Future Plans today brings you the New York Knicks. The Knicks have deep-pocketed, but oafish owners, a reasonable GM and a Coach whose reputation is being tarnished the further he gets from Steve Nash. They have a lopsided roster with some real superstar talent, but what does the future hold for them?
New York Knicks
The Knicks 2010/11 started off with high hopes after securing the services of Amare Stoudemire, who personified those hopes by playing out of his skin when reunited with Coach Mike D’Antoni in the Big Apple. There was very premature MVP talk that had a lot more to do with an easy early slate which lead to a few wins than Amare’s on court performance. Expectations went even higher after the mid-season trade that sent Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to NY, although the season of promise ended with a sixth seed and nasty straight sets exit at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
The Knicks have an advantage over most other NBA franchises in that they call New York home. Being in a media mega-market and playing at Madison Square Garden means the Knicks are always being talked about and always have money to spend. Of course this hasn’t always been a good thing as the Knicks are only now recovering from a disastrous decade of mismanagement and muddling lead by the incomparable Isiah Thomas.
The Knicks were reborn under the stewardship of Donnie Walsh, who cleared the cap problems and brought hope to MSG. Owner James Dolan is obviously the thread that links these old (bad) decisions to new (good) decisions, which has to worry the Knicks faithful as he is apparently still in conversations with Isiah about re-joining the team in some official capacity.
The simple description is that the Knicks have none. They are capped out and that’s likely to get worse under any new collective bargaining agreement introduced (hopefully soon) when the lockout is resolved. There are a few rays of light however as Billups has only this year remaining on his whale of a deal, and if there is an amnesty clause like there was at the introduction of the CBA, then Billups will likely be gone, clearing 14 million off the cap straight away.
Several lower salaried players are also free agents, and while their potential departure won’t make headlines (Shawne Williams, Sheldon Williams, Roger Mason, Anthony Carter and Jared Jeffries) they will need to be replaced. 6’8” forward Derrick Brown is also a free agent, but unlike the players mentioned previously, the former Bobcat has some value as a bench guy and should probably be retained, so there is significant work to be done, but not much wiggle room to get it done in.
As mentioned previously, the upside for New York is their ability to go above any soft cap and wear any financial penalties with their guaranteed revenue streams, but with the likely introduction of a hard cap (or at the very least one more rigid that what we have currently) this benefit may start to fade. If revenue sharing is introduced, the money that the Knicks throw wildly around may dry up entirely as they may be supporting the Milwaukees and New Orleans of the world.
The New York Knickerbockers roster looks a heck of a lot like a fantasy team where the owner packaged some lower picks for two number ones and now has to hope that Anthony and Stoudemire play at career levels and don’t get injured.
Other than the two crown jewels, the only other real assets are Ronny Turiaf, Renaldo Balkman (who really can’t get on the court as Anthony and Stoudemire need to play big minutes ahead of him) Landry Fields and Chauncey Billups’ contract. Rookie shooting guard Iman Shumpert may have some defensive value, but he is 100% unproven and at this point, one-dimensional.
The Knicks really need to bring in a top flight point guard (Billups is a shadow of his former self) to get the ball to their stars in the right positions and hopefully take some pressure off the interior to create scoring avenues. Steve Nash is the pipedream, but it’s never going to happen.
A player like Baron Davis might be fantastic, but for the first time in forever the Knicks lack the salary dead weight to make a deal of that magnitude. Devin Harris from Utah might also be a solid (but not outstanding) option , but almost any deal for a point guard will require the Knicks to surrender valuable role player Landry Fields which is a bitter pill to swallow. The challenge the Knicks brass face is to value their own players correctly as the tendency in situations like this is to overvalue the intangibles players like Fields provide, but rolling out the same roster again this year will not yield any better results.
Beyond Ellis there aren’t a lot of issues other than a lack of overall depth, which can only be addressed through the draft. Incoming shooting guard Klay Thompson is a heck of a player and will get some run in his rookie season, but finding more talent for the roster will be a long term deal.
The Knicks have a bright future, in large part because they are coming from such a dark recent past. They do have two premiere players and live in a superstar market, so the chances of them drawing a third ace are strong. It’s still to be proven if Mike D’Antoni can pull together another successful team, or if his style is 100% predicated on the greatness (and uniqueness) of Steve Nash.
The coming season is likely to be a struggle as they Knicks battle the salary cap and stronger and better put together rosters of other eastern contenders, but if they can get that third star (who really needs to be a perimeter player) then they can shoot into the upper tier of those grabbing at the Larry O’Brien trophy.
We take a look at another team and assess their fortunes in the coming seasons every few days so check back regularly. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @HD_RyanB