After being ousted in the second round of the playoffs, Knicks fans must be disappointed with their squad. Coming into the playoffs the Knicks seemed like they had a strong chance of making the conference finals to matchup against Miami. Unfortunately their play declined ever since game four against Boston after which J.R. Smith was out partying like the series was over. Even though they escaped the Celtics, it was obvious the team was headed downhill. Now we are here, with an uneventful ending to what otherwise was a very good season for New York. Upgrades are still needed in several areas if the Knicks wish to become a real contender (also some basic in game strategy changes are needed but I won’t cover those here).
The Knicks could have a tough go trying to make any major roster changes. They are already committed to about $73 million in salary for next year, and that is without resigning J.R. Smith. J.R. did stand to sign a healthy contract until his collapse in the playoffs, but even so he could still command close to $10 million. If the Knicks resign Smith, it would be for around $5 million per year, at that price it would be a wise decision. Despite the lackluster playoff performance he was still the sixth man of the year, and frankly the Knicks don’t have a better option.
Beyond resigning Smith, the Knicks will have to get crafty to fill out a competitive roster. That $73 million in salary for next year would be $78 million with J.R. resigned and this is all after 8 other players from this season are off the books for next season. Jason Kidd is still owed $6 million over the next two years and Marcus Camby is owed $7 million over that same time frame. These are two guys who contributed basically nothing in the playoffs. Jason Kidd did not even score in his final 10 games. Camby only appeared in three games for a total of three minutes. (It should also be mentioned the Knicks traded two second round picks plus $3 million for Camby. Second round picks get non-guaranteed contracts, in other words second round picks would have been perfect for the Knicks). The Knicks best role player in the playoffs, Chris Copeland, is a free agent and would be a good signing for any NBA team, so it is tough to see the Knicks getting him back. Kenyon Martin, who had a slight career revival with the Knicks, may get offered more than the $1.7 million the Knicks can offer.
Basically, the Knicks are in dire straights. Amare is still owed around $45 million the next two years and has become a disaster due to injury along with an inability to mesh with Carmelo Anthony. Not only are the Knicks tied down this offseason, but in two years they already have $76 million committed in salary, again before resigning Smith. The Knicks will have to wait until 2014-15 to have any real flexibility (assuming they don’t get any new ridiculous contracts before then).
Enough with all of the bad news though, let’s create a best case scenario for the Knicks. First they resign J.R. for that $5 million deal. They get Kenyon Martin back at $1.7 million. Somehow they resign Copeland for around $1 million. With the 24th draft pick they get a good rotation player (hopefully a big who actually rebounds). Iman Shumpert who is on a great rookie deal makes a big jump forward next season. Amare returns from the dead to give them some production. Jason Kidd also returns from the dead and finds his shooting touch. They find some decent players to sign for the veteran’s minimum to fill out the roster. Coach Mike Woodson starts playing Steve Novak again after his inexplicable benching throughout the playoffs. The offense starts moving again rather than just posting up Carmelo 15 feet from the rim. Somebody other than Tyson Chandler starts giving a crap about defensive rebounding.
With all these changes I predict the Knicks can give the Heat a decent series in the conference finals next year and that’s about it. It would take a major trade to make the Knicks and elite team right now; otherwise they will have to wait two years to make a major splash in free agency.
– Jay Bowne