The New York Knicks look to be playoff-bound for the first time since 2004. Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton are developing into one of the league's best pick-and-roll tandems, and Knicks fans are finally starting to forget the agony Isiah Thomas caused them over the last decade.
Despite the success, the team is a long way from competing for a championship. But, if Knicks GM Donnie Walsh successfully acquires Carmelo Anthony, either via trade this year or during the summer as a free agent, that will help New York go a long way toward title contention.
If Melo joins the Knicks through free agency, the team's other options would be limited. Walsh will be forced to renounce the rights to Wilson Chandler, and the team won’t have the cap space to sign any other players.
However, if for some reason this doesn’t happen, New York needs to look to add a defensive center. The Knicks are going to have difficulty making the jump to elite status without more help for Amar'e in the paint.
The legitimate title contenders this year include, Los Angeles, Boston, San Antonio and Miami, all of which have a great deal of size upfront.
Outside of Amar'e, the Knicks have Ronny Turiaf, Eddy Curry and Timofey Mozgov.
Curry’s albatross of a contract is set to expire and his services will not be retained.
Turiaf has a player option, which he will likely exercise, unless his agent and Knicks management can agree on a buyout.
That leaves Mozgov, who has shown promise, but is still very raw.
There are a number of players available this summer that could fill the void the Knicks have in the middle.
Jordan was a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008. He saw limited minutes in his first two seasons, then was thrust into the starting lineup when Chris Kaman went down with an injury.
He is still raw offensively, but is averaging eight rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game as a starter.
Jordan is a restricted free agent, which means the Clippers have the right to match any offer he receives. However, Donald Sterling is notoriously cheap and, depending on the offer, may not be willing to pay.
Jordan is still young, with lots of room to grow, and would be a nice fit for the Knicks.
Gasol’s development is a positive for Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace’s image around the league.
It no longer appears Wallace gave Pau Gasol away for absolutely nothing, as his younger brother, Marc, is turning into one of the better centers in the game.
Memphis is in a tight position financially. It is a small-market team, without the finances available to teams like the Knicks or the Lakers.
Management decided to give both Rudy Gay and Mike Conley long-term extensions last summer. The Grizzlies will have to make a tough choice during the upcoming offseason, with both Zach Randolph and Gasol looking for new contracts.
Marc Gasol is a restricted free agent, and Wallace has publicly stated the team is committed to retaining Gasol and will match all offers.
However, just because this is what’s been said publicly doesn’t make it true. There will be a number of teams lining up to sign Marc Gasol. Depending on the offers he receives, management may be forced to let him walk.
Nene is a player who isn’t drawing that much attention. He, like Melo, has an early termination clause in his contract. This allows Nene to become a free agent this summer.
Once Melo leaves Denver, there will be no reason for Nene to stick around, as the team will be entering rebuilding mode.
Nene should already be a member of the New York Knicks. The Knicks drafted him seventh overall in 2002, and then immediately traded his draft rights along with Marcus Camby to the Nuggets for Antonio McDyess.
This was a trade that never made sense to me. Even though McDyess was a former All-Star, he was coming off a serious knee injury. It was a big gamble for the team to take.
Ultimately, it was the wrong move, as McDyess suffered another injury early in the season and was never the same player again.
Now, the Knicks will have a second chance to see Nene in orange and blue. His stats aren’t amazing, but he is averaging 15 points, seven rebounds and one block per game this season.
Nene would probably be the most expensive of the three, but is guaranteed to have a positive impact on the team.
Yet, if New York were to sign a true center that will clog up the paint, the question becomes: Would Amar'e be as effective?
The team has no real post presence right now. Most of the Knicks’ offense is perimeter-oriented, allowing Amar'e the freedom he needs to operate in the paint.
Stoudemire's stats didn’t suffer much in the season-and-a-half he played with Shaq. However, outside of that short period of time, Amar'e has never played with another big man.
Even with that uncertainty, this is a move management needs to make. Walsh must look to add another big man if the Knicks are serious about bringing the city its first NBA title since 1973.