Playing Keep or Sell with New York Knicks' Key Upcoming Free Agents

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Playing Keep or Sell with New York Knicks' Key Upcoming Free Agents
Associated Press
Big-ticket big men Andrea Bargnani (left) and Tyson Chandler (right) become free agents at the end of next season. Rookie PG Toure' Murry (center) is a free agent now who might find a good home in a triangle offense.

If the New York Knicks want to have any success in 2014-15, they must solve their "point guard problem." No argument there. Unfortunately, it's their frontcourt, not their backcourt, that's due for a major refresh.

Not only is everyone waiting on tenterhooks for new free-agent forward Carmelo Anthony to decide whether to stay or go during this offseason, but center Tyson Chandler and center-forwards Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani all enter free agency at the end of next season. Those are big boys with big contracts that add up to almost $50 million alone. Parting ways with at least one of them would soothe some of the Knicks' wallet woes and free up cash for a new point guard.  

But hang on a minute...do the Knicks really need a new point guard? 

Although Steve Kerr officially rejected the Knicks head coach position Wednesday night, via David Aldridge of NBA.com, it is still likely that Phil Jackson and his new to-be-determined head coach will institute the triangle offense. There are many marvelous things about the triangle, and foremost among them is the fact that it reduces the need for a star point guard

Instead of a personnel change at the 1 spot, a strategy change might be enough to solve the problem at the point, at least temporarily, leaving the Knicks to focus on preserving some kind of frontcourt. That does not necessarily mean they keep all the big men they have now.

The triangle demands that both the ball and the players themselves move around constantly. So it's no use hanging on to anyone without great athleticism, passing skills and court vision—and, just as importantly, a willingness to learn an entirely new offense.

So who should New York fight to keep, and who should it help pack?

 

Carmelo Anthony: Keep (if you can)

Melo might be the master of his own fate. If he wants to stay, the Knicks will and should keep him.

There are some people who might quibble over whether or not he is worth the money (even if he takes a pay cut), but the fact is Melo was the most reliable player in a New York jersey all season. Not only was he second in the league in scoring, not only did he prove his physical endurance by leading the league in minutes played, but he also upped his ball movement and defense.

If he says he's willing to lead a new offense, the Knicks should be happy to welcome him back. 

 

Amar'e Stoudemire: Keep

Before Mike Woodson put Stoudemire (and J.R. Smith) in the starting lineup March 5, the Knicks record was a depressing 21-40. After that change, the record was a glorious 16-5, and Amar'e was a key part of the success.

Despite the worries about he, Melo and Chandler crowding each other, the three of them played beautifully together. His confidence, post-up game, passing and aggression in the paint were all coming together. He looked healthy and like the STAT of yesteryear. Plus, he has the right attitude. He's said that next season he and his teammates must buy into the new coaches' strategy, whatever it may be, from day one.

Amar'e still has the "injury-prone" label sewn on to his chest—which might make some buyers wary even if the Knicks did try to trade him—but his late-season success, combined with his positive attitude and his popularity in the five boroughs, gives the Knicks plenty of reasons to be optimistic about his future in New York. 

This is somewhat a moot point anyway, since Amar'e has proven to be effectively untradeable because of his uninsured contract with the Knicks. Since his multiple knee injuries scared off insurance providers, any team that wanted him would have to be willing to take on the full financial risk, instead of sharing it with the insurance provider.  

Andrea Bargnani: Sell (if you can)

You never know quite what you're going to get from Bargnani.

Some nights he whipped the net into a frenzy with swish after swish; other nights the net just luffed in the gentle breeze of air ball after air ball. Most nights his D was weak; other nights he was busy keeping Dwight Howard out of the paint and murdering him on the glass. Some nights he was the picture of precision; other nights he forgot the shot clock existed and took to passing the ball to nobody at all.

Even on his best days, Bargnani did not have the speed, passing ability and court vision necessary to pull off the triangle offense. The Knicks should trade him to someplace that just needs a good secondary shooter with the potential to drop huge numbers (when he's not under some sort of Harry Potter Confundus curse). 

 

Tyson Chandler: Sell

In 2011-12, Chandler was the Defensive Player of the Year. In 2012-13, he was an All-Star. In 2013-14, however, Chandler was hurt for much of the season and ineffective for much of the rest. Even during the great 16-5 stretch at the end of the season Chandler's numbers—points, rebounds, blocks, free-throw attempts—were lower than they were last year.

Plus, his attitude wasn't great. He publicly criticized the coaching staff's defensive strategy. In prior years, Chandler's passion on the court inspired his teammates to come roaring back from deep deficits; this year, it inspired the refs to swat him with technical fouls. 

Tyson Chandler With Knicks
Points Rebounds Blocks FTA
2011-2012 11.3 9.9 1.4 5.1
2012-2013 10.4 10.7 1.1 3.9
2013-2014 8.7 9.6 1.1 2.8

NBA

Maybe during the offseason Chandler will show hitherto unexpressed enthusiasm for the triangle offense and the new leadership. Barring that, the Knicks should trade him—possibly to one of the five teams Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster suggested Wednesday.

 

Jeremy Tyler and Toure' Murry: Keep

Forward Jeremy Tyler and guard Toure' Murry, two young bench players who came up from the NBA D-League this season, also became free agents this offseason. Both are a little rough around the edges but worth keeping on because they won't cost much, they have the necessary athleticism and disposition and they showed great promise this year.

Who Should the Knicks Part Ways With?

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When Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni went down with injuries, Murry played the point with admirable poise. Tyler picked up big minutes when Chandler, Kenyon Martin and Bargnani were laid up. He had a quietly awesome game against the Bobcats in January—quiet only because it was overshadowed by Anthony scoring 62 points in the same game.

Tyler needs to clean up his defense so that he doesn't get into foul trouble. Murry needs to do a better job protecting the ball. But both are worth re-signing and nurturing.

Of course, all this might change if Carmelo moves to Chicago or Jackson decides that the triangle offense was never very good anyway. What do you think? Should the Knicks clean house entirely? Is there someone you're keen to see the back of? Take the poll and let us know.

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