On the heels of a disappointing 2013-14 season that saw the New York Knicks miss the playoffs, the organization is in the midst of an overhaul. The Knicks and their fans are hopeful that it will continue to trend in a positive direction through free agency.
It is no secret that the key to New York's offseason is the status of superstar Carmelo Anthony.
He is free to sign anywhere he pleases, but team president Phil Jackson and new head coach Derek Fisher are doing everything they can to ensure that he remains in the Big Apple.
If the team is able to secure Melo, then it opens up a world of possibilities. If it isn't, though, the upcoming campaign promises to be a painful one for Knicks fans.
Here is the latest buzz regarding Melo, free-agent big man Pau Gasol and other names being linked to New York.
Melo is one of the best pure scorers in basketball and represents the Knicks' only true chance to compete for a playoff spot this season.
Anthony alone wasn't enough to get New York to the postseason last year, but the organization is undergoing a culture change and promises to have a winning attitude moving forward.
Making Anthony part of that would only accelerate the retooling process.
While Melo and his camp have been mum publicly regarding their intentions, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News cites a source close to Anthony claiming that the seven-time All-Star will announce his intention to stay with the Knicks.
"He will have something for everybody on Thursday," the source said. "He is really torn because this is the biggest decision of his career. But he wants to get it done in New York. He told me he believes in Phil."
If the source is accurate, then the feeling is certainly mutual between Anthony and the Knicks.
According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the organization has made it clear to Melo that it is willing to offer him a max contract in order to retain his services:
Source: Melo's meeting with the Knicks is over. They reiterated to him that they will offer him a max contract— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 4, 2014
While Anthony has his detractors due to his penchant for dominating the ball and suspect defense, his importance to the Knicks can't be overstated.
As pointed out by ESPN Numbers Never Lie, only two players have accounted for a higher percentage of their team's offense than Melo over the past few seasons:
Since 2011, Carmelo has accounted for 23% of Knicks' Pts. Only Durant (28%) & LeBron (25%) have accounted more on their respective teams.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) July 10, 2014
The Knicks will be absolutely gutted if Anthony leaves and will essentially have to start from scratch.
Jackson could probably make something out of the team a few years down the line, but New York fans want to be competitive now. If Anthony returns, then that is very much within reason.
One player whom Jackson is quite familiar with is Spanish big man Pau Gasol. Jackson and Gasol combined to win two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and the 7-footer is a great fit for the brand of basketball that Jackson likes his teams to play.
In addition to that, Fisher played alongside Gasol for several seasons and knows what he is all about.
With such a significant comfort level between Gasol and the Knicks' brass, it is only natural that there might be some interest in reuniting.
According to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com, Jackson called Gasol and informed him of the organization's interest.
As intriguing as that sounds, Begley notes that signing Gasol would be major challenge for the Knicks due to a lack of cap space. The versatile post player would have to take a big pay cut to play in New York, and that may not be in the cards since the Knicks aren't exactly immediate contenders.
Knicks management isn't the only party which would like Gasol in New York, though.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports suggests Anthony embraced the idea of potentially teaming up with Gasol as members of the Knicks:
A conversation that Carmelo Anthony had been pursuing in recent days, sources tell Yahoo: With Pau Gasol, about playing together w/ Knicks.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 3, 2014
Signing Gasol would be a major coup for the Knicks considering the hurdles that they have to clear in order to do so.
A trio of Anthony, Gasol and newly acquired point guard Jose Calderon would definitely be good enough to reach the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, and the Knicks could conceivably make some noise once they get there.
Sixers Trade Possibility
Which move are the Knicks likeliest to make?
With their roster in its current state, it will be tough for the Knicks to be major players in free agency aside from re-signing Anthony.
The biggest reason for that is HoopsHype indicating that power forward Amar'e Stoudemire is due to make over $23 million during the upcoming season.
If a knight in shining armor swoops in and takes that expiring contract off New York's hands, however, the game would completely change.
That deal may seem questionable from the Sixers' perspective, but it actually makes sense on several levels. For starters, Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops notes that Philadelphia has to reach the salary-cap floor:
Why would #Sixers be interested in broken-down Amare Stoudemire? They are obligated to pay 90 percent of cap. The money must be spent.— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) July 8, 2014
In addition to that, Shumpert would act as a sweetener who could be a defensive stopper in Philadelphia for years to come.
The Knicks would probably prefer to not lose Shumpert, but they would have to give up something of value to dump Stoudemire's contract.
Making that deal would open up a ton of cap space for the Knicks and increase the chances of signing Gasol significantly. It would also make New York a potential destination for free agents the Knicks haven't even been linked to yet.
If the Knicks are serious about being a factor during the 2014-15 season and this trade is truly on the table, then the move must be made.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter