The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, examines the off-season plans for teams that didn’t make the postseason.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
Block out the noise
Did success and unrealistic expectations early in the season happen too quickly for a Knicks team that won 17 games in 2014-15? People seemed to forget that last year’s team resembled a minor-league squad, and management was working from the ground level during free agency.
Unfortunately, the NBA is a results-oriented endeavor, and New York will be remembered as a team that hovered around .500 at the end of January but ended the season on a 10-28 slide.
Go outside the tree
Sometimes stubbornness can lead to failure. If New York wants to succeed in its rebuild, it will need to find a coach and staff outside Phil Jackson’s coaching tree.
The list of Jackson disciples who have failed is overwhelming: Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright, Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen, Derek Fisher and current Knicks interim head coach Kurt Rambis.
Finding the right coach this offseason will be Phil Jackson’s biggest move during his tenure leading New York.
Take the temperature on ’Melo
If Carmelo Anthony waives his no-trade clause this summer that does not guarantee he’ll be traded. Although Anthony still has value around the league, executives feel the package New York would receive would be a watered-down version of the assets New York sent out in 2011 to acquire Anthony.
Even with a rising salary cap there are several factors when it comes to evaluating Anthony’s value.
Anthony, who’ll turn 32 in October, is still owed $24.5 million, $26.2 million and $27.9 million (player option) over the next three seasons. Anthony would also be owed $9 million in a trade bonus if he were traded. New York would pay the trade bonus, but the receiving team would take the salary-cap hit. So for 2016-17 and 2017-18, the new team would have a cap hit of $29 million and $31million, large numbers even with a projected $92 million salary cap in 2016-17.
There is also is the durability issue. Anthony, who missed half the 2014-15 season with a left knee injury, has not played a full season since his rookie year in Denver.
Add a second floor
The foundation was set when the Knicks drafted Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant and Willy Hernangomez last June, and the “first floor” was finished three weeks later with the free-agent signing of Robin Lopez.
Now comes the hard part for Knicks management. It must make the pieces work while adding a “second floor” of talent. The Knicks must continue to get better while also having some roster stability and flexibility.
Find the right coach
New York needs to find its next head coach before any roster issues are addressed this summer. Once a coach is in place, the philosophy and style of play will dictate the direction the Knicks go.
Build a bench
Other than Grant and Kyle O’Quinn, the bench is bare. New York is in dire need of backups at shooting guard, small forward and power forward. How the Knicks fill out the bench will depend on Afflalo and Derrick Williams, who can each opt out. If both players enter free agency, New York’s cap space will increase substantially to address those needs.
Identify the right point by being frugal
Because of a thin free-agent point-guard market, the wrong approach would be to throw substantial money at a short-term fix. Although the NBA is now a point-guard driven league, New York shouldn’t panic if it strikes out in free agency.
Get more athletic at two guard
Although there is a glaring need at point guard, the most pressing need for New York is getting more athletic at starting and backup shooting guard. If Arron Afflalo (player option) returns, the best solution would be to have him come off the bench and slide to small forward.
1. Carmelo Anthony
No-trade clause/trade bonus
2. Robin Lopez
3. Arron Afflalo
4. Jose Calderon
5. Derrick Williams
6. Kristaps Porzingis
7. Kyle O'Quinn
8. Jerian Grant
9. Tony Wroten
FA cap holds
10. Kevin Seraphin
11. Lance Thomas
Early Bird rights
12. Lou Amundson
Early Bird rights
13. Sasha Vujacic
14. Cleanthony Early
Early Bird rights
15. Langston Galloway
FA cap holds
PROJECTED CAP SPACE
The Knicks’ cap situation is fluid because of the options of Afflalo and Williams and free-agent cap holds on Lance Thomas and Langston Galloway.
Afflalo and Williams opting out does not open cap space right away. Both players will have a higher free-agent hold, and cap flexibility will only open if either player signs with a new team or is renounced.
New York could have as little as $12 million in room or as much as $35 million, depending on what the Knicks decide.
The most realistic option is $30 million in room with only Thomas and Galloway as free-agent holds against the cap.
JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: To Denver or Toronto
Second round: To Houston
Own all first-round picks starting in 2017
Key rights to: Willy Hernangomez (No. 36 pick, 2015); Louis Labeyrie (No. 57 pick, 2014)
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