The New York Knicks are having a horrible season and that’s a bit of an understatement. As of today, they have a record of 5-26, the second worst winning percentage in the NBA, behind the Philadelphia 76ers.
It’s not like anybody expected them to be that competitive and in the running for a playoff spot (except the most die-hard of Knicks fans), but this is worse than anybody could have possibly imagined after re-signing Carmelo Anthony over the summer. Amazingly, they are still only nine games out of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference (if the playoffs started today).
They have a new president in Phil Jackson and after an extensive head coaching search, he hired Derek Fisher to be the new coach of the Knicks going forward after Mike Woodson was fired in April. Fisher retired from playing basketball after last season and obviously has no coaching experience at all, similar to Jason Kidd who coached the Brooklyn Nets last season. However, Kidd inherited a much more talented team.
But, Fisher played point guard for Jackson in the Triangle when both were in Los Angeles with the Lakers and that played a huge part in him getting the job. Now, this season was surely going to be considered a lost season, but looking at this squad they just aren’t that talented.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Iman Shumpert (currently injured)
Melo has done his thing scoring (24 points per game), Calderon has looked like he is capable of running the offense (4.2apg in 31mpg) and been a good outside shooter (44.1% on 3-pointers, 7th best in the league if he qualified), Stoudemire has looked comfortable as a big man in the Triangle (13ppg and 7.4 rebounds in just 26mpg), Hardaway Jr. has looked like an explosive scorer at times (five games with at least 20 points) and looks like he could be an eventual starter one day, Smith has shown he’s a capable backup big man, and Shumpert is known for his defense.
So far, these are the only six players that have shown they are talented enough to play for another team. I left off JR Smith because of his tendency to throw up questionable shots and his off the court behavior. Bottom line, they just lack the horses to compete night in and night out against most teams. Their -6.4 point differential is the third worst in the Eastern Conference and fifth worst in the league.
So, is there hope for a die-hard NY fan? It doesn’t look like there is at the moment, but you just need to look to the offseason. A lot of money comes off the books and management can go shopping for groceries so Fisher can cook next season. They only have 40.5 million committed to eight players and will have close to 25 million to make upgrades in a free agent class that is fairly deep. Andrea Bargnani and Stoudemire coming off the ledger frees up almost 35 million.
Jackson and Fisher will be able to carefully select which players fit the Triangle and bring in players to try and win next season. Greg Monroe. Monroe is a player who would be a perfect fit on the Knicks. He’s a young big man who can score, rebound, defend, and he’s an under-rated passer. However, one problem is a lot of teams will be targeting him as their center piece to build around.
One player I think they need to consider re-signing and bringing back is Stoudemire. He’s no longer a 20 and 10 player due to his injuries obviously, but he has looked solid in limited minutes this season and is one current player who fits what they are trying to do there. His numbers aren’t great, but considering he’s getting 26 mpg they aren’t too shabby at all. His per 36 minute stats average out to 17ppg and 10rpg which are pretty solid. It’s doubtful he could ever play that many minutes again, but it shows he is being productive. If he were to agree to 4-5 million per season he’d be a good player to bring back, he’d be a nice backup (at power forward and center) to Monroe and he’d provide some depth.
Another player they should pursue is Rajon Rondo. Rondo is a pass first point guard that would be a perfect fit in the Triangle, although the offense doesn’t require a pass happy PG. Rondo would be ecstatic trying to find Melo and Monroe for open looks and setting the table for them. The only issue is if they can afford both, both are going to want to be paid a serious amount of money. A slightly cheaper option might be Reggie Jackson who is most likely leaving Oklahoma City after showing he can play (in Russell Westbrook’s absence when he was injured).
The Knicks will get a nice draft pick with their 1st rounder and this is a pick they have to get right. It could help facilitate them being competitive and a playoff team in the EC and will go a long way to determining Jackson and Fisher’s futures with the franchise. They should get a top 4-5 pick, I just don’t think they’ll continue to be bad enough to get a top 3 pick. There are other teams struggling and TRYING to tank this season away, such as Philadelphia, Detroit, and Minnesota.
I don’t think they’ll end up in a position to draft Emmanuel Mudiay since he’ll most likely be gone as the second pick behind Duke’s Jahil Okafor, but I think it’s possible they could swing a trade to move up to select him. Phil Jackson has been behind some solid trades before (working with the GM’s on teams he has coached for) and I think he might be able pull this off. Mudiay reminds me of Russell Westbrook talent wise, this kid is amazing and has freakish talent. He may not be as talented or as good, but I think he could turn out to be RW-lite. They don’t have a huge need for ANOTHER guard, but acquiring him could make Hardaway Jr or Shumpert expendable and Mudiay could be groomed to replace Calderon at PG or bump him to the bench immediately.
If they elect not to go after a big in free agency, they could opt for Karl-Anthony Towns. He isn’t as good as Okafor offensively or polished, but he’s a defensive beast (he has a wingspan of a player 7-3 1/2, despite barely being a 7-footer) and a good rebounder. He’s averaging 2.5 blocks per game in under 20mpg, despite being platooned at his position with Willie Cauley-Stein by head coach John Calipari. He’d be an upgrade over Samuel Dalembert/Smith at center and give them a rim protector.
If they decide to keep Amare and play him at center (in the 26-27mpg he’s playing this season), they could sign a cheap backup (maybe bring back Smith) and get Rondo/or Reggie Jackson and possibly still swing a trade for Mudiay and have 2 better players plus the role players they bring in to fill out a roster.
Despite a rough season thus far, there are some reasons to be hopeful they can get this turned around quickly with free agency and a draft to right the ship. They just need to bring in the right players to fit the offense and complement Melo.
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