lee, and Renaldo Balkman have all proven that they can play at a high level off the bench. Wilson Chandler and Mardy Collins could fall into this category if given a few more opportunities over the next couple of years.

Now no one is suggesting the Knicks just stand pat and do nothing until Lebron comes along and saves the franchise. There are a few holes that could be filled to at least make this team competitive in the Eastern conference this coming year.

There are rumors that Monta Ellis has expressed interest in playing for the Knicks, and that the Warriors are open to losing Ellis in a sign and trade. Monta is one of the most talented young guards in the NBA. He had flashes this season where commentators were describing him as the next Dwyane Wade, which means that if you listen to John Hollinger, the Knicks could bank on getting the greatest finals performance in the history of the league if they could get their hands on Ellis. Honestly, if the Knicks could acquire Ellis one could make the argument that they could get out of Lebron mode and try to build around Ellis, Crawford, and Randolph. But this just seems like a fantasy. The Knicks simply could not give the Warriors comparable value for Ellis. On top of this, after losing Baron Davis, I can’t see Chris Mullin dealing Ellis unless he is getting truly amazing value for him. The only things the Knicks have to offer are a couple of young players and Marbury and Rose’s expiring contracts, which would put the Warriors solidly into rebuilding mode, a place they don’t want to be. Moreover, the Knicks just signed Chris Duhon, so it seems they might have already made their decision on a point guard for this upcoming year.

The Knicks need a true center, badly. One option would be trying to pry Nenad Krstic from the Nets. The Nets have given Krstic a qualifying offer, which means they have the right to match any contract another team offers him. This is irrelevant to the Knicks, because after signing Chris Duhon they could not offer Krstic a deal the Nets would not match anyway. However, Krstic is reportedly looking to force a sign and trade. The Knicks could potentially try to make a run at Krstic, as long as they don’t give up the expiring contracts of Marbury or Rose.

Other needs for the Knicks include shooters, for D’Antoni’s system, and defense, for a team that was 29th in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions. Good shooters that are available this offseason include Ben Gordon, Brent Barry, Juan Dixon, DerMarr Johnson, and Bostjan Nachbar. Good defenders include Mickael Peitrus, Carl Landry, Matt Barnes, and Devean George. The problem with all these players is that the Knicks just don’t have the cap room after the Duhon signing to make a reasonable offer and would have to negotiate sign and trades which would most likely hamper them financially in the long term.

Thomas left the Knicks in a state where they are not going to be serious contenders even for home court advantage in the playoffs for the next couple of years. The best course for this team is to be patient, let their young talent develop, and not reinforce the same problems they have had over the last decade by mortgaging their future just on the hopes that they can grab a seventh or eight seed in the East.

Picture Sources: thegarden.com (first), theonion.com (second), nydailynews.com (third), sportsillustrated.cnn.com (fourth), nydailynews.com (fifth), rotorob.com (sixth), nba.com (seventh), hoopsvibe.com (eighth)

intro by Izzy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had to repost this because we were doing some site maintenance and lost comments.

Paul Johnson said...

I simply disagree. Randolph is no asset. "Handle" is a fancy way of saying "he dribbles the ball and turns it over a lot".

Randolph is a terrible fit for D'Antoni's system because he can't pass. You really need to convince some other team he has value, take some contracts the expire faster, and consider it a sunk cost.
7/5/08 3:07 PM