It is common knowledge that the New York Knicks have strategically positioned themselves with an eye towards the free agency period of 2010. Starting at 12:01 AM on July 1st, the Knicks front office will undoubtedly be focusing of its attention on wining and dining their coveted prize in LeBron James.
Nearly the entire current Knicks roster is comprised of players with expiring contracts, and after this season they will have nearly $70 million coming off of the books. They seemingly have all their eggs placed in one king-sized basket, which to me begs the question:
What happens if they aren't able to secure the services of LeBron James? Do they have a feasible plan B?
It seems very irresponsible and perilous to the franchise's future that their sole focus is on obtaining the most prized member of the 2010 free agent class. It also speaks to the arrogance of ownership to assume that because New York is considered to be the "basketball Mecca," the most coveted free agents will be irresistibly drawn to the Knicks.
The more realistic perception of the Knicks is one of ineptitude and incompetence. It is highly likely that the top tier free agents (i.e. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) will be deterred from considering the Knicks as a viable option out of skepticism towards the recent mishandling of the franchise.
A shrewd backup plan would be for ownership to focus their efforts on compiling a well-rounded team and beginning to demonstrate some positive momentum in hopes of changing the fortune of the team for the future.
That plan might loosely resemble something like the following:
1. Resign David Lee, Al Harrington, and Nate Robinson. All three of these players are high quality NBA contributors and should have a place on this team going forward.
2. Allow Chris Duhon, Larry Hughes, and Darko Milicic to sign with other teams. All of these players will become free agents at the conclusion of this season and the Knicks should avoid resigning them at all costs.
3. Get rid of Eddy Curry by any means necessary. He will have a huge expiring contract and should be decent trade bait next season.
4. Obtain Carlos Boozer, Mike Miller, and Rudy Gay via free agency. Boozer will be unrestricted so the Knicks should be able to obtain him for the right price. Gay will be a restricted free agent, but it wouldn't surprise me to see the Grizzlies give him up since they already have an identical player in O.J. Mayo already locked up. Miller will be unrestricted, so this could be a big win for the Knicks.
5. Go after a couple of role player type of free agents to fill important functions. Players like Udonis Haslem, Carl Landry, Kyle Korver, and Rasual Butler come to mind to provide some quality reserve minutes. Adding one player with some size and some defensive intensity (i.e. Haslem or Landry) in addition to another potent outside shooter (i.e. Korver or Butler) to integrate into D'Antoni's system would add some real depth to this Knick's team.
6. Players like Kyle Lowry, Carlos Arroyo, Raymond Felton, Luke Ridnour, or Randy Foye could all be had for the right price and would be decent fillers at the point until the Knicks find their long term answer. Nate Robinson might be given a chance to start and could make for a good one-two punch with a solid backup.
It may not be as exciting as a lineup laden with LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or Joe Johnson, but a starting lineup with David Lee, Carlos Boozer, Rudy Gay, Mike Miller, and Nate Robinson sounds like a nice consolation prize.
With a strong bench consisting of players like Kyle Lowry, Al Harrington, Udonis Haslem, Kyle Korver, Wilson Chandler, Toney Douglas, and Jordan Hill, the 2010 New York Knicks would have the potential to be a very strong team in the Eastern Conference.
That is not to say the Knicks should not pursue the big ticket players in the 2010 free agent class, but to mortgage their entire franchise on obtaining one of them seems both reckless and unwise. I think that a plan B similar to the one I just put forth would put the Knicks back on the winning path, which is what will eventually catapult them back into the conversations about relevant and successful franchises.