The franchise limped to a 37-45 record in 2013-14; the season was characterized by disorganized play from the team. This might be enough for some teams to scrap the current plan and start over, but the Eastern Conference is diluted enough that there is plenty of room for a team with upward mobility.
The Knicks' star player, Carmelo Anthony, is set to test the free-agent waters this offseason. If the Knicks want to avoid a long rebuilding process, retaining Anthony is priority No. 1 this summer.
Of course, this means the rumors about where Anthony will end up are plentiful as the Knicks and several other NBA franchises set to make their pitches to one of the league's best scorers.
Here is the latest round-up of rumors surrounding the Knicks in their important transition period.
Phil Jackson Wants to Bring Pau Gasol to New York
Carmelo Anthony has to be looking for the best possible championship situation, and he's going to need a better supporting cast than the one currently on the Knicks roster. According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, via Marc Stein, Pau Gasol might be the player team president Phil Jackson brings to New York:
Furthermore, one source close to the process told ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne that Jackson is planning to make a determined attempt to try to recruit his former Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol to replace the freshly traded Tyson Chandler alongside Anthony on the Knicks' front line, despite the fact New York is limited to offering Gasol less than $4 million for next season.
Gasol is a two-time NBA champion and one of the most fluid post players in the game, so he might be able to command more on the open market than the Knicks can offer.
Although his pedigree boosts his salary demands, his level of play has dropped off in recent years and might not be enough to convince Anthony they can build a championship contender together.
Basketball-Reference.com, (all stats per game)
Then again, Gasol could be willing to take a reduced salary to play for Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher, a former teammate of his with Los Angeles. Gasol was visibly frustrated at times last year in Mike D'Antoni's system, which drew him out of the low post and into areas that took away his array of post moves, forcing him to rely on his jump shot.
"The fact that I'm not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness," he said. "When I'm not getting the ball where I want to, where I'm most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity."
Gasol certainly had no problems playing for Jackson as a Laker. An aggressive Gasol could be rejuvenated in New York and provide a great partner for Anthony.
Carmelo Anthony Has Limited Interest in Rockets?
If the Knicks are able to sell Anthony on a potential Gasol deal and the chance to play for a Jackson-run team, there is one team they could have a distinct advantage over.
The Houston Rockets are looking to be a potential landing spot for Anthony, but according a source for Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, the Rockets only real selling point is the legendary Kevin McHale:
"The only reason Carmelo will go to Houston to listen (to the Rockets) is because of Kevin McHale. If the coach wasn’t a top-50, all-time player or was a lesser-name coach, then Melo wouldn’t even visit there. But he’ll listen because it’s Kevin McHale."
If the Rockets only selling point is the chance to play for the legendary McHale, Jackson should be the Knicks trump card. Anthony might be reluctant to pack his bags if Jackson can convince him he has a better plan than McHale.
Which team has a better chance at signing Carmelo Anthony?
Point guard Jose Calderon, whom the Knicks acquired in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks, also figures to play a key role in the Anthony recruiting process.
"He’s a great player, one of the best, I’d love to play with him,” Calderon said, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. “I’m hoping to talk to him for sure. I’d love to make everything easier for him and make the team successful and try to get as far as we can."
The combination of players like Calderon and (possibly) Gasol and Jackson's leadership could be enough to bump the Rockets out of the 'Melo sweepstakes.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo to Play in Greece Next Year?
The New York Post's Marc Berman tweeted about second-round draft choice Thanasis Antetokounmpo possibly playing abroad next year:
Some interest from Greek team in signing T. Antetokounmpo, expected to play on #Knicks summer-league team.— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) June 27, 2014
Antetokounmpo—the younger brother of the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka "The Greek Freak"—grew up in Greece and still has ties to his home nation.
A move to Greece for a year could be good for his development, as long as there are team's willing to take him on short term. He would have a much better chance of getting the playing time that he needs to reach his full potential as a top-tier wing defender.
Antetokounmpo averaged 12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game for the Delaware 87ers last season. He was viewed as a project player in this year's draft.
However, as Bleacher Report's own Jonathan Wasserman pointed out, Antetokounmpo may be more NBA ready than some people think:
Thanasis Antetokounmpo actually hit 22 of 50 (44%) 3-pointers over his last 15 games in the D-league. He's no sniper, but he's capable.— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) June 27, 2014
Antetokounmpo has the range and speed to immediately make an impact on defense for the Knicks. He would also be a strong complementary to the Knicks other second-round choice, Cleanthony Early. Both players are of similar size and build, with Early being the more polished scorer.
The Knicks would have flexibility with both players on the wing, able to choose between defense or a more offense-oriented approached based on personnel.