Everyone who is even remotely interested in the NBA knows that the Knicks are going to try to sign LeBron James after this season. What no one other than LeBron knows is whether LeBron is actually interested.
The best case scenario for the Knicks is that they sign LeBron and Chris Bosh as a lethal duo and do their best to fill in with other players who are willing to sign for the veteran minimum just for the chance to play with LeBron and Bosh as title contenders. The higher the cap, the easier it will be for the Knicks to pull it off.
One question is, why would LeBron play for the Knicks unless he really wanted to? The answer is that the Knicks have some quality young players on the perimeter and are in need of a star of LeBron's caliber and a big man of Bosh's ability to become an instant contender.
LeBron would make any team he played for a contender because he is that great. As someone who has watched the NBA since the late '70s, I can honestly say that I have never seen a player as good as LeBron. So it does not take much to have a title contender with him on the team.
What the Knicks do have is a nice corps of young players who can be part of a winning team and would fit a LeBron/Bosh centered roster nicely.
The Knicks actually have several good perimeter players who would likely be back next year, starting with their point guard of the future, Toney Douglas.
Douglas plays defense. He can play on the ball and in the passing lanes. If he played 35 minutes a game, he would be among the league leaders in steals. Douglas can also score. He is much stronger than most point guards and, as a result, he can absorb contact and get into the lane. He also has a great attitude.
He does need work when it comes to setting up teammates. This is because he did not do much of that in college. He recently stated that he used his bench time to learn how to run the offense better and to watch game film. Douglas probably needs about another 110-120 games to be a top-notch point guard in the Chauncey Billups mode.
Bill Walker was a steal from the Celtics because he can score. He has excellent jumping ability and solid fundamentals. He does not have elite lateral quickness, which hurts him defensively, however, he does his best to make up for that with effort. He should develop into a sixth man scorer off the bench.
What most people forget about Walker is that he was once a top 10 prospect coming out of high school and it was only knee injuries that dropped him into the second round. Now that he has an opportunity to play, he is showing that if he can stay healthy and that he deserves playing time.
Wilson Chandler is a winning player. He needs to improve the range of his jump shot, but he has good mechanics. He has elite athletic ability which enables him to defend shooting guards as well as forwards. He is strong enough to even guard some power forwards. He is going to be a solid 14-18 points and five rebounds per game player. He also passes well and does a good job of finding the open man when he drives.
He needs to improve his ball handling so that he can better use his ability to finish in the lane. Once he gets better with the dribble, he will be very tough to stop on offense as a shooting guard. Because he played mostly forward prior to this year, Chandler is also comfortable posting up smaller guards. Only injuries have slowed him down from reaching his potential so far. Chandler is known as a hard worker.
Danilo Gallinari hit the equivalent of the rookie wall for a while, but his last few games have been mostly impressive. His back surgery affected his ability to get in top shape in the offseason, and that hurt him in February and the beginning of March. He has perfect mechanics on his shot and with his size, he should be a contributor for a long time. He needs to get in better cardiovascular shape and become physically stronger. He also needs to work on some post moves.
Right now the book on him is to guard him with a smaller player because he is weak on his low post offense. As such, he is a bit like Keith Van Horn or Charlie Villanueva. Gallo does well in the passing lanes on defense and muscles on defending the post. He also has decent timing for blocking shots.
There is a lot to like, but there is also a lot of room for improvement. What has been most promising is that he finally started to drive the ball more and get to the free throw line. He has even asked to guard the opposing team's best player to accelerate his learning curve. With a summer of proper conditioning and continued work rounding out his game, Gallinari has the makings of a potential all-star.
So, the Knicks do have four promising rotation-caliber players on their roster who will be back next year. However, there are three things that the Knicks will need to turn these players, plus LeBron and Bosh into a title contender.
First, they must re-sign Tracy McGrady to the veteran minimum. McGrady has publicly stated that he would sign for the veteran minimum if the Knicks signed two max free agents such as LeBron and Bosh. The real reason why McGrady would sign that contract is twofold. First, he wants to win in the playoffs and he knows that LeBron will be a title contender by himself. Secondly, signing for the veteran minimum would also enable him to keep his Bird rights.
It is typical for a player coming off microfracture surgery to need about 18 months before they fully recover. McGrady has shown signs that the surgery was a success, but he lacks the stamina to handle the daily grind only 13 months after his surgery. However, he would be ready next year to excel as LeBron's sidekick and put himself in position for another big payday if he can show that he is fully recovered.
The second thing that the Knicks would need to do is convince Marcus Camby to come back to New York. Camby is an ideal center for the Mike D'Antoni system. Camby is still fast and athletic. He does not need the ball in the post, as he mainly scores on jump shots and put backs. Plus, he is a great rebounder and shot blocker. Put him next to Bosh and the Knicks would have a strong baseline defensively.
However, Camby is 35, so he would be a short-term solution. The Knicks needs to buy a late first-round pick. Donnie Walsh has a history of finding players who needed a little more polish, but have bright futures, late in the draft.
Oklahoma and Memphis have multiple late first-round picks. It is certainly plausible that both might be willing to sell a pick. Memphis in particular, since the owner is looking to sell the team.
So, if the Knicks get a pick in the 20s, who should they target? They need to look for an athletic post player who needs work. There are two players who would be a good fit for the future of the Knicks: Solomon Alabi of Florida State and Jerome Jordan of Tulsa.
Both are true seven-footers and need some refinement to their games. As such, one or both might be around in the 20s, where the Knicks could likely buy a pick. Both would not get much playing time as rookies, but both have the raw athleticism to develop into quality NBA centers.
Since Mike D'Antoni does not use a traditional back-to-the-basket center in his preferred offense, having long, athletic big men who can block shots, rebound, and run a pick and roll are important. Both Alabi and Jordan can be that type of player.
And what if LeBron and Bosh do not sign with the Knicks? They can re-sign David Lee, sign Camby to the mid-level exception, develop their young players further, and go after Carmelo Anthony in 2011 when Eddy Curry's contract comes off the salary cap.