Without a draft pick or much salary cap maneuverability, it’s going to be a long offseason for the Knicks this year. Phil Jackson will certainly have his work cut out for him, but he’s being paid like a top executive, so let’s see if he can earn that $12 million check!
It was a miracle that Mike Woodson even survived the month of December, but shortly after the season ended, he was eventually fired. There are quite a few candidates that would make worthy replacements, and as always with this team, we’ve heard plenty of whispers regarding the position, although some are more realistic than others. Here’s what’s been leaked by unconfirmed sources throughout the 2013-14 season:
Steve Kerr - This seems to be the most likely replacement right now. Over the weekend, rumors surfaced stating that if Kerr wants the job, it’s his, so if Woodson is let go in the next few days, it shouldn’t take too long to find out. Kerr has never coached a professional game in his life, but does have experience as a GM, spending three seasons in the front office with the Suns. While in Phoenix, he worked furiously to get something for Amar’e Stoudmire, knowing that the Suns wouldn’t match anything too lucrative during his 2010 free agency. Nothing ever materialized, but apparently Kerr knew something that the Knicks front office didn’t. Point, Kerr.
Kerr is a five-time NBA champion, who spent 15 years playing, three years in the front office, and eight years as a broadcaster. Despite has lack of hands-on experience, he definitely knows the ins and out of the NBA, and if all else fails, he can always consult the Zenn Master for advice. There are reasons to be skeptical, but certainly there are worse hires out there.
John Calipari - Calipari’s was linked to the Lakers most recently, but his name was floated around rumored interest from New York on several different occasions throughout the season. It doesn’t really make sense for him to leave behind a Kentucky program that he has built into a national powerhouse, but at the same time, he has nothing left to prove at the college ranks. Calipari has ties to the famed Creative Arts Agency that has brought in Knicks legends such as Andrea Bargnani, Mike Woodson, and J.R. Smith, but Phil Jackson has vowed that he isn’t married to those allegiances, so look for New York to steer clear of Calipari this time around.
Jeff Van Gundy - Obviously, all Knicks fans would love to have Van Gundy back where he belongs, but it isn’t really too realistic of an option. He has admitted to regretting his decision to quit on New York in the past, but given the state of the team, the job isn’t too enticing. Van Gundy is more likely to coach for a finished product, and until he finds that team, he’ll continue to be one of the NBA’s finest commentators.
Mark Jackson - Jackson could be on his way out if the Warriors underachieve this postseason. It may not be fair, but if it happens, he could be a great fit. Jackson doesn’t run the triangle offense, like Phil is reported to covet, but he’s a defensive minded player’s coach, who would immediately have more credibility in the locker room than Woodson did.
Phil Jackson - Wishful thinking. Phil’s not coming downstairs to coach a rebuilding project.
Draft night will be pretty quiet for the Knicks this year. They’re owed only one pick – a second rounder that’s top-55 protected – from the Sacramento Kings (via the Boston Celtics) as part of the Nate Robinson trade back in 2010.
This year’s first rounder is going to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal. For once, the Knicks made the right decision in giving that pick away, although that’ll be hard to justify if Anthony walks this summer.
Just because the Knicks are currently out of the first round, doesn’t mean they can’t buy their way in. The NBA permits teams to pay up to $3 million in exchange for a draft pick, and many teams that don’t want to guarantee a contract to anyone selected at the end of the first round are willing to do so. Most recently, New York acquired Toney Douglas this way, and while he never panned out into a major contributor, he became a solid rotation player for a few years. Spending a little cash is a low risk, high reward way to find some young talent, especially when you’re pockets are as deep as James Dolan’s are.
Carmelo Anthony Situation
Priority number one, two, and three is getting Carmelo Anthony to re-sign. There isn’t necessarily a long line of suitors waiting to rescue him away from the Knicks, but last week’s announcement of a $5 million increase of the salary cap will make it that much easier for New York’s competitors to fit him into their plans.
The Chicago Bulls are the most realistic threat to add Anthony’s services. Melo has had rumored interest in Tom Thbodeau’s system, and although Thibs usually prefers two way players, it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t make an exception for a talent of Melo’s caliber. The Bulls have had some serious offensive issues over the past couple seasons, especially with Rose’s injury woes, and Anthony would be able to change that from the second he set foot in Chicago. The promise of a trio consisting of Anthony, Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah would be hard for the Knicks to match.
As of now, the only other team to keep an eye on is the Houston Rockets. Houston would need to move the contracts of Jeremy Lin and/or Omer Asik in order to create enough space for Melo, and that isn’t going to happen unless they include Chandler Parsons in the package, so time will tell if they’re willing to do so. If they are able to shed some salary, a big three of James Harden, Dwight Howard, and himself may be too enticing for Anthony to pass up.
One thing that Melo has made clear is that he isn’t going to leave New York for another rebuilding project, so I think it’s safe to scratch the Lakers off of his list.
New York Knicks Free Agents
Unrestricted - Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Cole Aldrich
Restricted - Toure’ Murry, Jeremy Tyler
Top Available Free Agents
Unrestricted - Kyle Lowry, Lance Stephenson, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Luol Deng, Rudy Gay, Marcin Gortat
Restricted - Eric Bledsoe, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley
The Knicks don’t really have much room to maneuver this summer, but if Anthony leaves and Phil Jackson is able to move some contracts around, the 2014-15 New York Knicks could wind up looking vastly different than this year’s squad.
Because adding Lamar Odom and considering Derek Fisher for a front office position wasn’t enough Laker blood for Jackson, he’s rumored to have interest in signing Pau Gasol. The two-time NBA champion has seen better days, but Phil said that he’s looking to add players at value, and at 32 years old, Gasol should still have more left in the tank. He battled injuries and a nasty case of vertigo at the end of this past season, so he may come on the cheap. If it’s for a less-than-max contract, sign me up.
Aside from that, it’s hard to predict what the Knicks are going to do come July. It’s hard to see them keeping Tyson Chandler around given his voiced displeasure of playing for a non-contender, and armed with the expiring contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani as well, the Knicks could have a lot of moving parts. Right now, it’s too early to tell.
Dates have not yet been announced for this season’s Vegas Summer League, but since this year’s draft is being hyped up as one of the best in recent memory, it will certainly be an interesting watch. Unfortunately, the Knicks won’t be a major factor with the incoming rookies.
Last year’s team unearthed Toure’ Murry, and Jeremy Tyler from the depths of the D-League and gave us our first glimpse at Tim Hardaway Jr. If Murry and Tyler are re-signed over the summer, you can bet that they’ll be back in Vegas once again. Given his defensive deficiencies, I wouldn’t be opposed if Hardaway Jr. joined them, and since the team forced Iman Shumpert there last year, it would hardly be surprising to see them have THJ risk injury for some slight improvement opportunities as well.