Biggest Needs for New York Knicks During 2014 Offseason
The 2014 offseason for the New York Knicks should be a critical one for the franchise's future.
With multiple decisions to make in both personnel and staff, this is where the Knicks could really forge a direction and turn things around. Hiring Phil Jackson as team president was a good first step, but there is still plenty of work to do in order to create a winning culture.
The beauty of the offseason is that it will allow New York to make some badly needed changes, one way or another. With Carmelo Anthony headed for free agency, the Knicks could look completely different next season, even if Anthony does decide to take the most money available to him and re-sign with the team.
The following is a list of the biggest needs the Knicks need to address this offseason to make it back to the playoffs and restore the glory of a proud franchise.
Re-Sign Carmelo Anthony
First things first: We know that Carmelo Anthony is going to play the field. Here's what he told Rafi Kohan of the New York Observer:
"I want to be a free agent," Anthony told the New York Observer. "I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It's like you have an evaluation period, you know. It's like if I'm in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience."
While the Knicks will have competition for Anthony, he should still be the top priority going into this offseason. You could argue that Anthony isn't one of the top 10 players in the league, or that he's difficult to build a team around, or that he won't be worth the max deal he can sign with the Knicks, but it's almost impossible to say that the Knicks will be better off losing him for nothing.
Any way you slice it, Anthony is an elite offensive talent and a critical asset for the Knicks, as he'll be the player who can recruit other stars to join him once the bad contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani clear the books. He's essential if the Knicks don't want to rebuild from scratch.
Every championship contender needs at least one star, and Anthony is the only player on the roster who qualifies. Re-signing him is by far the team's biggest need.
Hire a New Coach
It's pretty difficult to envision a scenario where Mike Woodson is the coach of the Knicks next year, particularly after this disastrous season and the hiring of Phil Jackson, who will probably want his own guy inserted.
Most people feel that Woodson should have been fired already, as Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post advocated for here:
And if you can’t lay it all at Woodson’s dress shoes, you can lay a lot of it there: his stubborn defensive schemes, his bland offense, and the very clear fact his players no longer give maximum effort. They acknowledge as much. They seem to feel bad about it. And then lay down dead the next game anyway all over again.
In the search for a new coach, someone who could be on the same page with the front office would make sense.
Steve Kerr seems to check all the boxes, as he played for Phil Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and could introduce elements of the triangle. Don't forget that Kerr also worked in the front office with the Phoenix Suns, so he would bring that experience to the table as well.
While it might be a little scary to hire someone without head coaching experience, Kerr has the pedigree and the clout to help turn the Knicks around. Regardless of whether it's Kerr or someone else, the Knicks have to get a replacement for Woodson. That relationship has ran its course.
Trade J.R. Smith
Finding a way to remove Smith's influence on the rest of the roster is a big need for the Knicks, as it isn't just a lack of talent that's led to this season's failures. Here's an excerpt from a column I wrote earlier this week on why Smith needs to go:
By finding a way to trade Smith this offseason, Jackson and company might be killing a few birds with just one stone. Moving Smith would give whoever ends up being the new head coach one less headache to deal with and would simultaneously weaken CAA's grip on the franchise. If done right, it could even create more cap space for the 2015 offseason, the target window for the Knicks to give Anthony another superstar to play with.
Basically, the Knicks have much more to gain by trading Smith than they do by keeping him. Smith is always a risk to play selfish basketball, or to get himself suspended, and the cap space he occupies could be the difference between a true max player and an overpriced mid-range star.
The Knicks simply need to find a way to change the culture, and it's tough to do that when a player is undermining a coach's authority constantly by making bad decisions and putting himself above the team. Smith is a talented player who is occasionally worth the trouble, but there are just too many factors working against him.
This isn't the top priority, but it could certainly be designated as a need. It's time to move on.
Find a Point Guard
A great deal of the Knicks' struggles on both ends of the court have stemmed from poor play at the point guard position. As Bill Simmons described at Grantland, Raymond Felton has been one of the least valuable players in the league this season:
He was the league’s worst starting point guard, by every conceivable calculation, and somehow became untradable even with a cheap contract. He single-handedly derailed New York’s slash-and-kick offense by being unable to slash or kick. (...) And if that weren’t bad enough, New York’s mid-December deal for Kyle Lowry fell through … and the Raptors immediately took off and eventually made the playoffs. Find me the one Knicks fan who likes Ray Felton right now. Seriously, I’ll wait.
With the pick-and-roll no longer being a viable threat, New York struggled to create consistent looks from the perimeter, which is what their attack was based around last season. Defensively, Felton couldn't keep up with anyone either, which made backup point guard Pablo Prigioni a far superior option.
Both Felton and Prigioni are on contract next season, but the Knicks need an athletic player who can get in the paint and stay in front of people on the other end. Finding that in free agency with the taxpayer mid-level exception or via trade may be New York's only hope, but it certainly should be an area that's addressed this offseason.
If the Knicks go into the 2014-15 season starting Felton, they had an incomplete and probably an unsuccessful offseason.
Sign a Defensive-Minded Big Man
The Knicks will still have Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani on contract next year, which means adding a defensive-minded big man will be an absolute must.
Tyson Chandler can't be expected to hold up over a full 82-game season anymore, and he's certainly not capable of plugging all the holes his teammates create. If the Knicks even want to be average on that end of the floor, he'll need a ton of help next to him in the frontcourt.
Of course, finding capable big men isn't easy, especially when your assets are so severely limited. The one thing the Knicks will have working for them is a few expiring contracts, which could be used to nab a guy on a long-term deal who might have worn out his welcome, like a Larry Sanders in Milwaukee, for example.
More likely than acquiring an expensive star, though, would be signing a more veteran contributor who could patch things up in the middle. Either way, the Knicks will need serious help defensively at nearly every position.