The New York Knicks had their most successful season in over a decade. The Knicks roster was comprised of the NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony and the NBA 6th Man of the Year J.R. Smith! Despite Amar’e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and Iman Shumpert missing huge chunks of the season due to injuries as well as almost every other player on the roster missing games throughout the season due to some type of injury (Kurt Thomas was injured toward the end of the season causing him to get released and Rasheed Wallace’s injury caused him to retire) the Knicks were still able to flourish under Mike Woodson and ended up being the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. This set them up for a 1st round battle with heated rivals the 7th seeded Boston Celtics. The Knicks jumped out to an impressive 3-0 series lead. Late in game 3 J.R. Smith threw an elbow at Jason Terry. Smith would be suspended for game 4, which the Knicks ended up losing, and would be mired in an awful shooting slump for the rest of the playoffs. The Knicks beat the Celtics in 6 and moved on to the second round for the first time in 13 years! In the 2nd round the Knicks were up against a tough Indiana Pacers team that were the #3 seed in the East. The Pacers proved to be bigger, stronger and better than the Knicks who ended up losing in 6 games.
“We are only going to get better” ~ Carmelo Anthony
But how will the Knicks get better? Some key players for the Knicks are free agents this summer. Will they be able to sign them back? 6th Man of the Year and a huge part to the Knicks regular season success J.R. Smith will be one of the free agents on the team. J.R. averaged a career high 18.1 points per game. Earl Smith III says he wants to be a New York Knick for the rest of his career and it might be a smart career decision since Head Coach Mike Woodson seems to bring the best out of J.R. Although he wants to stay with the team he most likely will be able to make a lot more money somewhere else. Due to lack of cap space the Knicks could only offer Smith a 4 year contract worth around anywhere from 20 – 24 million. I’m sure a lot of other teams will be going after the elusive scorer during the free agency period this summer but Smith’s poor play in the Playoffs might scare some of them off which might in turn help the Knicks chances of signing him. J.R. is originally from New Jersey so if he signs back with the Knicks he’ll be close to home and there’s no better place to play in the NBA then Madison Square Garden! This should have became evident to J.R. when he checked in to game 5 of the Knicks / Pacers series and the crowd gave him a standing ovation despite him playing horrible and even admitting that the reason the Knicks were losing the series was because of him. New York loves J.R., J.R. loves New York. Hopefully they can get a deal done to bring him back. Earl Smith III is not the only free agent the Knicks have to worry about……….
Restricted – Chris Copeland, Pablo Prigioni
Unrestricted - Earl Barron, Kenyon Martin, Quentin Richardson, J.R. Smith
Under Contract w/ New York Knicks 2013 – 2014
Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire, James White
Center – Knicks need a good backup to relieve Chandler when he sits down. A healthy Marcus Camby could be able to help the Knicks at this spot. As seen in the Pacers series the bigger Centers in the league like Roy Hibbert were just too much for STAT and Kenyon Martin to handle. A big man that has a low post game would be nice. Many times throughout the season we saw the Knicks rely too much on jump shots coming from isolation. An offensive presence down low could help the team immensely.
Unrestricted Free Agent Centers that could help the Knicks – Zaza Pachulia (Atlanta Hawks), Andray Blatche (Brooklyn Nets), Nazr Mohammed (Chicago Bulls), Chirs Kaman (Dallas Mavericks), Jermaine O’Neal (Phoenix Suns), Josh Harrelson (No NBA team)
The Knicks don’t have a lot of money to spend so if they do get a big man in free agency I’m not expecting them to spend a lot on him. Even some of these players might be asking for more money than the Knicks would be comfortable giving them. Injury concerns have been a problem for most of these guys in the past, for Blatche it was character and fitness issues in Washington but he played good for Brooklyn last season. The safest bet might be to bring back one of the former Knicks in Nazr Mohammed or Josh Harrellson. Any of the guys listed above could help the Knicks. Price will probably determine if the Knicks will have any interest in them. The cheaper the better.
Power Forward – Carmelo will most likely be starting at the Power Forward position next season. Going against the bigger Power Forwards in the league such as David West of the Indiana Pacers will be difficult for Melo so you need someone off the bench that could come in and drop Melo to the Small Forward spot for those type of scenarios. Most likely this will be the role of Amar’e Stoudemire. STAT did good when he was on the floor this season but unfortunately due to injuries that wasn’t too many games. Since Stoudemire’s injury prone the Knicks need a back up plan. Kenyon Martin did an excellent job in this role last season but he is an unrestricted free agent. If the Knicks could get him cheap they should bring him back if not they should look to try to get a similar type player on the market.
Unrestricted Free Agent Power Forwards that could help the Knicks - Josh McRoberts (Charlotte Bobcats), Marreese Speights (Cleveland Cavaliers), Elton Brand (Dallas Mavericks), Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Clippers), Earl Clark (Los Angeles Lakers)
Most of these players are also probably out of the Knicks price range but if they should at least see what their asking for. Odom and Clark are from around the area and Brand was born in the state. Who knows, that might allow the Knicks to get one of these guys at a bargain price.
Shooting Guard or Small Forward – The Knicks need offense. J.R. and Copeland are two of their better scorers and are both free agents. Copeland is a restricted and you would think he would be back with the team but then again that’s what I thought about Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields last season. Both those players were given offers from other teams that were too high for the Knicks to match. This could happen again with Chris Copeland this off-season. Hopefully for the Knicks it doesn’t. Copeland worked hard to get to the NBA and proved this season he could be a game changer. Knicks fans also don’t want to part with J.R. but losing him is also a possibility so who else is out there that could score on the free agent market that would could be within the Knicks price range?
Unrestricted Free Agent Scorers that could help the Knicks – Nate Robinson (Chicago Bulls), O.J. Mayo (Dallas Mavericks), Nick Young (Philadelphia 76ers), Martell Webster (Washington Wizards), Leandro Barbosa (Washington Wizards), Chris Douglas-Roberts (No NBA team), Gary Forbes (No NBA team), Shawne Williams (No NBA team)
If everything works out and the Knicks re-sign both J.R. and Copeland then they won’t have to look at anybody on the list. If Copeland ends up with another team I could see Webster, Williams or Douglas-Roberts doing a pretty good job of replacing him. If J.R. leaves O.J. Mayo would be the best replacement for him but he too might be out of the Knicks price range. How bout Nate Robinson? Once a Knick, Always a Knick? Felton and Kidd played a lot of the 2 guard position throughout the year, if Nate is signed back that would most likely be their permanent spot as Pablo and Nate would be guarding the Point Guards in what would be a small back court. Nate could come at a decent price and would be much needed offense for the Knicks if J.R. ends up on another team.
The Knicks also have the 24th pick in the 1st round of the NBA Draft as well as the options of making trades. With a sign and trade the Knicks would be able to be in the hunt for big time free agents such as Point Guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, Guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis of the Milwaukee Bucks, Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs or someone like Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks. Things would have to work out right for a big trade like that to happen which will be hard since the assets the Knicks have are the players that they really need going forward. A sign and trade to get one of these players would be really hard to complete but its not impossible. The Knicks are looking to get better and what they do this off-season could determine whether they are one of the elite teams in the league or not.
~ S. Colon @kingofstowe