The New York Knicks proved at the end of last season that they could win games playing a brand of basketball built around Carmelo Anthony. Though the myriad of injuries suffered by key players led to an embarrassing playoff exit, the team finally looked to be coming together the way management envisioned when they traded for the superstar small forward in 2011.
Now the Knicks face an offseason with many question marks as injuries and expiring contracts mean the team must be a major player in the open market. After extending Mike Woodson's contract the team seems committed to playing at least some form of the brand of basketball they did to close out last season, but to do that they will need to make some free agent signings when the time comes.
Though the team does not have a huge chunk of cap space, there are a mix of veterans and young players that would be great additions to the team. From veteran point guards to up-and-coming centers, there is plenty of talent available that would seriously help New York in the 2012-2013 season.
Here are a few players who would be ideal fits alongside Anthony and could help bring the Knicks to true championship contender status...
One thing the New York Knicks will desperately need next season is a solid small forward to backup Anthony, provide quality minutes, space the floor and play solid defense. Grant Hill can do all these things very well, even at the age of 39, and would provide a team that struggled through more than its share of turmoil with a stabilizing veteran presence in the locker room.
Hill has remade himself as a tough, savvy perimeter defender during his time with the Phoenix Suns and as someone who plays very well off the ball. He can effectively play the two or the three alongside Anthony and while had a very down three-point shooting year last season (26.4 percent) he can usually knock down the open looks a player like Carmelo would create.
Though his health is obviously a question after his knee injury last season the team would not need him to be a key piece and he would primarily be a reserve player in a 23-26 minute role. Still, he proved last year that he can still be a very effective player, averaging 10.2 points, 3.5 boards and 2.2 assists in just 28.1 minutes per game.
Offensively, the Knicks need players who do not need the ball in their hands to be effective and Hill does a good job of coming off of screens and moving to create scoring opportunities. Defensively he is still one of the better swingmen in the league today and could play a similar role to Shane Battier in Miami behind LeBron James, except Hill is more of an offensive threat than his fellow former Duke Blue Devil.
As a team vying for a championship the Knicks need to add veteran pieces and signing Grant Hill for next season could be a very helpful move.
Another veteran presence who can still contribute at a high level on the court, Antawn Jamison would make an excellent addition for the New York Knicks. Playing in all but one game this season, the 35-year-old stretch-four averaged 17.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and two assists per game while shooting 34.1 percent from beyond the arc.
With the uncertainty around Amar'e Stoudemire's long-term health and whether or not Steve Novak and Jared Jeffries will be back with the team, the Knicks could certainly use some more firepower at the four position. Jamison has the ability to drive to the basket as well as step outside and hit shots. He is a very good catch-and-shoot player and like Hill would benefit from the open shots an opposing defense gives up while trying to stop someone like Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony will often need his fellow bigs to help open up the floor and create room for him to work; Jamison is the kind of player who can keep a defense honest and space the court with his shooting. Though he isn't a great defender, he can still make his presence felt on the glass and play inside when his shot isn't falling. He is also athletic enough to play alongside Anthony and Stoudemire in a smaller lineup where they could push the tempo.
Jamison is also a true class act, a well-regarded player in the league and someone who is truly team oriented. He is the kind of player willing to make personal sacrifices to help his ball club, whether that is coming off the bench or not taking as many shots. The Knicks need these sorts of players on the roster instead of gunners like J.R. Smith. Any championship team must have a "we" mindset and Jamison can help to establish that on the court and in the locker room.
Rumors have abounded about Jamison going to finish his career with the Charlotte Bobcats, but the Knicks would be wise to pursue the 6'9" power forward because he could be a major rotation piece and an impact player for them next season.
After being benched for rising defensive star Avery Bradley it is likely Ray Allen will not return to the Boston Celtics after their season ends. Though he is nearly 37 years old and dealing with some ankle issues that will require offseason surgery, the Knicks should be interested in pursuing the NBA's all-time leading three-point shooter should he continue playing basketball next season.
The Knicks will have a major whole at shooting guard with Iman Shumpert's ACL tear keeping him out for six to eight months. The team will need time to work him back into shape and into the rotation after such a devastating injury and Allen would be more than capable of filling in as the starting shooting guard until Shump is as healthy as possible. In addition, the potential loss of Landry Fields in free agency makes a two-guard signing all the more important.
Ray Allen is a constant threat on offense and one who could be a major piece in Mike Woodson's offense that is based around Carmelo Anthony. He can work with the ball in his hands but is also a lethal spot-up shooter and still comes off picks as well as anyone in the league. He makes whoever is guarding him work and could not allow for a double team to be thrown Anthony's way.
With the potential departure of Fields, Smith and Novak as well as Shumpert's injury New York will need consistent outside shooting which Allen can still provide with ease. He played only 46 games last season, but averaged 14.2 points per game and shot a staggering 45.3 percent from three. If he can provide a similar offensive spark to the Knicks then he would be a major asset to the team next season.
Allen also brings a championship pedigree to the team that cannot be quantified. He has hit a slew of huge shots in the regular season and playoffs and would bring his knowledge of what it takes to win in the postseason to a team that has had very little success in that department.
He isn't a great defender or facilitator, but he is far from a liability in either department and would certainly be a boon for the Carmelo Anthony Knicks to pick up this summer.
With the emergence of Evan Turner, the presence of Andre Iguodala and the return of Lou Williams still a possibility, Jodie Meeks has become the odd man out in Philadelphia's backcourt rotation. He played spotty minutes in the 76ers series with the Celtics and may very well be looking for a new home once his contract expires.
The Knicks, who will need outside shooting, would be an ideal spot for Meeks to land if he can be had at a reasonable price. He would provide the same floor spacing as a Ray Allen or Antawn Jamison, though he is a little more athletic and can help to push the ball up the court and score on the fast break. In 24.9 minutes per game last season he averaged 8.4 points and 2.4 rebounds while hitting 36.5 percent of his attempts from downtown.
Meeks is a guard who does not need plays ran for him constantly, essential for an offense that calls Carmelo Anthony's number significantly more than anyone else. He is an excellent spot-up shooter and catch-and-release guy. Anthony showed some growth as a passer last year and could find Meeks on the perimeter when a defense collapses around him or hits him with a double team.
Meeks is a volume scorer the team could bring off the bench like they did with J.R. Smith this season, but he has less baggage and will likely come cheaper than Smith as a free agent. At only 24 years old he still has room to grow as a player and would replace some of the offensive production the team will likely lose in the offseason. He may not be a gifted defender or elite ball-handler but he puts in a solid effort in every aspect of the game.
The signing of Jodie Meeks may not be the difference between a championship and a first round loss but the young shooting guard would be a nice addition to a team looking for depth at the two and he has established himself as a true scoring threat in the league.
Needing to secure some depth at the small forward spot behind Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks could look to sign former Los Angeles Laker Matt Barnes. Barnes, who has spent time as a starter and as a backup to Metta World Peace, is the kind of change-of-pace player New York should look to acquire as they make a run at a championship.
Barnes' defensive intensity and scrappiness would be a great counterpart to Anthony's scoring. He can effectively guard the two and three spots as well as some smaller power forwards and would be able to preserve Anthony's legs during the stretch run if needed. His grit would be welcomed to a team that prided itself on defense under Mike Woodson and would allow Anthony to focus on putting up points and hitting the glass.
He could play alongside Carmelo as both a small forward and shooting guard depending on the lineup and has proven that he is not an offensive liability. He had a decent shooting season last year, connecting on 33.3 percent of his three-point attempts, but really thrived by slashing to the basket, cutting without the ball and hitting the offensive glass. These are the little things the Knicks need from their bench players and something Matt Barnes has given every team he's played on.
Barnes averaged 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and a pair of assists last year while playing a similar role with the Lakers as he would with the Knicks. He can impact the game in ways besides scoring and while he can be hotheaded is truly committed to team success.
Barnes would play extended minutes as Shumpert continues his rehab work, especially if Landry Fields and J.R. Smith leave, but would settle into a role as a rotation player for the Knicks. If the team is serious about committing to the defensive identity it cultivated in the latter part of the 2011-2012 season, signing a player like Matt Barnes would be essential.
After toiling in obscurity for the last few years, Greg Stiemsma got his opportunity with the Boston Celtics and proved to be a very effective defensive player off the bench. The Knicks have several big men who are free agents this summer, namely Jared Jeffries and Steve Novak, so it is essential that the team can either resign those two or grab another who can be a contributor. Stiemsma proved in limited minutes that he can be that kind of impact player the Knicks need off the bench.
He would play much the same role of Jeffries, although he is a far better shot-blocker. Stiemsma played only 13.9 minutes per game last season but averaged 1.5 blocks in those measly minutes. He was also able to make an impact on the boards and averaged 3.2 rebounds per game. Bringing him in behind Tyson Chandler would give the Knicks a strong interior defensive presence throughout the entire game.
Stiemsma would be able to play both the four and five spots thanks to his ability to run the floor and has shown that he can hit a midrange jump shot with decent regularity. He could share time on the court with Anthony and would be effective both in the pick-and-roll and crashing the offensive glass. Though he needs to bulk up it is important to have a defensive minded player on the court alongside Anthony to help patrol the paint. The addition of Stiemsma would shore up a front line that is already one of the best in the league.
While they were successful last year the Knicks were able to pair Carmelo Anthony's offensive firepower with a strong defensive front. Stiemsma is the kind of hard-working, humble player who would fit well into Woodson's system and be able to play his role to perfection.
The 6'11" former Wisconsin Badger is still only 26 and has room to improve on both ends of the court. There will be plenty of teams interested in him but in an effort to strengthen their bench and continue to emphasize defense the New York Knicks should certainly make a few calls about signing Greg Stiemsma.
While signing Jeremy Lin is a top priority for the Knicks this summer, the horrific knee injury suffered by Baron Davis makes it essential that the team brings in plenty of talent at the point guard position. Andre Miller, who at 36 years old has still proven to be extremely effective, would be a great addition as either a sixth man or a starter.
After being a starting point guard for the lion's share of his career, Miller proved he could be a game-changing reserve player coming off the bench for the Denver Nuggets behind Ty Lawson. Miller was able to slow the game down, execute in the half court and keep the offense from getting stagnant. Though he is not a great perimeter shooter, Miller's excellent post-game and ability to find his spots on the court made him an offensive threat and would be a great addition to the Knicks.
Last season, Miller averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 27.4 minutes of playing time each night. If he could bring the Knicks that kind of production it would be a huge boon for the team. He has familiarity with Carmelo Anthony and his style of play, having shared the court with him in Denver, and also plays his best in the half court. Though Miller does his best work with the ball in his hands he can also play without it and would help the Knicks play the kind of grind-it-out basketball they did at the end of the season.
The Knicks need another veteran point guard on the roster to replace Mike Bibby and Baron Davis while he is recovering, so bringing in a player like Miller would make a lot of sense. He has a ton of experience and would be a great mentor to Jeremy Lin as he continues to improve as a playmaker. He has one of the highest basketball IQs in the league, maximizing his effectiveness despite a distinct lack of athleticism. He has the kind of craftiness and feel for the game that would rub off on a young guard like Lin and help him throughout his career.
For Carmelo Anthony, Miller would be a point guard who understands how to play with him and where to get him the ball. He is extremely unselfish and loves to make plays for his teammates. He knows exactly how to read the game and react to a defense and the two could make for a dangerous two-man game in their time on the court together.
Andre Miller wouldn't be New York's point guard of the future, but he would be an excellent addition to the Anthony-led Knicks next year.