The New York Knicks’ veteran roster is built to win now. In fact, their window is closing quicker than most fans realize. The 2013-14 season could be the last shot for the Knicks as we know them.
New York’s plan has been to contend for a championship with the current nucleus for the next couple of seasons, and then re-tool in the summer of 2015, when Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani’s salaries expire. The Knicks have just $6.2 million in contracts guaranteed for the 2015-16 season (via Hoopsworld.com.)
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News recently raised another possibility via twitter.
Hypothetical: Knicks go out in first round, Melo walks, Amare & Bargnani on expiring contracts. Rebuild. Is it really the end of the world?— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 9, 2013
The key to Isola’s alternative scenario is an early termination option in Anthony’s contract, which would allow the star forward to become a free agent next summer. Anthony is almost certain to exercise the option and sign a new long-term deal.
The question is: Will he choose to re-sign with the Knicks?
The Knicks’ nucleus of Anthony, Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert had its greatest opportunity to make a run at an NBA championship this past spring and failed to advance past the second round.
The team that beat them, the Indiana Pacers, were without All-Star Danny Granger. The Miami Heat were vulnerable with Dwyane Wade playing on a gimpy knee, and MVP candidate Derrick Rose did not suit up for the Chicago Bulls. All three teams should be stronger than the Knicks next season.
New York will also likely be looking up at the Brooklyn Nets in their own division after their crosstown rival traded for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The Knicks added depth with the acquisitions of Metta World Peace, Bargnani and first-round draft pick, Tim Hardaway Jr., though none of those players are difference makers.
The Knicks are probably the fifth-best team in the Eastern Conference and will be lucky to advance past the first round of the playoffs. Another early playoff exit will not sit well with Anthony.
When Carmelo pressured the Denver Nuggets to trade him to the Knicks in February 2011, he did so with the expectation that he would be paired with another superstar in Amar’e Stoudemire. That did not work out as planned. Stoudemire’s game has been diminished by injuries, and management has been unable to land another superstar.
The Knicks will not have the cap space available to re-sign Anthony and add another star player next summer. While they should have plenty of money to spend on a 2015 free agent class that is expected to include Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and Rajon Rondo, Anthony would have to re-sign with the Knicks without any assurances that another star would be joining him in the future.
New York Knicks Team Salary (via Hoopsworld.com)
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||$1,196,760||$1,250,640||$1,304,520||$2,281,605||$3,335,707|
Some of the salaries above include qualifying offers, players options, team options and non-guaranteed money. Read more at http://www.hoopsworld.com/new-york-knicks-team-salary#DSWJbtwih9b2xjYc.99
Anthony will be 30 next summer and may not be willing to give the Knicks any more time to build a contending team around him. He could bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers, who will be plush with cash, or another team with an established star.
General manager Glen Grunwald could begin dismantling the Knicks’ roster after next season even if Anthony remains with the team. If the Knicks do not make a run with the current nucleus next season, there is no reason to believe they will do so the following year, when several of their key players will be a year older.
Stoudemire and Bargnani’s contracts, currently considered albatrosses, will carry value as expiring deals heading into and during the 2014-15 season. Chandler and Felton could be attractive one-year rentals for teams in contention.
The only player on the roster who should be in the Knicks’ long-term plans other than Anthony is Iman Shumpert. The 2-guard showed significant progress towards the end of last season and has the potential to develop into an All-Star. The rest of the team could be on the block this time next year.
Anthony is likely to re-sign with the Knicks. His next contract will be his last maximum-salary deal, and he will look to make the most of it. New York can offer him one more year and a lot more money than every other team.
Chances are, Grunwald will not make any major moves after next season if Anthony remains in the fold. While he will undoubtedly explore trade opportunities built around the Knicks’ expiring contracts, his best opportunity to acquire one or two top tier players will probably come via free agency in 2015.
However, as Knicks fans know, a lot can change over the course of one basketball season. If Anthony sours on Knicks management or the team takes desperate measures to keep him, next season could end up being the last shot for this group of Knicks.