There is no quick-fix solution when it comes to the New York Knicks. Some teams are fortunate enough to just have a roster problem, or a coaching problem, or even just an inept front office. Some teams have more than one of these problems. The Knicks have all three.
For a lot of fans, the NBA Trade Deadline is a signal of hope. — a chance at moving an albatross contract or two, receiving draft picks, obtaining a star, etc. For Knicks’ fans, especially this year, it’s a time that requires one to check his or her medicine cabinet to see how much Tylenol is available. If only so you can get through every Knicks-interested-in-making-losided-deal story you come across for the next few weeks. Are things really this dire in New York, or is there a tiny spec of light at the end of the tunnel? I lean towards the former, but let’s examine.
The Tradeable Assets
The Knicks roster is a mess, but it’s a mess with some good, tradeable pieces. Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler are probably their most lucrative assets, but it’s unlikely the team trades Anthony or Chandler. Shumpert’s name has popped up in trade discussions for what feels like years now, but the front office still hasn’t moved the combo guard.
Shumpert’s not going to bring in multiple first-round picks, but he’s still the type of player a number of teams would like to have. Given how Shumpert has played in the last month, perhaps now is the time to move him. In January, Shumpert registered a TS% of 58 percent, shot 41 percent from three-point range and had his highest ORtg of the season (109). Shumpert is a good role player, but he’s not an untradeable piece vis-a-vis the Knicks core (though I’m not sure what that includes if they have one).
Melo and Chandler are interesting cases. If you move Melo, you must enter full-on rebuild mode, but with basically only the picks you theoreritically receive from the team that trades for Melo. The organization has catered to every need of Melo’s except in one key aspect — putting together a roster that can realistically contend for an NBA championship. If you move Melo, you have to move Chandler as well. Due to injuries, Chandler isn’t the defensive force he once was. He’s allowing opponents to shoot 51 percent at the rim against him this season. Compound that with his limitations on offense, and Chandler isn’t realistically going to bring in a major haul even if you decide to move him.
Players I’d like to see targeted: Picks and expiring contracts.
The Semi-Maybe-Possibly-PLEASE GOD-Tradeable Assets
Here lies the Raymond Feltons, J.R. Smiths, Amar’e Stoudemires, Metta World Peaces and Andrea Bargnanis of the world. What do these five players have in common? They’re simply not long-term options for the team. Metta isn’t playing, Bargnani is injured, Felton’s not a starting point guard in this league anymore, J.R. is J.R., and Amar’e just doesn’t fit.
Trading any of the players is going to be difficult, but moving any of them wouldn’t be greatly opposed by the fanbase, I suspect.
The Coaching Situation
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of the trade deadline this year for the Knicks is their precarious coaching situation. Mike Woodson could be let go tomorrow, and it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise — and that’s a problem. The Knicks need significant roster changes, but they also need an identity. If the Knicks start shuffling the roster now, but still plan on parting ways with Woodson, they run the risk of saddling the next head coach with players that may or may not fit his scheme, thereby resulting in potentially more roster turnover. So, if the Knicks’ brass is sure they’re going to give Woodson the axe before the end of the season, the quicker the better.
Coaches I’d like to see targeted: Stan Van Gundy, David Fizdale, Fred Hoiberg
The Front Office Situation
The man who personally recommend Isiah Thomas for the job of Knicks’ President in 2003 — Steve Mills — is now running the show for the Knicks. As such, this will be the first trade deadline for Mills as Knicks’ General Manager, so it’s difficult to decipher what he may or may not be looking to do over the next couple of weeks.
The Knicks roster needs an overhaul, but it’s not quite clear that Mills is the guy to do it — right nor or at all. With a team this in-limbo — a lame duck coach, a roster that’s a fringe playoff team in the Eastern Conference and a dysfunctional front office — the only change that would be worth a damn must happen at the top.
The Knicks simply don’t have the assets to undergo a long-term rebuild, and nor would James Dolan necessarily be on board with that anyway. So perhaps what the Knicks need is what they first started pursuing back in 2008: a complete, cap-clearing overhaul.
The best-case scenario for the Knicks in three years? The Dallas Mavericks, who slowly but surely built the pieces necessary to contend for a title. It may have only netted the Mavs a single championship, but we’re pretty sure Knicks fans would take that outcome.
The more worrisome aspect of Mills running this team for the near-to-distant future? His relationship with Dolan. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Mills listed “JD and the Straight Shot” as his favorite band on his resume).
In short, if Dolan wants to trade Shumpert and a 2024 first-round pick for Kenneth Faried, Mills will not get in the way. And that’s a major problem.
General Managers I’d like to see targeted: Phil Jackson, Michael Zarren, Troy Weaver
The End Result
There is no quick fix for this franchise, even if they somehow persuaded Phil Jackson to accept an relatively low-intensity front office role with the team. It starts at the top and trickles down from there. Making quality changes in leadership in the front office is a good starting point for this offseason. Accomplishing that hinges on Dolan finally deciding that his mettlesome ways aren’t going to land him his coveted championship.
As for the trade deadline, it would behoove the Knicks to show some perspicacious judgment as the deadline approaches. Kenneth Faried, Kyle Lowry, or even Rajon Rondo aren’t going to be enough to steer this franchise away from the iceberg that’s inching closer with every J.R. Smith step-back jumper.