NY Knicks' Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2014 Offseason
Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks had an active offseason, hiring a new coaching staff—led by Jackson's protege, Derek Fisher—and revamping the roster. Some Knicks will benefit from a new coaching philosophy and the changes in personnel, while others will have diminished roles.
Fisher is expected to implement the triangle offense that he and Jackson won five championships with in Los Angeles. The triangle favors certain skill sets and generally features two traditional big men, which is atypical in today's NBA.
New York is three deep at shooting guard and point guard, and Fisher has plenty of flexibility at power forward and center after the acquisitions of Jason Smith, Samuel Dalembert and Quincy Acy, to go along with returning big men Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Cole Aldrich.
The first-year head coach could use a committee at the 4 and 5, though regardless of how he juggles the lineup, there will be accomplished veterans and promising youngsters who find themselves glued to the bench.
Carmelo Anthony: Winner
One can claim that Carmelo Anthony made a poor basketball decision by choosing the Knicks over the Chicago Bulls, but it is hard to argue that the seven-time All-Star was anything less than a winner in free agency, signing a five-year, $124 million contract.
Phil Jackson appeared ready to play hardball with Anthony when he took over as Knicks president, challenging the star forward to stand by his word and accept less money in order help the Knicks build a contender, via Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. Jackson reiterated that sentiment just before the start of free agency, via Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
However, the Zen Master caved, and the Knicks shelled out $124 million to retain Anthony. That was about $5 million less than the maximum amount they could have paid him but still $28 million more than any other team could offer—and likely not the level of discount Jackson was hoping for.
Andrea Bargnani: Winner
Andrea Bargnani was a major disappointment in his first season with the Knicks. The former No. 1 overall pick failed as a stretch 4, connecting on just 27.8 percent of his three-point attempts, and teams exploited his defensive weaknesses by forcing him into pick-and-rolls.
The Knicks have a glut of wing players and played their best basketball over the past two seasons with Carmelo Anthony at the 4. The league in general is trending toward 4s who can shoot the three, and Bargnani shot well below league average from behind the arc in each of the past three seasons (29.6, 30.9 and 27.8 percent, respectively.)
Bargs is entering the final year of his contract and is not expected to re-sign with the team. If New York had hired somebody other than Phil Jackson to build this team or Derek Fisher to coach it, Bargnani may have been relegated to the bench.
But the triangle offense favored by Jackson and Fisher uses two traditional big men and is initiated through the high post, which is Bargnani's sweet spot. The Italian shot well above league average from the elbow areas last season, via NBA.com. Operating in the triangle could resurrect his career.
Jose Calderon: Winner and Loser
No starter wants to be traded from a contender to a lottery team, particularly in the latter part of his career, but that was Jose Calderon’s fate when the Dallas Mavericks shipped him to New York in June.
Dallas won 49 games in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference last season and pushed the world champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the playoffs. And the Mavs should be even better this year with the additions of Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons.
Meanwhile, the Knicks failed to make the playoffs in the far weaker Eastern Conference in 2013-14 and will struggle to do so again this season.
On the flip side, Calderon will be playing in an offense perfectly tailored for his game. The Spaniard’s strengths are protecting the basketball and knocking down open shots, which he should see plenty of in the triangle offense. Calderon's role will be similar to the one his new coach, Derek Fisher, played in during his days with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Calderon is a career 41.1 percent shooter from downtown and was the third-most efficient off-ball scorer in the NBA while drilling 47.5 percent of his spot-up three-pointers last season, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required). On a Knicks team without a clear-cut No. 2 scoring option, Calderon could be in for a career year.
Iman Shumpert: Loser
Iman Shumpert opened eyes within the Knicks organization and around the league with an impressive rookie season in 2011-12. Since then, the shooting guard has lost confidence in his jump shot, been shuffled in and out of the starting lineup and undergone two operations on his left knee. Shump's on-ball defense regressed last season, and he shot a dismal 37.8 percent from the field.
Knicks management is enamored with a new, young shooting guard, Tim Hardaway Jr. The team has reportedly been trying to trade Shumpert since at least November, via Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The Knicks attempted to use him to unload Andrea Bargnani or Amar'e Stoudemire this summer, via Ian Begley of ESPN New York.
Shumpert would have benefited from a change of scenery and a more defined role. Instead, he will be fighting Hardaway and J.R. Smith for minutes at shooting guard, with Anthony spending more time at small forward.
Shump could operate as an unconventional point guard in the triangle offense, filling the role that Ron Harper played for Phil Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately, minutes will be hard to come by at that position as well, with Jose Calderon, Pablo Prigioni and Shane Larkin in the mix.
Pablo Prigioni: Loser
Pablo Prigioni was a capable backup and starter for stretches in each of the last two seasons, but he will have a hard time finding minutes in a crowded Knicks backcourt this season. In fact, he may not even be on the team by the start of the season. According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, the Knicks are shopping the Argentine.
New York acquired two point guards in the June trade that sent Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks for Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin. Calderon will be the starter, with Prigioni and Larkin battling for the remaining minutes.
Prigioni's game is better-suited for the triangle offense, which utilizes his strengths as a facilitator and release valve/spot-up shooter. Larkin is a dribble-drive point guard who shot just 31.6 percent from three-point range last season, compared to Prigioni's 46.4 percent.
Larkin's edge is on defense. He has quick hands and feet and a knack for stepping into passing lanes, whereas the 37-year-old Prigioni struggles to stay in front of quicker guards. Coach Fisher may also want to develop Larkin for the team’s future or as a trade asset in what is expected to be a transition season for the Knicks.
Prigioni will not see the floor as part of a two-point guard lineup as in years past. The triangle places less emphasis on the point guard position, and with Carmelo Anthony playing more minutes at the 3, New York will be three deep at shooting guard with J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert.