The New York Knicks still have four games to play out in this forgettable 2013-14 NBA season. Though they’re not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they’d have win out while playing playoff opponents while hoping that the Atlanta Hawks lose with an easier schedule. It’s pretty much over, folks.
So, as the Knicks prepare to wrap up their season, their uncertain future hangs in the air. After all, this season, despite disappointing results, has still been a fairly monumental one. It has long stood as the possible final season of Carmelo Anthony’s Knicks career as he prepares to test free agency this summer. Phil Jackson’s arrival also has taken the franchise for a turn that people just didn’t see coming.
So, what’s next?
Anthony’s free agency will likely be the primary focus of this offseason. However, the Knicks still have other roster decisions to make, depending on how Anthony’s free agency plays out, and that all says nothing of the coaching decision that must be addressed, too.
With a busy summer in the future, here’s a look at some players that could figure into the Knicks’ long term plans. This list consists of players Knicks’ management will want to keep around — not just players they’ll be stuck with for contract purposes.
Phil Jackson has stated that he believes Anthony is a building-block player and a guy who has yet to reach his top level of play. Combined with the Knicks’ refusal to trade ‘Melo in case he bolts this summer, it’s pretty clear New York is going to make a pitch to keep him with the team. But at what price? Jackson and the Knicks will have to tiptoe the line of making Anthony feel wanted, but not with a $129-million price tag. To put it simply: it’s impossible to build a contending team when 1/3 of a team’s cap space is taken by one player.
Still, if Jackson can get Anthony a coach he respects, with quality surrounding talent and an innovative system, ‘Melo has proven he’s capable of bringing his game to the next level. At the right price, Anthony is a part of this team’s future.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway Jr. has had a solid rookie season overall. He has several weaknesses in his game, and he’s prone to shooting slumps, but that’s to be expected of a rookie. What Hardaway has shown is elite NBA athleticism, solid shooting ability, and a knack for getting hot from beyond the arc. He can spread the floor, take the ball to the hoop, and finish at an extremely high rate in transition. All of that in addition to a rookie salary, and Hardaway Jr. will certainly play on this team for the near future.
Several rumors have come out since Phil Jackson’s arrival that Jackson sees Shumpert as a player to keep around. Despite a disappointing season from Shump, he’s still shown flashes of the player he can be. In his best games this season, he’s been a deadly knock-down shooter, a defensive pest to ball-handlers, a solid wing rebounder, and a guy who can create his own shot when need be. It’s up to Jackson and a future coach to harness this talent consistently.
Tyler has fallen out of the Knicks’ rotation, but with just four games to go, the Knicks should get him some more playing time to see what he can do. When he first cracked the regular rotation, Tyler looked like an athletic big man who would attack the boards, hit the short jumper, and possibly create a shot for himself. However, at his worst, he looked like a defensive sieve who stopped the ball too often to try and score for himself. Still, as just a cheap, 22-year old, the Knicks would be foolish to turn away from Tyler without seeing more of what he can do.
Chandler, to me, remains the Knicks’ biggest question mark. When the team was nothing more than a big sack of sad in February and early March, Chandler looked visibly frustrated and defeated; he wanted out. But with the Knicks’ resurgence, Chandler has mostly looked motivated on the defensive end again, while also playing that valuable role as the pick-and-roll centerpiece for the offense. If the Knicks pursue a triangle-based coach and system, Chandler doesn’t really fit in, but can the Knicks really find a better center elsewhere?
Prigioni has quietly had an efficient season for the Knicks, despite his utterly unremarkable per-game statistics. At 37-years old, will he want to continue playing in the NBA? It’s tough to say, as this year he’s actually seen an increase in minutes while fighting through some losing that he’s unaccustomed to. However, Prigioni is almost a perfect back-up point guard in his ability to dictate the pace, find shooters, operate in the pick-and-roll, and pester opposing guards. Jackson has surely noticed these things in his time with the Knicks, and if Prigioni is willing to play out his contract, the Knicks would surely like to keep him.
Players the Knicks are stuck with and unlikely to move:
– Amar’e Stoudemire: Stoudemire is 33-years old, injury prone, and on a $22-million expiring contract. However, if there’s somebody to be moved, STAT’s strong finish to the season might make him a valuable, potentially tradeable expiring contract.
– J.R. Smith: Smith’s had a strong finish to the season, too, and he’s on a reasonable contract. But the Knicks will have to showcase a longer period of consistent good play and behavior before another team is willing to take him.
– Andrea Bargnani: We’ve almost forgotten about poor Bargs, haven’t we? Coming off a torn ligament in his elbow while still making $12 million per year? Good luck, Knicks.