With Phil Jackson on board as president of basketball operations, the New York Knicks have taken the first step toward rebuilding their image and roster.
The second step will come this offseason, as Jackson attempts to restructure the team he has inherited.
Despite the initial salary-cap restrictions that limit the caliber of players Jackson may acquire, a few decent options are present that can put New York on the path of consistency and respect without mortgaging the franchise's future salary-cap freedom.
Each of those options pale, however, in comparison to free-agent-to-be, Carmelo Anthony.
Re-Signing Carmelo Anthony
Anthony needs to be retained by any means necessary. Without him, it'll be much too difficult for Jackson to convince athletes of any merit to commit long-term to this faltering organization.
Luckily for the Knicks, there seems to be some faith and hope on their side:
Phil thinks Carmelo will re-sign with the #Knicks: "He realizes that there's ... strong hope and there's a strong reason for him to stay."— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) March 18, 2014
Anthony has spoken extensively this season about his championship desires, and while pundits may suggest Anthony could take the easy way out and join the Miami Heat, his goal can become a reality in New York with some patience.
The 2014-15 season may be a little boring and disappointing, depending on how creative Jackson can be this summer, but in the years to follow, the organization has the means—cap space and intuitive personnel—to build a contender.
Keeping Anthony in Madison Square Garden will facilitate many future moves the front office will make. And with Jackson's presence, the rebuilding process won't be as challenging as it has been in the past for this organization.
Mr. Dolan won't be involved in any critical basketball decisions, and some of the ridiculous contracts that have been handed out in the past will be quelled by wherewithal and foresight.
Dolan says that if Phil decided it was best to let Melo walk, he'd let him make that decision. "It's his decision. That was our agreement."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) March 18, 2014
Plugging the Holes
The Knicks won't be able to correct all of their problems in one offseason, but there are role players that will be available that can be signed to moderate contracts that do not exceed two years.
New York has two of those players sitting on its bench currently that will be restricted free agents at the end of this year: Jeremy Tyler and Toure' Murry.
Tyler and Murry are both young, athletic and raw, but they possess the instincts and potential needed to grow into solid rotation players in this league. And they happen to fill two of the Knicks' biggest holes, at the 5 and 1, respectively.
Bringing those two young men back on reasonable contracts—around a $1 million or so a year—would help simplify some of the moves that need to be made.
In addition to retaining Tyler and Murry, New York should be in pursuit of Patrick Mills, Trevor Ariza and Vince Carter.
Mills would be an upgrade over Raymond Felton, but he'd only be a stopgap for what 2015 may offer when Rajon Rondo enters free agency. Ariza would be an extra perimeter defender that makes Iman Shumpert even more disposable, and Carter provides the organization with another scorer with experience and range on his jump shot.
In order to sign all three players, one of them—possibly Ariza—would have to sign for the veteran's minimum.
Doing A Lot With A Little
The Knicks have their hands full this offseason and can't hand out contracts willy-nilly like they have in past years, but a competitive ball club could be fielded.
Tyson Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani will be entering the final year of their contracts this offseason, and perhaps Jackson finds suitors for those players whose bloated salaries clog up New York's hopes of making a major splash with 2014's free-agency class.
By re-signing Anthony and bringing in veterans like Ariza and Carter on discount deals, while possibly wooing Mills away from the San Antonio Spurs, the Knicks will be effective offensively and respectable defensively.
The organization would still be a year or two away from contending for a championship, but the groundwork will be laid, and the franchise will no longer be referred to as a laughingstock as the tide turns and the wins add up.