The New York Knicks made major changes in free agency last season, and though it resulted in a much-improved record, they may be forced to change their approach this time around.
Last summer, it was all about bringing veterans to Madison Square Garden, in an effort to improve chemistry and keep players like J.R. Smith on the right track.
For the most part, Glen Grunwald's plan worked. The Knicks posted their best record since 1997, with Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni playing a huge role, as their experience rubbed off on the entire team.
Injuries, however, kept the Knicks from carrying that success into the postseason, mainly because of the age of these players. Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby all faced major health issues, leaving the Knicks thin, especially in the frontcourt.
As a result, Kidd and Wallace were forced to retire and Thomas was cut towards the end of the season when it became clear he could no longer contribute to the team. Meanwhile, Camby—who was New York's most expensive summer signing—played a grand total of just 24 games all season.
Though it was nice to have such a strong veteran presence on the team, this summer the Knicks will need to change their approach. They need as much durable depth as possible, and can't afford to have the same injury trouble hitting them again next year.
Mike Woodson loves his vets, and he'll still have enough to get by. Tyson Chandler is still here, and the Knicks have a good chance of re-signing Prigioni and Kenyon Martin.
After that, however, the Knicks should focus their offseason on bringing in younger players. They have the 24th pick in the draft, and should be able to find some decent talent in free agency as well.
New York's primary needs in free agency are an energetic point guard to back up Raymond Felton, and some depth on the wing and in the frontcourt. There are plenty of options out there who are talented, but may not have the experience of the older players the Knicks brought in last time.
At guard, the Knicks could take a look at Nate Robinson, Will Bynum or Delonte West. All three have been in the league for a while, but they are still in their athletic prime, and aren't big injury risks.
If they want to go even younger, someone like Josh Selby could help. He's a good friend of Carmelo Anthony's, and not long ago was considered the best high school player in the country. It's not a sure thing that he'll contribute to the team, but he has a lot of potential as an offensive weapon.
Adding frontcourt depth will be a little tougher—young big men are often in high demand—but DeJuan Blair, Timofey Mozgov, Andray Blatche and Al-Farouq Aminu are all realistic options.
Along with the continued development of Smith, Chris Copeland and Iman Shumpert, the Knicks have the potential to sneak up on people next year if they are once again dismissed as an old team. They have more young talent than people give them credit for, and have the resources to add a few more pieces this offseason.
The bottom line is that the Knicks need to get more athletic, so they can start being effective on the fast break as well as in the half-court offense. Their perimeter defense also needs to be stronger, and they can't afford to ever be in a situation where Copeland is their starting center again.
Even if it means giving up experience, this is something New York simply has to do. They can always bring Kidd and Wallace back in an advisory role, but as far as the on-court roster goes, getting younger is essential to success.