With Carmelo Anthony back with the New York Knicks, the long-term planning can finally begin. Whereas before the future of the team was up in the air, the Knicks now have a star to map their future around as they try to become a serious contender for the first time in a long time.
It's a good thing that both sides seem invested in the future. Although he took a full max deal for this season, Anthony opted not to take his full max increases over the life of the contract, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com on Twitter:
Official Melo contract numbers via ESPN sources: $22,458,401, $22,875,000, $24,559,380, $26,243,760, $27,928,140. Total: $124,064,681— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 16, 2014
The savings may not seem substantial on the surface, but Anthony left a healthy chunk of money on the table. Here's Cray Allred of Hoops Rumors:
It’s the maximum $22,458,401 in year one, followed by a discounted raise to $22,875,000 for year two, and maximum raises that bring Anthony’s salaries to $24,559,380, $26,243,760 and $27,928,140 in the final three years. That brings the total value to $124,064,681, exactly $5,071,124 less than the maximum for which he could have signed.
With Anthony taking less money and the contracts of Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire coming off the books after this season, the Knicks technically only have Jose Calderon and Anthony on guaranteed deals. J.R. Smith has a player option, and Iman Shumpert will be a restricted free agent.
What that means is the Knicks will have great flexibility under the cap and the ability to bring in another max player. Getting Anthony was crucial in that regard, as he'll be the primary recruiter at the trade deadline and next offseason. It's much easier to land a star when you already have one in place, after all.
There are necessary steps to get to that point, though. New York has to rebuild its culture and its roster.
Here's Fred Katz on ESPN New York preaching patience:
Re-signing Carmelo Anthony was the first step in a series of moves the New York Knicks need to become competitive once again. Still, Phil Jackson’s team is a long way away from building a championship roster.
No matter what the Knicks do the rest of the offseason, it’s going to take time, and Jackson knows that.
'If we’re still going to sit and rely on Carmelo to do everything and put that load on him, that’s not going to happen,' Jackson said of the Knicks’ chances at immediate success. 'Sometimes it means buying into the system and giving yourself into a process.'
Part of staying patient means not taking on expensive long-term deals that could be potentially damaging. The good news on that front is that the Knicks no longer have any free agency spending power this offseason after signing Jason Smith.
Here's Ian Begley at ESPN New York with more on that front:
Smith's signing bolsters the Knicks' front line. New York had just four players who play power forward or center under contract before adding Smith.
The Knicks are over the salary cap and can only offer free agents the veteran's minimum exception for the rest of the offseason.
At this point, the only way New York can gum up the books is with a trade. While the expiring deals of Amar'e Stouedemire and Andrea Bargnani may have value at the trade deadline this upcoming season, it seems more likely that New York will covet the cap space first and foremost.
That wasn't always the plan in New York as we've seen, but under Jackson it is now. To build a championship roster, you need high-quality assets.
Here's what Phil Jackson told Marc Berman of the New York Post:
'I want to be fiscally responsible,' Jackson said. 'We’ve been a taxpayer team for some time and we want to eliminate that.
'We’re not going to foolishly throw money away because it’s available to us. We want to make appropriate moves that bring our team forward. We have a roster that we can’t add a whole lot of players.’'
The new long-term plan for the Knicks is actually pretty simple. The goal should be to turn pennies into nickles, and nickles into dimes. If a player like, say, Samuel Dalembert isn't viewed as a piece for the future, turning him into a draft pick should be the objective. The more chances you get with "unknowns" like cap space and draft picks, the higher the ceiling of the team.
That's especially true when you're in a huge market like the Knicks. Players will want to be in New York, and Jackson seems to be off to a good start in terms of identifying talent in the draft.
While it is important to develop a winning culture and for Derek Fisher to have his words carry weight, the Knicks can use this season as a learning year. The triangle takes time, new coaches take time, and this very young roster will need time to gel.
That's the nice thing about being in the East, though. You can build for the future and still be competitive at the same time. Anthony has a long history of getting his teams to the playoffs despite last year's failures, and that kind of positive momentum can make New York look even more attractive.
The goal is always to win but just not at the cost of future flexibility. It's a new day in New York, and with an established system and a legitimate star, the Knicks can begin to realistically dream big.