I have written my share of Knicks articles, and they were basically all correct. This year, I have a few more fearless projections and suggestions—take that, Mr. Frasier—for fans and management, respectively.
Let's start with the projections. Last year, my projections were pretty accurate. I was tough on all of the players who ended up being terrible (see Richardson, Q.)—but for some crazy reason, I thought the Knicks could win 41 games and make the playoffs. Instead, they stumbled to 23 wins and an unlucky lottery slot.
This year, let's start off with the win total—33. Now, how can the Knicks achieve that record?
Last year was filled with an unprecedented level of drama, with a coach spending the entire year on the hot seat, a sexual harassment scandal, an unhappy "star" point guard who mysteriously left the team to have surgery, trade rumors, and various in-team scuffles.
This year, stability alone should bring the team back to its play of two years ago. Unfortunately, much of the Eastern Conference, with the exception of the Nets, has improved.
Elton Brand brings a low-post presence to Philly. Toronto has a new center, and Indiana found a new point guard. Milwaukee and Atlanta can look forward to another year of growth from their young players. Even Charlotte might improve.
The Knicks, though, are unlikely to notice any improvement from their own players. Not a single Knick has improved while in the league, which might be a sign the coaching staff was terrible. This year, Mike D'Antoni's high-octane offensive approach should increase scoring and raise morale. If that translates to more wins, then great.
Now, can the Knicks win more than 33 games? That will take a real effort to trade the trash and find new roles for others.
Jerome James and Malik Rose have no good reason to take up a spot on the bench. Jerome is on par with Carl Pavano, in terms of free-agent signings who never play.
Rose no longer has the athleticism to overcome his height limitations, so his career should be done. The Knicks release them both and find some NBDL talent or summer league players to take their spots.
Jared Jeffries, Renaldo Balkman, and Mardy Collins are all the same player, only with different heights. Renaldo is the best athlete, Jeffries is the tallest, and Collins is the best passer.
None of them can shoot, and none of them should play more than 10 minutes a game. Trade any of them, maybe for a second-round pick if possible.
Eddy Curry needs to get in shape and be removed from the game whenever he does not show effort on the boards. Send him to Tim Grover, who runs the famous A.T.T.A.C.K. training facility, to improve his quickness.
Not many teams would want to trade for Curry, but these teams might bite: Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Dallas, Minnesota, and Memphis.
Some trade ideas:
1. Eddy Curry and Quentin Richardson for Darko Milicic, Marko Jaric, and Javaris Crittenton
A deal that might make everyone happy. Darko can fit in better in New York than in Memphis, and might finally blossom into a good player. His blocks would be a welcome addition.
Marko and Javaris would bring more point-guard options to the Knicks, and help solve the Grizzlies' glut at the position. Quentin should be a more attractive trade target for opposing teams since he has lost weight and has excelled in D'Antoni's system before.
Eddy Curry and cash for Mike Miller
A guard with great shooting ability.
Eddy Curry for Erick Dampier
Dampier has three years left on his deal, which would hurt the LeBron plan, but maybe a solution can be found then.
2. Nate Robinson and Mardy Collins for J.J. Redick, Marcin Gortat and a first-round pick in 2010
The Knicks get a sharpshooter, needed in D'Antoni's offense, as well as a backup center. Since they would be giving up more desireable players, they also get back a first-round pick for 2010, which they lost in the Marbury deal.
Jared Jeffries and Nate Robinson for J.J. Redick and Tony Battie
3. Zach Randolph and Renaldo Balkman for Marcus Camby and Tim Thomas
Addition by subtraction. The Knicks would like the cap relief and the subtraction of a bad influence. The Clippers can use a low-post presense and rebounder now that Elton Brand has departed for greener pastures.
Marcus Camby would not be much of a scoring threat for the Clippers, and it seemed like they preferred Randolph. The Knicks would reunite with Camby, who helped them reach the finals in 1999.
Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford for Wally Szczerbiak, Eric Snow, and a first-round pick in 2009
Once again, the Knicks pick up a great shooter in Wally. Eric Snow can provide some leadership from the bench. Both incoming players only have one year left on their contracts.
Cleveland would get a talented low-post scorer who could play a Carlos Boozer-type role. Snow is clearly less skiilled than Crawford, but his contract is for only one year instead of three.
4. Stephon Marbury for anything
Even if he is talented, motivated, and ready for a fresh start, everyone else on the team wants him gone. If they can get any sort of productivity out of him, that would be fantastic and they can disregard this idea.
5. Renaldo Balkman for anything
The Knicks currently have way too many small forwards: Jeffries, Balkman, Gallinari, Chandler, and Richardson. Balkman is the worst.
With some serious luck, the Knicks can trot out a starting 5 of Duhon, Crawford, Chandler, Lee, and Camby with a bench of Gallinari, Anthony Roberson, Milicic, J.J. Redick, Jared Jeffries, Marcin Gortat, Jaric, and Crittenton. They would have cap flexibility almost immediately, as well as a 2010 pick, when they can go after free agents.
I pencil that team in for 42 wins based on the potential of the young guns, the new coach, and the strength of the bench.