The New York Knicks have put themselves in a deep hole early in the NBA season, but all is not lost just yet. If they act quickly, there's still time to turn their fortunes around and put themselves back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
As a whole, the East has been pretty poor this season and, as bad as the Knicks have been, they're still only a few games out of the division lead and a top four seed.
If they follow this blueprint and make some key changes, the 2013-14 campaign can absolutely still be salvaged.
Look for (Realistic) Point Guard Upgrades
Undoubtedly, the Knicks' biggest weakness this season has been their inability to stop anyone at the point. They were awful at it last season, too, but have taken that to another level throughout this losing streak.
The main culprit has been Raymond Felton, but Beno Udrih shouldn't escape blame either, as things didn't get any better when Felton was out with injury.
What's most confusing is that Mike Woodson has had Toure' Murry sitting on the bench while opposing point guards have continually ripped them apart. Sure, he is an undrafted rookie, but after seeing what he did defensively in summer league and preseason, he has to be worth a shot.
Regardless, the Knicks need to be searching the trade market for some kind of upgrade at the point. Frontcourt depth would be nice, but they've waited too long and at this point we aren't too far from Tyson Chandler's return.
Acquiring Rajon Rondo is near-impossible for a variety of reasons, but a package of Felton and Iman Shumpert could still bring back a decent playmaker like Goran Dragic or Greivis Vasquez. The Phoenix Suns in particular have shown interest in Shump in the past, while Isaiah Thomas' increased production could make Vasquez expendable to the Sacramento Kings.
Whoever it is, the Knicks just need someone who can encourage ball movement and not allow superstar production from his matchup on a nightly basis.
Make Use of their Depth
Keeping Murry on the bench isn't the only questionable move Woodson has made with his rotation. Even with Tyson Chandler out, New York is a pretty deep team, but you wouldn't know it based on their choice of lineups.
J.R. Smith has shot just 33 percent from the floor this season, and has still played more total minutes than Tim Hardaway Jr., Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih, despite missing the first five games with a suspension.
By this point, we all know that Smith is a detriment to the team when he's not shooting well. His defense is barely replacement level, and offensively, he'll keep shooting until you pull him out.
Meanwhile, in the frontcourt, we've seen Woodson go back and forth on his minutes limits with Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin, when it's as clear as ever that they need them with Chandler out. And, of course, Cole Aldrich—who New York chose over Ike Diogu and Josh Powell—has played only 14 minutes all year.
The Knicks assembled their depth this summer for two key reasons; to cover for frontcourt injuries and give themselves alternatives when J.R.'s shot is off. It's about time they started using it.
Don't Let Games Get Away
As demoralizing as this losing streak has been, the Knicks have still taken most of these games down to the wire. They just don't make the key plays towards the end that allow wins to slip away from them.
The Knicks had every chance of beating the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans, but typically one simple mistake has been the difference between a win and a crushing loss.
A lack of confidence and chemistry has the main reason the Knicks keep allowing these games to get away from them. No matter how good they look, it's always way too easy for opponents to put together a quick game-changing run that sends the Knicks into an uncontrollable spiral.
Losing guys like Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby over the summer is also an issue. They're the kind of veterans who could steady the team through stretches like this, but instead, the Knicks are reeling without any real locker room leadership.
Carmelo Anthony has tried to bring this team together with meetings and being more vocal on the court, but that's just not who he is. New York is in need of a natural leader and the only player they have who fits the bill has been injured for most of the season.
Most of all, the Knicks need to know that their season isn't over. Their record looks bleak, but the division lead isn't that far away, and the conference is weak enough that they can still fight for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
This has always been a streaky team in the Melo era, and that one elusive victory could be enough to turn the season around.
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