New York Knicks' Disaster Plan If Carmelo Anthony Walks in Free Agency
The New York Knicks will certainly hope to retain Carmelo Anthony this offseason, but it would be smart to prepare for the worst-case scenario, particularly since teams actually playing in the postseason might be in position to acquire him. Here's Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports with the latest rumored destinations for Anthony:
Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports. The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deals alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.
"He'll give New York every option," one source with knowledge of Anthony's plans told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. "But he has options – and he's going to explore them all."
If Anthony is willing to pass up the extra year and $30 million New York can offer, what should be done to account for his loss? Even with Anthony gone, the Knicks won't be under the cap this offseason, so in that sense, the team is limited.
That being said, there are still steps to take in the recovery process if Anthony leaves. Here's the disaster plan the Knicks should prepare if Anthony walks in free agency.
Let It Go
If Carmelo Anthony leaves outright in free agency, the first step for the Knicks front office will be to relax. Take a deep breath. Don't react, even if Anthony was in any way misleading or dishonest.
That's probably the biggest lesson gleaned from "The Decision" when LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers. Right away, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert burned down the bridge to James ever returning and simultaneously probably turned off many potential free agents with his ridiculous comments. Here's a refresher from the infamous letter Gilbert wrote, via NBA.com:
This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown 'chosen one' sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And "who" we would want them to grow-up to become.
But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called "curse" on Cleveland, Ohio.
The self-declared former "King" will be taking the "curse" with him down south. And until he does "right" by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.
Just like the song that's probably been stuck in your head for the last two months says, the Knicks will need to just "let it go" if Anthony departs. He had some great moments and he was a big star, but it's important for such a prestigious organization to hold the notion that it's bigger than any one player.
Basically, put a gag order on owner James Dolan, and then get to work.
Insert the Triangle Offense
While this should happen prior to Anthony's decision, going full out and embracing the triangle offense will put management and the head coach on the same page for the first time in, well, a really long time.
Who will that coach be? Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News explains why Steve Kerr is the favorite:
But it’s up to Phil Jackson and it’ll be a stunner if the Zen Master doesn’t let Woodson go and offer the coaching job to Steve Kerr, first. Kerr wants to coach, and Jackson lobbied for him last summer to get the Detroit Pistons’ job. Whether he wants to relocate from San Diego and come into a situation with this roster, only Kerr can say.
Kerr is a logical choice to implement Phil Jackson's triangle offense, seeing as he spent time playing in it under Jackson. Kerr also has front-office experience with the Phoenix Suns, which could certainly come in handy.
Jackson needs people he can trust to execute his vision for the franchise, and Kerr would definitely seem to qualify. With Anthony gone, Kerr and Jackson can target talent that is perfectly fit for the system. That's not to say that Anthony couldn't have made it work in the triangle, but now the Knicks will have a better opportunity to build the roster with a clear plan in mind.
Trade Non-Expiring Veterans
If Anthony leaves, clearing cap space for the 2015 offseason will become the top priority.
While it would be good to receive some future draft picks to restock the cupboard, trading the big expiring salaries of Tyson Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani won't be all that important. Besides, only Chandler would be able to bring back a significant pick and an expiring deal anyhow, so dumping those contracts isn't necessary since the 2014 offseason will be shot once Anthony leaves.
Instead, it's the long-term contracts of J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton that will need to be dealt. Smith and Felton are the only players on non-rookie deals that will be on contract for the 2015-16 season, where both players hold player options.
It's not just about salaries either necessarily, as I explained why the Knicks should make dumping J.R. Smith a priority here:
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 (...)
Ultimately, Smith just represents far too much risk to the future culture of the Knicks. He's a double-edged sword that always seems to end up hurting those who think they will only get the good without the bad. The Knicks will have a chance to start relatively fresh soon, and if the opportunity to get rid of Smith presents itself this offseason, there shouldn't be much hesitation.
Felton and Smith should both be movable, and to truly clean house and start over, both should be dealt.
Embrace the Tank
The Knicks have traditionally been big spenders focused on attracting and acquiring premium, established talent. That's led to the sacrifice of a lot of future draft picks, which are the backbone for any franchise requiring a rebuild.
In the scenario where Anthony leaves, the Knicks will be rebuilding whether they like or not. Since it's hard for middling teams to get stars, the Knicks will need to avoid the temptation to make a panic trade or mid-level exception signing for a veteran player and instead skew young.
Basically, the Knicks will need to embrace "tanking" and be satisfied with a down year that will land a high draft pick.
That might not require much extra effort, honestly, but keeping the future books clear and developing young talent has to be the plan in order to recover properly. The Knicks simply won't have the assets to replace Anthony right away.
Become the Next Free-Agent Meetup Destination
Let's assume that the Knicks lose Anthony, don't make any long-term signings this offseason and eventually trade Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith.
In that scenario, the Knicks would likely end up with a top-five pick in 2015. That could be the ticket to a future star, either though trade or by actually using and keeping the selection.
Perhaps more importantly, the Knicks would be in prime position to be the next destination for a superstar meetup. Where other teams would need a star already in place (like Miami did), the New York market is like a star on its own. With so many young players planning on playing with one another these days, all the Knicks might have to do is keep the door open.
With Felton and Smith gone, Pablo Prigioni and Tim Hardaway Jr. would be the only players on contract, making only a a bit over $3 million combined. With Iman Shumpert eligible for a qualifying offer as well, the only remaining players could fulfill very useful roles on a great team, and do it on the cheap.
With basically no salary committed, New York could fairly easily get three star players in 2015 free agency in addition to the 2015 pick. With LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol, Kyrie Irving and others possibly being available, even getting two max players would be a big victory.
If Anthony leaves, the rebuilding period doesn't have to take long. It can truly be one down year, then a complete reload and a return back to the playoffs. The Knicks will just have to stay out of their own way in order to make that happen.