5 Things the NY Knicks Must Address Before 2014 Offseason
While the New York Knicks are still mathematically capable of making the playoffs, the reality of the situation is that they need to have one eye on the offseason.
Regardless of what happens in their remaining games, they aren't even close to being a contender right now and need to work out how they can reach that level with limited flexibility.
Making matters worse, their best player, Carmelo Anthony, is up for free agency this summer, and his decision has the potential to put the franchise in an even bigger hole.
There are plenty of decisions to be made regarding the future of certain players (and coaches), so let's take a look at the five major things New York must address before the offseason begins.
The Coaching Situation
Mike Woodson has earned a reputation as a head coach that improves his team's record from year to year, but this season he is on the verge of leading one of the worst turnarounds in league history.
Excuses are hard to come by, too. Sure, he is working for the worst owner in the NBA, but that doesn't justify repeated mistakes with his rotations, treatment of young players and defensive schemes, the latter being a particularly big crime for a man known as a defensive coach.
It's curious that Woodson has survived to this point, especially considering owner James Dolan's penchant for rash decisions, but it's likely that Dolan is trying to save face after giving Woodson an extension over the summer and claiming there were no firings upcoming in a meeting with the team in December.
Dolan and the front office need to decide exactly how long they're going to ignore Woodson's mistakes, as this coming offseason is as good a time as any to make a change. They have the chance to let Carmelo Anthony handpick his own coach in an effort to keep him relatively happy, or start from scratch with a younger coach if he walks in free agency.
After the season the Knicks have had, it seems a foregone conclusion that Woodson will be canned, but if it hasn't happened by now, we can't know for sure until the time comes.
Update: The Knicks have reportedly spoken to Phil Jackson about the coaching job, a sure sign that Woodson will be shown the door at the end of the season. Jackson isn't interested, though, so more options will have to be explored in the coming months.
Trade Expiring Contracts or Rebuild in 2015?
It may be of little consolation for a fanbase that has seen their team turn from a borderline contender to one of the worst teams in the NBA, but they actually have a fair amount of flexibility in the upcoming offseason.
Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani and the previously untradable Amar'e Stoudemire all have contracts expiring in 2015, making them valuable for teams looking to rebuild and save cap space for that summer.
Getting a future pick or quality young player for these expiring deals is unlikely, but it's not out of the question that the Knicks could get an upgrade on all three if they're willing to give up future cap flexibility.
That type of move, however, tends to be made by teams on the verge of being an elite team, while the Knicks are much closer to the bottom than the top.
A new coach and a few upgrades may be enough to get the Knicks back to where they were in 2012-13, but doing so would all but end their chances of being players in 2015 free agency, where they'd have a chance to go after Rajon Rondo and/or Kevin Love.
If Carmelo Anthony isn't willing to wait that long, though, it makes sense as a Plan B.
Keeping Melo Happy
On the court, the Knicks have done everything in their power to force Carmelo Anthony out of New York, and there's very little they can do in their remaining games (outside of an extended win streak) to convince him this is the best situation he can realistically be in to win a title.
Having said that, New York still has a fair amount of assets to try to sell Melo on. The team may be terrible right now, but a coaching change, a few trades of expiring contracts and/or a big move in 2015 free agency could get the team back on track.
While there's no guarantee that any of those moves will help the Knicks, a max contract on top of that may be enough to keep him in town, especially considering the uncertainty with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers when it comes to the injuries of Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant.
The Knicks have little power at this point, but the least they can do is make it seem like they could have a bright future. Giving Tim Hardaway Jr. more minutes, for example, would be a smart move.
Deciding If Raymond Felton Should Remain the Starter
Raymond Felton was already the worst starting point guard in the NBA, but following his recent gun charges, he's now also the most controversial, with new commissioner Adam Silver saying he has created an "image problem for the league."
It's very possible that Felton could go to jail at this point, with court proceedings taking place in June, but if not, New York could (and should) still cut ties with him.
Guilty or not, Felton is simply not good enough to start at the most important position on the court. He's inconsistent with his shot, unathletic in comparison to his opponents and a truly woeful defender.
If Carmelo Anthony stays, the Knicks' next move is almost certainly going to be trying to find an upgrade at point guard, and that should mean Felton's days in orange in blue are numbered, if New York makes the right decision.
For now, it may make sense to at least try out some of the other, younger point guard candidates on the roster, namely Shannon Brown and Toure' Murry. The Knicks have little to lose at this point, and could potentially find themselves a quality back-up for next season between the two.
Does Iman Shumpert Have a Future in New York?
Since the summer of 2012, Iman Shumpert has faced constant rumors about being potentially being on the way out, and at this point, it seems inevitable he'll be traded this summer.
Shumpert can certainly help with his athleticism and defense, but with Tim Hardaway Jr. emerging at the same position and Shumpert steadily declining since his rookie season, it may make sense to trade him while he still has value.
He may be young, but with two knee surgeries under his belt and only another year left on his contract, it might not be long until he's looked at as much less of an asset.
If they don't trade him within the next 11 months, the Knicks will likely have to end up paying Shumpert as a restricted free agent, so they need to decide once and for all whether or not they see him as a part of their future. If not, it's time to move him for a player that can help convince Carmelo Anthony that the franchise is going in the right direction.