Amare Stoudemire

The 5 Changes the Knicks Must Make in the Offseason

“In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, oh
There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you, let’s hear it for New York.”

– Alicia Keys, Empire State of Mind

At least for this playoffs season, the big lights of New York neither inspired the Knicks nor made them feel particularly new. Judging from the beating administered by the aging Celtics, the Knicks rebuilding plan still has much work left. Still, Knick fan should feel good about where the season ended. This time last year, the Knicks were nothing more than a collection of used NBA parts including Al Harrington, Tracy McGrady, and Eddy Curry. Today, they have 2 legitimate NBA All-Stars in Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, as well as imminent cap flexibility. The question is: where do the Knickerbockers go from here? We have some thoughts on the roadmap for the Knicks to get to the next level:

1. Fire Mike D’Antoni and hire a defensive minded coach.

No effort to pivot into a championship team can occur without first moving beyond the Mike D’Antoni era. As has been chronicled earlier, it’s doubtful that D’Antoni was ever in Donnie Walsh‘s long term plans, but rather was a means to an end (which was simply: maximizing existing assets to parlay them into 1 or more superstars). The Knicks will have a difficult time proceeding beyond a 3 or 4 seed in the East with D’Antoni at the helm. At the end of the day, defense wins championships, and someone needs to crack the whip on Melo and Amare. Possible candidates that fit the bill may include ex-Knick coach Jeff Van Gundy or recently available coach Rick Adelman.  Mark Jackson, a former Knick point guard and early contender for the role that ultimately went to D’Antoni may also fall under consideration here.

2. Re-sign Mr. Big Shot.

There are many reasons NOT to bring Chauncey Billups back. He is an aging point guard whose body seems to be gradually breaking down. He doesn’t figure in the long term plans of a team which probably won’t hit its stride for another 2-3 years. Plus, he’s got that weird peach fuzz mustache going on.

All that being said, Mr. Big Shot wants to return, and if the Knicks are smart, they will re-sign him. Billups and Melo had proven success in Denver and more importantly, Chauncey seemed to be the one guy that had Melo’s ear. Billups provides a player coach on the floor to get Melo to buy into the head coach’s game plan for years to come (this is crucial since we don’t anticipate Billups being around beyond 2012), and a guy who can keep Anthony in check in the locker room. Additionally, in the short term, he gives the Knicks another clutch player to rely on in late game situations.

3. Use the mid-level to sign a long, defensive-oriented two guard who can spread the offense.

Even with a new defensive minded head coach, Knick fans can only hope and pray that Melo and Amare increase their intensity when guarding opposing players. Here’s some news for you — they may get better, but it is unlikely you’ll ever see the consistency you want. All is not lost however. The Knicks need a 2 guard who can flank Billups and provide a night in/night out high level of defensive intensity. There are several swing players who may seem to fit the bill in the upcoming unrestricted free agent class of 2011: Shane Battier, Tayshaun Prince, and Anthony Parker are all available and should be available for the MLE (or less).

Acquiring a player of this caliber also allows them to strengthen their bench by moving Landry Fields back to 6th man.

4. Sign a shot blocking center to allow Amare to play his natural position.

Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups

One of Amare’s issues during his tenure under Mike D’Antoni is that he has been frequently asked to assume the center position in D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense. The current answer for the Knicks: undersized Ronny Turiaf. While Turiaf may be the most enthusiastic player in the NBA, that combined with clean dreads doesn’t alone make him qualified to be the starting center of the Knicks. The new, defense-first Knicks need a presence down low that will serve notice to any guard or forward who dares come in the lane. This player does not need to be offensively skilled at all (and in fact, it is preferable that they prefer to camp out under the basket all day waiting for rebounds and blocks). The free agent crop of 2011 has slim pickings for a player of this caliber, with names like Nazr Mohammed, Theo Ratliff, and Joel Pryzbilla heading the list, so it will be up to the wizardry of Donnie Walsh to find a center who can clog the middle (and do it at what probably will be the veteran’s minimum).

5. Do NOT do anything that will result in lost cap flexibility going into the 2012 free agent market.

Let’s face it, the Knicks with Melo and Amare as their only two superstars have about as much chance of competing with the Lebron-led Heat as Lala has of making a meaningful entertainment career in New York (except for perhaps a recurring role on Charm School with Ricki Lake). Donnie Walsh isn’t done. They need another piece.

As it stands today, the only contracts the Knicks have 2012-13 commitments for are Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Toney Douglas. This would put their cap number in 2012 around $42M (with Amare and Melo totaling roughly $40M). This would leave roughly $16M in cap space available for 2012 (assuming the overall salary cap stays constant around $58M).

The Knicks should not do anything (even if it means compromising on items #3 and #4 above) to affect this cap status. Why? 2012 is the well-documented year that it is likely both Deron Williams and Chris Paul will be free agents. Either player seems to have the disposition to fit well with the Knicks circle of star power and would provide New York with a triumvirate that will finally be competitive for an NBA ring. And in the end, in the bright lights of the Big Apple, that is all that matters.


17 Responses to “The 5 Changes the Knicks Must Make in the Offseason”

  1. I maintain the only way Knicks ever win a championship is going to be without Melo leading them…they need to trade him for some different pieces.

    Posted by drinkinghaterade | April 25, 2011, 12:56 pm
    • Sorry bro, I gotta disagree. I think bringing Melo to the Big Apple was along the lines of signing John Starks to complement Ewing in the 90’s. Someone has got to take the ball in big situations and he has more often then not done that (except when D’Antoni dreamed up these quackish plays desinged to have one of their bench warmers take the last second shot). They just need one or two more players to add depth and then go for a big time FA in 2012!

      Posted by Rob Garnsey | April 25, 2011, 11:55 pm
  2. Great article. However I don’t agree with number 1. I think D’Antoni is a decent coach. What needs to happen is Donnie needs to fire his brothers and get D’Antoni to pair up with a Tom Thibodeau type of assitant like Ainge did with Doc Rivers to teach defense. That’s all. I agree with everything else. Go Knicks.

    Posted by Eric | April 25, 2011, 10:50 pm
    • Eric — thanks for the read. I won’t argue that D’Antoni is a decent coach and certainly he had some measure of success with Stoudemire and the Suns. That being said, New York doesn’t care about nice runs in the playoffs, it cares about championships – and I just don’t think D’Antoni’s going to be your guys to take the Knicks to the promised land.

      Look at all of the coaches in the last 30 years that have won championships, and you will see the vast majority of they preached and practiced the gospel that championship teams play defense. There is a reason for that: the game slows down in the playoffs and possessions get more valuable. If you’re giving up easy buckets, you chances to survive become much lower. You may be able to hire a great defensive assistant, but ultimately, it’s the head coach who sets the team philosophy and will prioritize how his roster his built, practices run, etc. based off of this.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | April 26, 2011, 9:54 am
      • Brown Mamba – You’re missing Eric’s point. There’s no disagreement about the need to base a championship-caliber team around defense – the question is whether that has to come from the head coach directly. Look at what Doc Rivers and the Celtics did in utilizing Thibodeau – won an NBA championship. So although you make great points I disagree that ultimately it comes down to the head coach to teach a team a defensive philosophy.
        Go Knicks!

        Posted by Jerome | May 4, 2011, 2:03 pm
  3. Excellent well thought out article! Way better then some of the bile being spewed by certain haters on the flagship ESPN NY site! The Knicks are 2-3 years away from competing for a title but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and make some noise in the playoffs next year! KNICKS FOREVER!

    Posted by Rob Garnsey | April 25, 2011, 11:57 pm
  4. Two thumbs up.
    Great list.

    They didn’t waste any time with this:

    Posted by Rick Siemens | April 26, 2011, 3:26 am
  5. Add Stoudemire’s spare knee to your list of got-ham? city wish list… Good luck with torpedoing half your roster, losing draft picks, and hopefully sign billups for as much as he asks for.

    That Alicia Keys song sucks a$$.NYC is the PRETENTIOUSNESS capital of the USA. More ppl around the world watched ‘sex and the city’ than knicks playoff games, think about that

    Posted by Gideon Bible | April 26, 2011, 12:58 pm
  6. Why don’t you hire terry porter. then sign shaq, you can be the last to play “Milk-a-shaq”

    Posted by cosmopoliSHIT | April 26, 2011, 1:00 pm
  7. o yeah vince carter should be coming along cheap next season +D

    NYK starting lineup: Shaq,N’mare,Melo,VINCE effin Carter, BBBBillups. Coach:terry porter

    Posted by cosmopoliSHIT | April 26, 2011, 1:03 pm
  8. This is what confuses me.. I just don’t see how the Knicks can get CP3/Deron/Howard with the amount of money they have invested in Melo and Amar’e. Especially with a NBA lockout looming that will likely shrink the salary cap, make mid level exceptions a thing of the past with a hard salary cap, and possibly even give teams the option to franchise tag their players (probably what the Nets are banking on with the Deron trade).

    Even if there’s some sort of transition period that allows the Knicks to grab a CP3 for a year prior to the salary cap going hard, you need to be able to afford two more starters (one must be a very good defensive center), AND at least 2 half-decent bench players to win a title

    Posted by Trev | April 27, 2011, 3:13 pm
    • Trev — 2 things:

      1. If you look at the Knicks’ cap structure, they should be able to afford a max contract (or close to it) for CP3, BUT

      2. As you state, it would come at the cost of having to sign everyone else to the veteran’s minimum or close to it. That being said, Miami has demonstrated a model by which if you build enough talent, you can get decent NBA players to take paycuts (especially for a city like New York). So piecing together some serviceable parts is not out of the question.

      Bigger issue for me is: looks like Amare with his health issues has a window that is closing fast. Can the Knicks get together enough players around him before it closes completely?

      Posted by Brown Mamba | April 27, 2011, 4:45 pm
  9. I like Coach D. Lets face it only one team wins it all. I want to see Knicks in playoffs each year. If you constantly their soooner or late peices fall an you win it all.

    Posted by J K Clay | April 28, 2011, 6:08 am
  10. Pretty good must to do list. I will respond to one by one:
    1. Agree competely. D’A had years of opportunities in Phoenix with greater players. It did not work and will never do in NY or elsewhere. Defense wins. It proved with Heat,Boston,Orlando and others having all-star players on roster. NYK happen to be disoriented on floor most of the times; it looks like they don’t have a game plan. (I’m sure they do-shoot the ball). Last second game bad decisions have majorly affected results. Jared’s mistake is not his fault, it’s D’A one. Strategy of not fauling with faul to give is another one I can’t figure out.
    The team doesn’t cherish the ball, it looks like everybody’s trying to shoot off the first pass.!!!
    No wonder, they run like crazy back and forth and get tired and frustrated.
    2.Mr. Big Shot is old and it shows. He’s breaking apart. Yes, you have no choice but to sign him because the team doesn’t have anybody else as a starter PG. The team gave up a lot in a deal for Melo but Felton was the biggest loss. Not a wash.
    3. Suprise, suprise-Melo played great defense and rebounded better then anyone. What’s important is he stalls the game. Huge problem even if he’s perfect. One man does not win the game. Big disappointment shows in Landry Fields’ play; he’s completely lost. This came right after the trade. He does not fit this team any more. Unfortunately. Or, may be the team look more like Western Conference one.
    4. Team blocks enough shots. Have players but all should come off the bench. Desperately need low point presence. Amare is not the one. (None of them are except Turiaf but he’s not a starter). He can’t succeed unless shoots off the moving screen. Most of the time he bumps into defender.
    5. Don’t know about. Chris Paul-yes.

    Posted by KNICK4EVERFAN | April 28, 2011, 8:44 am
  11. I hope your guys don’t kill me but, If it were a perfect world I’ll find a way to trade stat for Howard. I think a combo of Melo and Howard can take us a lot quicker to the promise land.

    Posted by co13999 | April 30, 2011, 6:37 am

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