With the Knicks’ 2011-12 season terminated and their offseason effectively underway, the remaining NBA teams focus on the playoffs while the Knicks focus on their future. And the future remains clouded. For all of the excitement, disappointment, bewilderment of the Knicks’ season, the team still is very much incomplete. At full health, the Knicks looked like a borderline elite team in the East, with a ton of depth and versatility. At the lowest points, injuries playing a part, the Knicks looked shallow with players that just didn’t fit together – I don’t think we need to say who.
With much of the Knicks roster heading towards free agency this summer, questions linger as to where the team is headed in the future. The core of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler is locked up for the next few years, but thus far that trio has proven to be incomplete, needing assistance to efficiently function on the offensive end. For many people, that answer lies at the point guard position.
In an interview with ESPN New York radio, Jared Jeffries echoed these sentiments:
“We gotta have a point guard. I think that a point guard that demands the respect of [Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire] will do a lot better. I think you had some of that with Chauncey [Billups]… he was able to get them in the right spots, and able to kind of distribute shots for both of them. So, I think the big key is for Jeremy [Lin] to take the next step as a point guard, he has to command the ball, have control of the offense, and get guys in the right spots.”
While Jeffries expressed full confidence in Lin, he also wouldn’t go as far as to say the Knicks shouldn’t sign Lin at the expense of getting a player like Steve Nash, who will be a free agent this summer. Jeffries cited that he couldn’t see someone like Nash taking the veteran’s minimum to play in New York, but the Knicks also have the mid-level exception (MLE) which has been assumed will go to Lin.
While Mike Woodson (who might have his interim title taken off soon) seemed to express little doubt that Lin would be back next season, Lin didn’t sound so sure. Lin admitted that he’d like to be back with the Knicks, but also said that “it’s a business” and “crazy things happen”.
To some, Jeremy’s brief, but exciting stint as starting point guard (25 games) is inconclusive. Though his stats are impressive – 18.2 points, 7.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 2 steals per game – there is a worry that locking up Lin long term with such a small sample size (surely somewhat fueled by adrenaline) could be a mistake. Especially when spending money will be so tight for the Knicks. Take into account that free agents like J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, and Jared Jeffries all can earn bigger contracts from other teams, there is a worry that utilizing the largest chunk of spending money on Lin would be investing in a somewhat unknown product.
There are multiple options regarding Lin, though, some of which Alan Hahn outlined in his latest Fix. The most conceivable would be to convince Lin to take part of the MLE (which is about $5 million in total) and use the remainder to sign one of the above-mentioned free agents. Marc Berman of the New York Post recently mentioned names such as Raymond Felton, Kirk Hinrich, Ramon Sessions, Jonny Flynn, among others, as point guards the Knicks would try to steal this offseason. In a perfect world, the Knicks could convince Lin to take his qualifying offer (just over $1 million) and use the full MLE to lure Nash into New York.
The Knicks hold the right to match any offers that Lin receives from other teams, due to the Gilbert Arenas provision. However, the most devastating prospect would be that the Knicks would be forced to match a big offer from a spiteful team (I’m looking at you,
New Jersey Brooklyn Nets!) and end up overpaying Lin or losing him.
So, much of the offseason represents a gamble. Can the Knicks trust what they saw from Lin in February and March and invest in him for the future? Or do they go into “win-now” mode and shoot for the shiny, attractive toy, Steve Nash? Either way, Jeremy Lin and the point guard position will dictate the future of the Knicks.