The "worst case scenario" seems to be unfolding as the Summer of 2010 is about to become real. The best opportunities are not in Manhattan and reside in other cities with rosters ready-made for a possible NBA Finals trip. However, there are possibilities to build something special in New York, and it could begin with a front office splash and measured by an off-season plan where all the cap space created isn't thrown away hastily.
The Portland Trail Blazers' implosion and unraveling could benefit the Knicks greatly as Donnie Walsh hires Kevin Pritchard to be the new GM. Since Walsh is the President, he would retain the right to sign-off on Pritchard's work, which has be nothing short of spectacular, and groom an heir apparent. It would also make sense for Pritchard to hire another bright basketball mind to come over as an Assistant GM.
With a braintrust of Walsh, Pritchard, Grunwald, D'Antoni and an Assistant GM, highly thought out moves could push the Knicks forward and build the foundation that was lacking as they entered this free agency bonanza.
With a loaded front office blending both wisdom and new wave ingenuity, here are some non-LBJ alternatives to laying the foundation:
1. Trade for Chris Paul. This is the pillar of a D'Antoni team. A top point guard like Paul brings the wrinkle to the offense that could mean 10 more wins right off the bat. While it would be great to finalize this trade prior to July 8th, it is important to exercise patience to ensure this deal isn't crippling down the road. Emeka Okafor and his huge cap number is expected to be a key to this deal, but the Hornets have been hitting roadblocks in trying to move that insufferable contract.
It may make sense for the Hornets to unload Peja Stojakovic or James Posey or both. This will be beneficial both financially and personnel wise considering the Hornets drafted players to fill the positions occupied by Morris Peterson, Stojakovic and Posey.
The proposed deal is Eddy Curry, Wilson Chandler and cash for Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic/James Posey.
2. Make a pitch to sign Bosh and settle for Tyrus Thomas. Chris Bosh has made it very obvious that his new team is directly linked to where LeBron or Wade lands, but if he sees a plan laid out that includes Chris Paul that could change things.
This could be far-fetched considering that Bosh, like the other marquee free agents, wants to win now and a few years of building isn't what he wants.
And this is where a Tyrus Thomas backup plan could serve as a formidable and less expensive option. Charlotte has already made a qualifying offer to their young power forward, but it is worth making a play for him since his fast motor would fit well with the run-and-gun offense used by D'Antoni.
The proposed offer is a four year, $32 million contract with a player opt out after the third year.
3. Make a pitch to sign Anthony Morrow. Many of us aren't familiar with the slick shooting shooting guard of the Golden State Warriors, but this restricted free agent has thrived in a fast tempo offense the past two seasons. A contract offer for Morrow would be in a range that could afford the Knicks cap flexibility beyond this summer.
The prosed offer is a four year, $24 million contract.
4. Roster filling without hindering. As painful as it was to not have a lottery pick this year, the Knicks did draft two players who fit into D'Antoni's system. Rautins is a fantastic shooter and Fields supplies the athleticism this team has craved for years.
There are still several positions that need to be filled by other free agents of lesser name, but could fit into a sleeper team in the Eastern Conference.
The one or two year offers could be made to Channing Frye, Mike Miller, Kyle Korver, Amir Johnson, Al Harrington, Hakim Warrick or others.
5. Future considerations. The effective use of contract length and an unwillingness to over extend contracts should leave the Knicks in a position to have considerable cap room from year to year. It could mean a shot at Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant or other future free agent All-Star down the road.
Here is a look at the proposed 2010-11 lineup (with cap figures):
PG: Chris Paul (3 years, $13.7 million per year)
SG: Anthony Morrow (4 years, $6 million/year)
SF: Danilo Gallinari (2 years, $3.3 million/year)
PF: Tyrus Thomas (4 years, $8 million/year)
C: Amir Johnson (1 year, $5 million/year)
PGs: Toney Douglas(3 years, $1.1 million/year)
SGs: Mike Miller/Kyle Korver (1 years, $5 million/year)
SFs: Andy Rautins (1 year, $750K/year) , Landry Fields (1 year, $750K/year), Bill Walker (2 years, $900K/year)
C: Jerome Jordan (1 year, $750K/year)
Total Salary Costs: $54.25 million ($1.75 million under the cap)
2011 Potential Cap Room and Assets: $18 million and a first round draft pick (Houston has right to swap picks)
This lineup would be good enough to make the playoffs while providing cap flexibility to make a move to acquire a marquee player at the trade deadline or in future free agency periods.
While I am sure that a new brain trust would carve out their own path, this path is something that Knicks fans could embrace while they wait for the free-agent signing frenzy.