The New York Knicks have quite the mess to clean up over the offseason.
This wasn’t supposed to be the case. In fact, the Knicks were supposed to still be playing basketball right now.
But bad things tend to happen when the minor details get overlooked.
An 18-5 start to the season had New York convinced that everything was just fine. However, a 20-21 record over the next couple of months had the team free-falling back to reality. Next thing you know, the Knicks won 13 games in a row and finished 16-3, putting any doubt to rest.
Or so they thought.
The New York team that came into the postseason brimming with confidence was nowhere to be found. Several key players struggled and the entire team drifted away from playing team ball and resorted to “me ball.”
As expected, the results weren’t favorable.
Now, instead of gearing up to face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, the Knicks find themselves watching at home. All that is left to do is to wonder “what if?”
Fortunately, the offseason can change all that.
Here are the biggest needs that New York must address this summer.
1. Fix the Frontcourt
If the Knicks’ perimeter game is considered successful, the team’s interior game has been nothing but disappointing.
During the regular season, New York ranked 26th in the league in rebounding, bringing down a total of 40.6 boards a night. According to Teamrankings.com, the team also ranked last in points in the paint, amassing just 33.4 per game—3.2 points less than the second-worst mark.
Tyson Chandler has been the Knicks’ only hope down low.
In 66 games, Chandler averaged 10.7 rebounds per game. More impressively, he led the league with 4.1 offensive rebounds per game. New York averaged 15 second-chance points a night with Chandler on the floor compared to 10.9 without him.
Throw in his 1.2 blocks per game and the 30-year-old is a force to be reckoned with inside the box. Not to mention, he also averages 10.4 points.
After Chandler, the pickings are slim.
Sure, the Knicks still have Amar’e Stoudemire on the roster. But after missing 53 games this year, just how healthy will he be next season? Besides, it’s not like his presence boosted the team’s performance too much—New York was just 16-13 with Stoudemire on the year.
Then there’s the case of the two veterans over 35.
After playing four seasons with the Knicks during the early 2000s, Marcus Camby made his return to the city this year. Unfortunately, he was a mere shadow of his former self, averaging 1.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game—both career lows—in what was an injury-plagued season for the 39-year-old. He only appeared in 24 games.
On the other hand, Kenyon Martin has exceeded expectations.
Although his stat line may seem rather pedestrian—7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds over 23.9 minutes—Martin’s impact goes well beyond that. Jason Kidd went as far as to state that the 35-year-old “saved” New York’s season, via ESPN New York’s Jared Zwerling.
That makes bringing back Martin, who’s set to become a free agent this summer, one of the most important decisions the team can make to improve its frontcourt issues.
The Knicks have both their veteran’s minimum and mini-mid-level exceptions to offer free agents, as well.
2. Bring Back J.R. Smith
New York wouldn’t have won 54 games without Smith.
In 80 contests, the 27-year-old averaged 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists over 33.5 minutes per game. He also shot 42.2 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from three-point range.
Time and time again, Smith put the Knicks up on his shoulders and helped carry the team to victory. He’s netted 30 or more points six times this season. That includes a stretch of three consecutive games from March 26-29.
Given all this, it came as no surprise that Smith was crowned the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
Sure, he had a rather disappointing postseason—33.1-percent shooting from the floor and 27.3 percent from downtown—but so did the majority of the team. One guy shouldn’t take the entire downfall for that.
Luckily for New York, the team holds Smith’s Bird Rights. That means the Knicks can offer a four-year contract starting around $5 million.
Seeing as the rest of the league still views Smith as an inconsistent scorer, that should be more than enough to bring him back in.
3. Address Point Guard Depth
Forward Iman Shumpert said it best, via ESPN New York’s Jared Zwerling:
We need some more continuity as far as running something that everybody knows we’re in it—just something with more pace. We have a lot of dead possessions where we don’t really have any cohesiveness. We’re just sort of out there and it becomes watching whoever has the ball.
The stats certainly seem to back up Shumpert’s theory.
During the regular season, the Knicks ranked last in assists, averaging 19.3 dimes per game. It’s a trend that continued into the playoffs, with the team actually performing worse in the category (15.1 assists per game).
A lot of that has to do with New York’s lack of depth at the point guard position.
For much of the year, Raymond Felton has shouldered the majority of the burden, averaging 13.9 points, 5.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. He’s also shot 42.7 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc.
Not only that, but the 28-year-old has a huge impact on the team’s offense.
Over the 1,633 minutes Felton was on the bench, the Knicks averaged 95.6 points per game on 43.6-percent shooting from the floor. They also posted an offensive rating of 105.
On the other hand, over the 2,313 minutes Felton was on the court, New York’s average jumped up to 102.6 points per game on 45.6-percent shooting. The team also posted an offensive rating of 111.1.
But Felton is only one man. He can’t do it all on his own.
Jason Kidd was supposed to help carry some of that load.
Instead, in 76 games, Kidd put together one of the worst seasons of his career. He averaged just 6.1 points, 3.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds over 26.9 minutes per game. Kidd also only shot 37.2 percent from the field.
The playoffs only treated the 40-year-old worse. He averaged 0.9 points, 1.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds over 20.6 minutes per game. He also only shot 12 percent from the floor.
While Kidd may be a player Knicks fans would love to see walk away—he’s reportedly considering retiring—it’s hard to imagine someone walking away from a guaranteed $6.1 million over the next two years.
Pablo Prigioni also contributed to the position, averaging 3.5 points, 3.1 assists and 1.8 rebounds over 16.2 minutes per game. However, it’s looking more and more likely that he will opt to play in Spain over returning to New York, via the New York Post's
The team’s best interest is to try and upgrade the team via free agency and the draft. There are several options that are not only better, but also younger.
Unless otherwise stated, all stats used in this article are courtesy of NBA.com's Media Central (subscription required)