The New York Knicks are in a difficult situation going forward. Yes, they have cap space coming available this summer, but they also need to reshape a large chunk of their rotation.
Working under the presumption Carmelo Anthony isn’t going to be traded, he’s literally the only player you can consider a lock to be on the team past the 2014-2015 season.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jose Calderon are expected to be. Timmy because he is still on his rookie contract through 2016-2017 and Calderon is locked in through that same season at over $7 million per year. Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith, Shane Larkin and Cole Aldrich are all on expiring contracts and presumably gone. Iman Shumpert, Quincy Acy and Travis Wear are restricted free agents. J.R. Smith has a player option and Pablo Prigioni has an unguaranteed contract year. The other two players most likely to be around are second-round picks Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
When you add in their 2015 first round pick, president of basketball operations Phil Jackson will realistically need to fill four to nine roster spots next season. It probably will end up falling somewhere in the middle of the two.
Given this information, it’s logical that the Knicks should try to find more players they would want to keep in the long term. New York’s path to contention is more than a one-offseason rehabilitation project and no matter who is back an influx of talent is necessary. Both sides of the ball must improve, the defense is horrendous, but the offense is entirely reliant on Anthony.
With Melo on the floor they average 104.3 points per 100 possessions. With him off that drops to 94.9. The problem has been trending in the wrong direction for two years. In 12-13 the ORtg dropped by five points, but that was from 110.5 to 105.3. The 105.3 mark with Anthony sitting would have ranked as the ninth most efficient offense that season. In 13-14 it also dropped five points – the difference was a 101.3 mark with Melo off the floor ranked in the bottom third of the league.
The pattern shows how the Knicks supporting cast has been getting worse and worse. This is the reason I endorse the Knicks looking into the trade market and taking a risk on Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters or Hornets guard Lance Stephenson.
As a side note there are other players I’d target before these two, but these are realistic options based on their standing with their organizations. Taking a run at Terrence Jones would be fantastic now that the Rockets have signed Josh Smith — I don’t think the Knicks have the assets to make something like that happen.
I don’t even know if New York has enough to pull off getting Stephenson or Waiters, but anyone not named Melo you could put on the table and come out on the right side of a deal.
Despite a very popular anti Waiters and Stephenson culture that exists here is a list explaining why it makes sense for the Knicks to take a risk on either player.
- Stephenson is 24 and Waiters is 23. If the Knicks traded for one of them they would immediately become the second most skilled player on the roster. A sad but true statement.
- According to NBA.com New York averages the least amount drives in the league at 13.3 per game and the least amount of points generated by drives per 48 minutes at 7.1. In 32 minutes a game Lance averages 5.0 drives per game this season. In only 22.8 minutes per game Dion Waiters averages 4.2 drives per game. Last season when Waiters was on a less talented team he averaged 7.4 drives per game in 29.9 minutes. This is an offensive skill New York desperately needs from its two-guard position with Calderon being more of a spot-up shooting complement.
- You’re buying low. People always want to trade for players playing well, but acquiring someone at their low-point can be beneficial because they cost less. Stephenson and Waiters are both better than what they’ve been this year and have the chance to grow into more. Reflect back to reason #1 — 24 and 23 years old. These are the type of players you want to give a shot despite their flaws.
- As was already established the Knicks aren’t competing for a championship next year, but obviously you would like them to go from dismal to in the mix for a playoff spot as a part of the lowly Eastern Conference. This still gives you some room for experimentation. Neither Stephenson nor Waiters are inhibiting other improvements to your roster short or long term. Both would essentially be a one-year tryout. Waiters is signed for slightly over $5-million next season before hitting restricted free agency, while Stephenson gets paid $9-million in 15-16 and it’s a team-option in 16-17.
- It’s time to stop trying to build the roster around signing max players. For once be realistic about what your options are. There’s no reason to save money for Marc Gasol this summer or Kevin Durant next because the Knicks aren’t going to get either player. Don’t do the Stoudemire thing all over again and learn from your mistakes. If the idea here is to build around Melo strive to accentuate what he does well and cover up the holes in his game. A roster is obviously always fluid, but attempt to acquire targets with the idea they will be with the franchise for a long time. Create an atmosphere that puts players in a position to succeed and not fail. This is an area the Knicks have failed in miserably through the years and it continues to this day.
It was by accident, but the 12-13 Knicks ended up being good because they were a team of parts that made sense with each other. It’s getting harder and harder to just throw together talent and have it be successful as we’re seeing with the Cavaliers, Suns, Pelicans and Nuggets. When you have the Warriors, Grizzlies, Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Bulls, Raptors and Hawks – that not only have talent, but are conceptually fluid throughout the organization and on the court – it takes a lot of facets in sync to compete.
Think what the Wizards were able to do when they traded for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor that was widely criticized at the time. That move helped them establish a culture moving the organization in the right direction. This is the point where the Knicks are at. They are not a one-player signing, quick fix away. While the Wizards needed to create stability and a positive environment for John Wall, New York flat-out needs players who can potentially be really good at basketball. That sounds ridiculous and simplistic yet it’s factually accurate.
Stephenson and Waiters clearly have issues they need to overcome. The Knicks are in a position where they need to be searching out for talent wherever they can get it. These are two potential options that could pay off huge in the long run and if they don’t work out avoid decimating the franchise like other prior risks.
This isn’t crushing your future trading for Eddy Curry or signing your franchise over to the bad knees of Amar’e Stoudemire. What I’m talking about here is trying to create a low-risk, high-reward situation – there’s the potential to find a long-term, young, building block they will have a difficult time seeking out from other avenues.