5 Changes New York Knicks Must Make During 2014 NBA Offseason
The New York Knicks began this season expecting to build upon their success in 2012-13. Instead, they could become the third team in NBA history to win 54 games one season and lose 54 the next. Management is expected to make significant changes after such a disappointing season.
The front office's first step will be to decide on a new direction for the franchise. It is apparent the Knicks cannot compete for a championship with the current nucleus of players. Is it time to rebuild or simply reload in the summer of 2015, when Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani's contracts come off the books?
To a large extent, New York's plan will depend on whether Carmelo Anthony remains in the fold. The star forward indicated in an interview with The New York Observer's Rafi Kohan that he intends to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. The Knicks have given every indication that they intend to re-sign him, though Anthony may choose to take his talents elsewhere given the way this season has unfolded.
In addition to personnel decisions, owner James Dolan and general manager Steve Mills need to consider what type of coach they want to lead the Knicks. Mike Woodson's act has worn thin with his players, though Dolan has been reluctant to fire certain coaches in the past.
It Is Time for Iman Shumpert and the Knicks to Part Ways
This was supposed to be Iman Shumpert's breakout year. Instead, the third-year guard regressed, as his name repeatedly popped up in trade rumors.
There are many possible explanations for Shump's poor season, from his waning confidence, to a second knee surgery last summer, to the way he has been handled by management and Mike Woodson. Regardless of the reason for his failure to launch, it appears Shumpert may never fulfill his potential in a Knicks uniform.
Moreover, the emergence of rookie shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. has made Shump expendable. New York reportedly discussed dealing him for Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried in November, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, and shopped him again before the trade deadline, via Marc Stein and Ian Begley of ESPN.com.
Shumpert's value has declined in the past year due to knee problems and a poor season, though his perimeter defense is in demand and he is still playing on his rookie contract. New York may be able to secure a first-round pick in return.
New York Must Address the Point Guard Position
The Knicks' point guard play has been atrocious this season, starting with Raymond Felton. The nine-year veteran is shooting 39 percent from the field, 29.4 percent from downtown and has a career-low 11.8 PER.
His greatest struggles have come on defense, where he is unable to keep opposing point guards out of the paint. According to Synergy, Felton is surrendering 0.9 points per possession to ball-handlers on pick-and-rolls, which ranks 186th in the league.
Felton's backup, Pablo Prigioni has been even worse against the pick-and-roll (opposing ball-handlers are scoring 0.92 PPP), and opposing point guards are able to shake him with a basic change of direction. Beno Udrih, who began the season as the third-string point guard, was ineffective in limited action and clashed with Mike Woodson before being bought out of his contract in February.
The Knicks tried to upgrade at the position throughout the season. They discussed trading for Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry in December, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, and angled to land a point guard at the trade deadline, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
If the Knicks intend to be competitive next season, they must add a starting-caliber point guard. If their plan is to rebuild, management should be in the market for a floor general of the future.
Trade Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler's numbers are similar to years past, though his impact on the defensive end has diminished. The big man is a step slower on his rotations and has not been as effective at defending the rim or keeping guards in front of him when switched on to them.
Chandler does not hold much value for a Knicks team that is not expected to contend next season and is unlikely to be in New York’s long-term plans. His contract expires in 2015, at which point he will be a few months shy of his 33rd birthday and will have logged 14 seasons in the NBA. New York intends to use its anticipated cap space that summer to pursue at least one All-Star.
Despite his declining skills, Chandler would be a great pickup for a playoff team. He has a championship pedigree, grabs around 10 rebounds per game and is still an above-average defender for his position. He also does not present much of a financial hit with one year remaining on his contract.
New York could try to use Chandler to unload Raymond Felton or J.R. Smith's onerous contracts or acquire a young player or draft pick in return for its starting center.
Mike Woodson Must Go
Mike Woodson did an excellent job in his first season-and-a-half as head coach in New York, leading the Knicks to a 72-34 record and an Atlantic Division title in 2012-13. However, this season has been a disaster, and while there are many reasons for the team's struggles, Woodson deserves a large share of the blame.
The coach abandoned the small lineup that was so successful last season until injuries forced his hand. His offense lacks creativity, and his repeated use of isolation plays in late-game situations has been baffling. He has also failed to change the Knicks' defensive scheme to compensate for his guards' inability to keep players out of the paint.
When Woodson took over for Mike D'Antoni during the 2011-12 season, he had a reputation as a defensive coach who held players accountable. During his time in New York, he has failed on both accounts. The Knicks' rank 26th in defensive efficiency, and Woodson's coddling of J.R. Smith has haunted the team this season.
Perhaps most importantly, Woodson has lost the locker room. The coach himself conceded as much during an interview in early February on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show.
"This year has been, for me, it's been kind of a disaster from a coaching standpoint in trying to get players to compete and play at a high level," he said.
James Dolan Needs to Change His Approach
James Dolan's win-now mentality has devastated the Knicks for over a decade. Under his direction, the team has repeatedly mortgaged its future for players they believe can help them win immediately.
Management sells the fanbase on the prospect of landing the next big superstar, then either whiffs or overpays to do so, as they did with Amar'e Stoudemire and the trade with the Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony. When former general manager Donnie Walsh took the long view on team-building, Dolan relieved him of his duties.
That business model resulted in one playoff series victory in the past dozen years. New York is in the midst of another disappointing season and will have nothing to show for it after including its first-round pick in the 2014 draft, considered by many NBA executives to be the deepest in years, in the Anthony trade. To make matters worse, they face the prospect of losing Anthony as a free agent.
Dolan will likely continue doing business as usual this summer and plan on landing a star free agent in 2015. As long as he takes that approach, the franchise and its fans will continue to suffer.