The New York Knicks are almost back to running New York.
Unfortunately, they're a few good pieces away from that right now.
With Amar'e Stoudemire playing the best basketball of his career and the same going for Raymond Felton, it seems that the Knicks are a couple of moves away from being a real contender in the East.
Carmelo Anthony has dominated the headlines lately, allegedly stating that he wants to come to the Knicks via trade and multiple sources saying that he will only sign a contract extension in the Big Apple. But with Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, both dynamic scorers, already on the roster, one might argue that the Knicks don't really need to blow up the current core to get 'Melo right now.
The question then becomes: What is it that the Knicks need to do to become a top team?
There's a few needs for this team, but there's two things that greatly overshadow any other problems with this group: a backup point guard and a bruising center.
Let's look at the numbers: Raymond Felton is currently fourth in minutes in the league and first among point guards (if you don't consider Monta Ellis a point). That's quite a workload, and at 38.9 mpg, he is averaging almost seven more minutes per game than last year.
Now for the tricky part, which is who could potentially fill in for Felton when he takes a breather and keep this team afloat for those minutes. The Knicks have looked consistently flat this year when Felton leaves the game because short of during their big win against the Thunder Wednesday night, Toney Douglas hasn't exactly lived up to expectations as a backup point guard.
A name that's been thrown out there is Sebastian Telfair. He seems like a perfect fit, since he's a native of New York and while not a great starter, could certainly bring some offense off of the bench to tide things over when Felton is resting. A look at his stats also shows that he may be suffering from the same ailment that had plagued Felton before he came to New York: slow-paced offensive systems.
Telfair's career began in Portland and since then he has made stops in Boston, Minnesota, Cleveland, Los Angeles (with the Clippers) and ended up back in Minnesota again this year.
None of those teams run a particularly fast offensive scheme, and especially not as fast as Mike D'Antoni's seven-seconds-or-less offense.
With a fast-paced scheme, the ceiling for Telfair could be a lot higher with the Knicks, as it tends to be with most offensive-minded players put into D'Antoni's system. It's also worth noting that Telfair is averaging the second-best FG percentage of his career at .424 and is averaging a career high in three-point percentage at .383, which would definitely be welcome on a very shot-happy Knicks squad.
Another option for the Knicks at the backup point could come in the form of Ramon Sessions. The Knicks pursued him in free agency a couple years back, and a young player with his kind of potential would most likely flourish in the D'Antoni offense.
His assist numbers have gone down the last two years since his leaving Milwaukee, but it is worth noting that he has been in slow-down systems the last two years in Minnesota and Cleveland, and could benefit from some run-and-gun in New York.
Neither of these two players are really worth giving up the farm for, but if the price was right (perhaps a swap of Roger Mason or Toney Douglas and a second-round pick with cash considerations) then the Knicks could have a player that's able to manage the game when Felton is out.
The next glaring need for the Knicks is a big body at center to defer some of the defensive and rebounding responsibilities from Amar'e. There are a few options around the league, but depending on availability, some definitely stand out more than others.
Samuel Dalembert is a big body, a shot blocker and a guy who just gobbles up rebounds. He's averaging seven rebounds per contest this year and that's in only 20 minutes a game. At starter's minutes, he would be averaging well over 10 rebounds and two blocks at his pace. Dalembert would make it so that Stoudemire could move back to his natural position of power forward and it would make it so that Wilson Chandler could go back to bringing some energy off the bench, which is well-needed with the bench struggling lately.
In addition to all that Dalembert brings to the Knicks from an on-court standpoint, he is also a $13.4 million expiring contract. So if the Knicks could put together a modest package for him, they could still have a lot of salary coming off the books at the end of the year. Perhaps an Eddy Curry and cash considerations for Dalembert exchange could be done to take a little bit of salary off the books this year for a struggling Kings team that's trying to develop rookie center DeMarcus Cousins.
Another option that hasn't really been brought up for the Knicks is Chris Kaman of the Los Angeles Clippers. He is a former All-Star who would bring a big body and a lot of hustle to the Knicks both on offense and defense, and with second-year center DeAndre Jordan shining while Kaman has been injured, the Knicks could provide a point of rejuvenation in Kaman's career working next to Amar'e Stoudemire.
Kaman makes $11.8 million this year and is signed through next season, so it would be a potential long-term solution to the Knicks' center problems. Kaman is only 28, so like Amar'e he still has a few good years left before he hits the decline of his career.
The Knicks could resign him to an extension with his Bird Rights transferring from the Clips (preferably before the end of the season, considering the new CBA might eliminate Bird Rights in the NBA) and lock up a big man to play next to Stoudemire for years to come, complimenting Amar'e's finesse inside game with a tough rebounding and shot blocking presence, as well as a better-than-average offensive game.
The only problem could be prying Kaman away from the Clips, but with their recent youth movement with Jordan and Blake Griffin, Kaman might be able to be obtained for the right price.
Of course, any needs that the Knicks have right now are being overshadowed by the potential of trading for Carmelo Anthony. While Anthony would add a dynamic scorer and a second superstar to the Knicks, one could definitely argue that the Knicks could use a backup point guard and a strong center more than another dynamic scorer right now.
If the Knicks can get a strong core of players set up, they may be able to beat the multiple-superstar formula like the Pistons teams of the mid-2000s, beating teams with a strong lineup of players that all feed off of each other.