The New York Knicks failed to live up to expectations this season and this will cost them a great deal of their future. With an aging roster and a bunch of high-priced contracts on the books, the team will have to get worse before it gets better.
Obviously, the main storyline of the offseason is what will happen with Carmelo Anthony. Last season's NBA scoring leader is an unrestricted free agent this season and no one seems to know what will happen, although everyone has an opinion.
Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio recently reported that the general feeling is that Anthony will stay in New York:
Most execs feel Carmelo returns to #Knicks as well. Biggest name available could be Pau Gasol. "Never know tho. Lots can change," exec says.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) April 15, 2014
However, the forward is certain to get plenty of suitors over the next few months, including big markets like the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. After officially being shut down for the season, Anthony simply said, "I have a lot to think about," according to Al Iannazzone of Newsday.
The interesting thing is that whether Anthony is re-signed or not, it might be smart to look toward the 2015-16 season.
Marc Berman of the New York Post first reported that new president Phil Jackson is going to be open about this plan with Anthony in the attempt to keep him around:
Jackson appears committed, however, to the notion of grinding through next season, allowing the Knicks’ multitude of expiring contracts to come off the books and going full bore at the heady free-agent class of 2015 that could feature Anthony’s buddy, LeBron James, whom they lost out on in 2010.
At that same time, enormous contracts like that of Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani will come off the books, giving the Knicks freedom to sign almost anyone they want.
Chandler is apparently not thrilled with this idea:
The good news for him is that he might not necessarily be a part of it. As a recent All-Star on an expiring contract, he could become a valuable trade chip during the season, according to Berman.
If Anthony leaves, the organization could trade away the rest of its talent and work to get a good draft pick in 2015. The squad can then use Jackson's influence to bring in a few big-name free agents and turn things around quickly.
ESPN's Tom Penn discussed this strategy with Sam Amick of USA Today:
Because while we've all written and talked about how disastrous those (Knicks) contracts are, as soon as we hit July 1 they all get pretty appealing...And you as well as I know that it's almost like the switch flips right then, when it goes from horrible contract to good asset. And then New York has the promise as the backstop … of significant (salary) cap room if they just ride it out (until the summer of) 2015.
Of course, tanking might not necessarily be a decision anyway.
While injuries were partly to blame for this year's failures, there is no denying that the team was simply bad for most of the season. J.R. Smith is one of the least efficient players in the league, Bargnani is terrible defensively and many of the other players failed to live up to expectations.
How many games will the Knicks win next season?
There is no one in free agency who could replace Anthony if he leaves, and the team will not be able to improve much without a draft pick. Even if Anthony stays, there is little reason to believe the squad will be any better.
Best-case scenario is a slight improvement with a healthy roster, but there is a low probability the unit as currently constructed can contend for a title.
Instead of returning to a similar level of just missing the playoffs, the team would be better off in the long term by completely tanking. They have to get rid of players with value and hope to get the best draft pick available.
In this situation, the team would have over $50 million of expired contracts come off the books and a true rebuild would be possible. If the true intention is to bring a championship to New York, this is truly the only way to achieve that goal.
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