Donnie Walsh has done an amazing job of clearing cap space for the biggest free agency offseason since Shaq left the Magic in 1996. The Knicks can sign two free agents to a max contract and still have about $4 million left over. So, what should the Knicks do with all of that cap space this offseason?
The first issue is: What should be the Knicks' offseason priorities? The Knicks were able to score and the returning players are all capable scorers. The Knicks' needs are in order:
1. A playmaker who commands double teams;
2. A big man who can score in the post;
3. A big man who can rebound and block shots; and
4. A go-to scorer for the fourth quarter.
The obvious choice is to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh. That certainly appears to be the plan from the outside. LeBron solves problems one and four while Bosh solves number two and to a lesser extent number three.
Let's look at this possibility and then one where LeBron does not sign with the Knicks.
In the LeBron scenario, the Knicks get the free agency of their dreams. LeBron signs to play in New York and brings Chris Bosh with him. The team's rebounding and size are immediately improved. The Knicks would have not one, but two players who command a double team.
However, the biggest knock by doubters is: Who would they play with on the Knicks?
First, let me say that this question is the wrong question. The correct question is if a combination with Bosh would be a better twosome than what LeBron could get elsewhere. Since every team usually tries to fill in its roster after its top two players with role players, the rest of the roster is less important.
Of the teams rumored to be in the running for LeBron, Bosh would be a better wing man for LeBron than everyone other than Dwyane Wade. Otherwise, Bosh is better than Derrick Rose, Brook Lopez, Baron Davis, and Mo Williams.
So, LeBron to the Knicks is a viable option. The Knicks rotation without further moves would be LeBron, Bosh, Curry, Gallinari, Chandler, Walker, Douglas, and Barron.
Gallinari, Walker, and Douglas are all excellent fits with LeBron because they are all excellent shooters. Douglas is a quality defensive player and Gallinari might be the best shooter in the NBA over 6'8".
However, Eddy Curry is a huge question mark to even play. And, even when he does play, he is turnover prone and poor defensively.
So, the Knicks still need a better center. Quality centers are hard to find, which is why so many in the NBA are overpaid for their contributions. That also means that teams often look to trade their overpaid centers when the team no longer appears to be a contender.
It just so happens that there is a center who has four years left on his contract who makes similar money as Curry and plays for a team that is on the decline. Not only that, but he is a solid defender who lacks low post moves. The owner of that franchise has given indications that he wants to save some money.
So, Eddy Curry should be traded for Emeka Okafor straight up.
Okafor is the better player right now just by showing up. However, even when both are healthy and playing, Okafor would be a better fit next to LeBron. The Hornets owe Okafor about $53 million over the remainder of his contract and would save over $40 million by making this trade, while the Knicks would no longer have significant cap space in 2011.
A rotation of LeBron, Bosh, Okafor, Gallinari, Chandler, Walker, and Douglas is one that can contend in the East immediately. It would have the size to defend the paint and the scoring power to out shoot its opponents when necessary.
And, there would still be about $4 million to spend on another free agent role player.
The alternative is that LeBron does not sign and neither does Bosh. The Knicks re-sign David Lee and/or sign Amare Stoudemire and keep cap space available to go after Carmelo Anthony in 2011.
The Knicks also have two drafts at No. 38 and 39. The Knicks should buy a late first-round pick. There are several possibilities. Minnesota at No. 23, Memphis at 25 or 28, and Oklahoma City at 26 are all real possibilities because these picks represent a second or third pick for those teams.
This draft is fairly deep and teams can find a good development prospect in the 20s. A pick in that spot would also not impact the Knicks cap room significantly.
So, assuming they can trade for a pick, like the No. 28 pick, the Knicks should try and draft three of the following players in order of preference: Solomon Alabi, Larry Sanders, Jerome Jordan, Jordan Crawford, Willie Warren, Jarvis Varnado, and Gani Lawal.
The Knicks have done an excellent job of drafting and developing perimeter players since Mike D'Antoni arrived. They need to do the same with at least one post player who can block shots. Give the Knicks a shot-blocking big man and the defense improves by two to three points per game and the Knicks go from a 30-win team to a 45-win team.
Add LeBron, Bosh, and a big man who can defend and the Knicks are a 60-win team that contends for the title.