The New York Knicks: Where do they go from here?

It’s been (another) tough season for Knicks fans. One of the most exciting NBA Trade Deadlines ever passed the other day and the Knicks were unfortunately not major players. Earlier this week they bought out the rest of Amar’e Stoudemire’s (Best of luck Stat!) former $100 million contract as he moved to the title hopeful Mavericks.  On Thursday their franchise player Carmelo Anthony had knee surgery that should see him sidelined for 4-6 months. As of February 20, the Knicks are the worst team in the NBA with a 10-43 record and could very possibly go winless over their last 30 games. Only Melo is left from the 53-win team that made the playoffs just two years ago. Sad times in New York.

On the bright side, they are the favorites to win the draft lottery this year (play with this to see how many times the Knicks don’t win). But as the Cavs seem to prove every year, you can’t put all your eggs in that basket. My guess is that there will be 3 other really good prospects besides Jahlil Okafor, the Knicks will end up with the 5th pick in the draft, and then draft Jordan Hill once again. So is the way it goes. Anywho, I’m going to do a quick evaluation of the current roster, salary space, and future draft picks. Hopefully there will be some positive takeaways as the Knicks head towards the offseason.

Paper bag wearing-Knicks fans sit in the Dolans’ seats (source: SI)

Current Roster

  • Carmelo Anthony: Signed a 5 year max contract with the team last offseason, but recently received knee surgery to repair his left patella tendon. Despite a down season, he still is far and away the best player on the Knicks as a high volume scorer and will be the face of the franchise for years to come (unless we get Jahlil!!!).
  • Andrea Bargnani: Ugh. Why? Bargs is a 7 foot tall jump shooter who doesn’t play defense and only rebounds when he sees fit. However, he isn’t a completely useless big man. He’ll occasionally throw a 30 point-12 rebound game out there, and then average 8 points and 2 rebounds while shooting 2-9 from the floor over the 10 that follow. Oh yea, he’s also making $12 million this year. He’ll be gone come next season, unless he resigns for vet’s minimum, but there’s a good chance he won’t even be in the NBA.
  • Jose Calderon: EL CONTADOR. I actually like Calderon, he’s an efficient scorer (hitting 43% from deep), a good (and conservative) passer, and a solid PG that can somewhat run the triangle/pick & roll. He’s under contract for the next 2 seasons making roughly a reasonable $7.5 per. On the down side, he’s 33 and a poor defender, so unless the Knicks make a quick turnaround next season, I think his services would be better suited on a contending team (future trade-chip).
  • Cole Aldrich: Despite air-balling roughly 1 hook-shot a game, Aldrich has some redeemable qualities. He can sometimes finish off the pick & roll, is an okay post defender, can block shots, and rebound (has an 18.2 Total rebound %, which cracks the top 20 among big men). He also still has some time to grow as he’s just 26. On the downside, he does not have much of an offensive game, larger centers often have their way with him, and he often gets lost on the court. He’s making the vet’s minimum and he’s only on a 1 year deal, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him back in a Knicks uniform next year.
  • Quincy Acy: I honestly thought he was like 35 when I found out he was traded to the Knicks last year. So imagine my surprise when I find out he’s only 24. Acy is a big body hybrid that can play both the 3 and 4. He’s a  mean defender that brings lots of energy to the team, and can also hit the occasional three. With that said, he isn’t anything special. He has a team option for $1.1 million next year and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in an off the bench role, even if he doesn’t fit into the triangle very well.
  • Louis Amundson: “Louie The Bun King” as they call him (I wish). We got him a little ways back as apart of the Shump-JR trade with the Cavs. He’s a hustle guy usually fitted to be the 4th or 5th big man on playoff teams. So I’m fine with him showcasing his off-ball screens and scrappy rebounds here in the hopes a real NBA team notices it and snags him in the offseason. Very little chance he’ll be back next year, but I wish him the best.
  • Jason Smith: Lotta white guys on this team huh? He’s very reminiscent of Bargs in that he’s 7 feet tall, likes to shoot, and is a sub-par rebounder/defender. However, he’s deadly from long 2s, I mean just look at that left side (see below). We used our mini-mid level exception to sign him this past offseason and I don’t see him back with the team next year.
That left side though
That left side though
  • Shane Larkin: Eh, he’s not his dad that’s for sure. He’s 22, but he’s vastly undersized (like literally my height). He has some creative play-making ability, but IMO he looks scared when on the court. He’s only under contract until the end of the season and I’d imagine Phil will try to bring him back for next year on the minimum, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we move on.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr: Also not his dad, but definitely better than the previous dude. Hardaway might be the second best player on this team, and that says less about him and more about the roster itself. He’s a decent scorer, but needs someone like Melo on the floor to be most effective. On the other hand, he might actually be the worst defender on the team (EDIT: Nope, actually might the worst in the NBA according to BB Reference’s Defensive Rating stat, see chart below). He’s 6’6 and has good length, but is often stagnant on O, and has yet to find his role in the traingle. Timmy is 22 though and under contract for next year, so he’s got some time to work it out.
Yeesh
Yeesh
  • Langston Galloway: LANG-SANITY. Only difference between him and Lin was his hype lasted about 4 games (and he’s not as good). He’s only 6’2, but he ran the triangle in college and the boy can shoot. He has a player option for next year that will most definitely be picked up and I look forward to watching him grow in a Knicks uniform.
  • Cleanthony Early: Knicks second round pick last year. I’ve seen him play twice and haven’t picked up on much. He’s under contract for next season so let’s hope he pans out!
  • Travis Wear: Undrafted rookie wing player. He’s alright considering we have such low expectations. He can sometimes defend on the wing and hit the occasional jumper. He’s also 6’10 so he can help defend larger 3s, but he’s very raw and like Aldrich, often gets lost on the court. He’s also 24 and has a player option for next year I would like to see renewed.
  • Alexey Shved: Newly acquired 2 guard by the Knicks who can’t really shoot or defend very well. He’s been traded three times in the past season, and Houston had to package in two 2nds for us to take him. With one of those teams being very analytical oriented and another being the Sixers, I can’t imagine he’s too good (career box plus/minus of -2.3). He’s a restricted FA and his qualifying offer is for nearly $4 million, and I don’t see us trying to retain his services. He’ll probably be back in Europe by summer time. The following tweet sums it up pretty well:

  • Lance Thomas: Bounced around the NBA and the D-League over the past couple of years. Like Early, I haven’t seen much of him, but he’s 26 and has some size. Could be an end of the bench/4th wing player. Expect him to be in Knicks camp if not back on the vet’s minimum, but he’s a fringe NBA player and I won’t be upset if he’s gone by next season.

Salary Space

For those who don’t know, the NBA salary cap is determined by a formula based on league-wide revenues with players receiving 50% of all basketball-related income. The 2015-2016 salary cap is expected to be $66.3 million and the luxury tax line will probably be just shy of $80 million. That cap number will then jump up to somewhere between $80-90 million in 2016-2017 when the new TV deal kicks in. As you can see from the HoopsHype chart below, as of now the Knicks only have $32,427,391 tied in salary between 4 players.

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 7.17.43 PM

If they extend the player options to Acy, Wear, and Galloway, they will have $35,498,857 tied up between seven players. So that leaves the Knicks about $31.8 million in cap space this offseason if they decide to go this route. Here’s a list of expected free agents for this upcoming summer and the Knicks will likely be candidates to make a splash for a couple of those guys.

Future Drafts

Woof. James Dolan is the worst. The Bargnani and Melo trades hurt this team in so many ways. Not sure there is a team out there lacking assets as much as the Knicks are right now. Let’s take a look at what the Knicks have in terms of draft picks over the next few years (data pulled from RealGM):

  • 2015: We have our own first round pick, the Rockets own our second round pick.
  • 2016: Raptors own our first round pick (Dolan traded this for Bargs), Rockets again have our second round pick.
  • 2017: We own the first round pick (yay!), our second round pick is going to Utah, but we got one back from Houston.
  • 2018: We own our first again, the Sixers have our second rounder and I think we have one from the Clippers
  • 2019: We once again own our first, the Sixers have our second, and we have another second from Houston and OKC.

All aboard for Okafor!

It’s not a bright immediate future for the Knicks. The team has an aging star coming off a pretty major knee surgery, the roster is nearly barren, and all of the youth is surrounded by question marks. It’s not a good time to be severely lacking draft picks, and with the exception of Calderon it seems unlikely they can trade for one. In an ideal world they strike gold in the draft, and don’t overspend in free agency while still compiling talent. That way they have a talented and coveted asset on a rookie deal, a solid roster with multiple scoring options, and financial flexibility for the future. Fear not fellow Knick fans, let’s just hope that we can one day look back on this season as an anomaly.

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