Missing Pieces: 6 Moves New York Knicks Can Make To Complete Their Resurgence
The resurgence of the New York Knicks was one of the most compelling stories of this NBA season, however, their first playoff series since 2004 didn't exactly live up to the hype created by their offseason and midseason acquisitions of Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Mr. Big Shot himself, Chauncey Billups.
Anyone who has watched a Knicks game this season knows they have a few significant problems on their roster that must be fixed before any legitimate title run can be made. Holes at center and a lack of overall depth are what ultimately did the team in this season.
While this offseason might not have the upper-echelon, South Beach-loving talent of 2010, there are more than enough available pieces and possible moves for it to feel like the good old Pat Riley-Patrick Ewing Knicks days.
1) Sign Marc Gasol
Ideally, the Knicks starting center next season would be Tyson Chandler, but his asking price—he's on a $12.75 million contract for the 2010-2011 season—isn't likely to decrease given the Mavs success this postseason. Picking up Gasol, on the other hand, is quite feasible.
Gasol really came into his own this year, and his grit offensively and defensively have been key to the Memphis Grizzlies' remarkable success. Though his regular season numbers decreased from last season (14.6 PPG to 11.7, 9.3 rebounds to 7.0), he has stepped up significantly in the playoffs, averaging 15.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
The Knicks' lack of size would immediately be fixed with the acquisition of a true seven-footer, and Amar'e Stoudemire would be able to slide back to his natural power forward position. Gasol would significantly improve New York's interior defense and his offensive capabilities are much greater than Jared Jeffries' or Ronny Turiaf's.
The Grizzlies will definitely try and keep Gasol, but given the significant amount of money they have tied up in Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley, a solid offer by the Knicks would be difficult for them to match.
2) Draft Nolan Smith
Whether it's Marc Gasol, Nene or Samuel Dalembert, the Knicks will most likely sign a center instead of drafting one. Along with filling the space in the middle, the Knicks need to address their backup point guard situation.
Toney Douglas is more of a two-guard than a point guard, and though he stepped up in the wake of Chauncey Billups' injury at the end of the season, he is a little too trigger-happy to run an offense properly.
Duke's Nolan Smith was forced to make the transition from shooting guard to point guard in the wake of Kyrie Irving's toe injury and demonstrated excellent leadership and floor vision. Smith is an excellent passer and a strong on-ball defender who can also shoot the ball consistently well.
3) Don't Pick Up Toney Douglas' Team Option
Toney Douglas certainly had his moments this year, but he just isn't a true facilitator, which is what the Knicks really need. There are better shooting guards available in free agency to acquire should the Knicks draft Nolan Smith or another viable backup point guard.
The 35-year-old Anthony Carter did an impressive job in his limited minutes and played with a sense of urgency that the Knicks' backcourt sometimes lacked.
At the moment, the Knicks have two young shooting guards and, at least in my mind, Landry Fields seems like the player who could yield the greatest returns for New York down the road. Though his production decreased at the end of the season, he still had an impressive first year in the league, culminating in a spot on the All-Rookie First Team.
The Knicks need a strong wing defender, and while Douglas has the speed for it, he isn't always engaged. This is why they should...
4) Sign Shane Battier
Of all the problems the Knicks have to address, scoring certainly isn't one of them. While names like J.R. Smith and Anthony Parker have been floated around, the skillset that Shane Battier would bring to New York is of much greater value.
A two-time All-Defensive Second Team member, Battier's presence would immediately improve the Knicks' perimter defense. Chauncey Billups isn't as spry as he once was, Carmelo Anthony has never been as engaged defensively as he is offensively and the Knicks' bench is lacking in defense-oriented players (don't get me wrong, I love Shelden Williams and Jared Jeffries as much as the next guy, but still...).
Battier is strong enough and quick enough to guard a variety of positions and is a capable offensive player to boot. He would help stretch the floor the same way that Toney Douglas would and will come cheaper than many other two-guards on the market.
5) Give Up on the "Big Three" Concept
It worked for the Heat because their "three" (two-and-a-half) star players were willing to take significant salary cuts, and even so they still have the least depth of any team in the NBA. The Knicks, with Stoudemire's five-year, $100 million contract and Carmelo Anthony's three-year, $65 million extension have all but put themselves out of the running for another top-tier player.
'Melo and Amar'e are two of the most talented offensive players in the league, but even with the addition of a Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, holes would still be present and even more difficult to fix with almost no cap flexibility.
Instead of scraping together an underwhelming offer for Deron Williams, Paul or Howard, the Knicks would be better off conserving cap space to get solid role players who complement Amar'e and 'Melo. In addition, the Knicks have little to offer trade-wise besides Chauncey Billups' expiring contract and maybe Toney Douglas (should the Knicks retain him).
Star players are integral to a team's success, but not at the expense of a deep bench. As important as Kobe and Pau were to the Lakers' last title, so were guys like Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and even Jordan Farmar. Would the Celtics have won the 2008 championship without the hustle of Leon Powe and Tony Allen, or the defensive post-presence of Kendrick Perkins? I think not.
6) Start Considering a New Coach
First of all, I think Mike D'Antoni deserves a full year with this team before his performance is judged. A tremendous roster change was forced upon on him midway through the season, and by the end of the year, he had essentially coached two separate teams that both happened to have Amar'e Stoudemire.
That being said, his current coaching style just isn't conducive to winning championships. D'Antoni's uptempo offense is certainly entertaining and worked with Gallinari, Felton and Chandler, but this current crop of Knicks is less suited for a run-and-gun style of play and needs to improve its half-court execution.
If Rick Adelman doesn't end up on the Lakers, I think he would make for an excellent head coach in New York. He is a true "player's coach" and his emphasis on floor spacing and ball movement would work well with this team.
Adelman would not be pushed around by the team's star players. He's a tough coach who puts teamwork above individual achievement. While he isn't the defensive mastermind that Tom Thibodeau or Doc Rivers is, he's shown a greater commitment to D throughout his career than MDA has.