Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise as the summer approaches.
It doesn’t appear that team president Phil Jackson is feeling any particular urgency to finalize his decision on who will lead the team next season, with a number of top candidates already landing new posts seemingly without any push from New York to schedule formal interviews. Jackson is said to favor retaining interim coach Kurt Rambis, who is intimately familiar with the triangle offense, a move that would fail to inspire much excitement given Rambis’ career coaching record of 65-164. The team is also reportedly considering former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, who met with the Knicks this week.
New York’s coaching search could become a point of contention between the front office and star forward Carmelo Anthony, who has publicly called for the team to at least listen to candidates other than Rambis. Anthony reportedly preferred Tom Thibodeau, who’s since become the coach and chief front office executive for the Timberwolves. Jackson was nonetheless disinterested in Thibodeau, and the Knicks didn’t contact him, as ESPN’s Ian Begley reported.
Carmelo Anthony’s Future
It would appear that we are entering a make-or-break offseason regarding Anthony and his future with the franchise. The small forward has thus far rebuffed any talk of him waiving his no-trade clause in order to be dealt to a contender this summer, though things could change in a hurry if the Knicks strike out in the free agent market. Anthony reportedly made it clear to the team in his exit interview that it needs to take advantage of the “window that he has” when making personnel moves this offseason.
If New York is unable to land a star player to pair alongside Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, who is arguably a bigger draw for potential free agents than ‘Melo nowadays, then it may be in everyone’s best interests to try and find a new team for the small forward. ‘Melo is 31 years old and has entered his decline phase, so finding a way to get him and the remaining three years and approximately $78.7MM of his contract off the books could be an attractive option for New York, especially given the projected quality of the 2017 free agent class.
Free Agent Targets
The Knicks’ biggest need is for a competent point guard who can take some pressure off Anthony and Porzingis, preferably one who can stretch the floor with his outside shooting. Jackson has minimized the importance of a traditional playmaker in the triangle offense, but with today’s guard-oriented NBA, having a solid point guard is vital to any team’s success. The top two point guards available via free agency are Rajon Rondo and Mike Conley, either of whom would be a major upgrade over the cast of characters New York has trotted out at the point the past few seasons.
Conley, 28, is the younger of the two, and he’s arguably a better option for the Knicks than Rondo is. The Knicks aren’t as high on Conley as they were during the season, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, who noted Jackson’s lack of emphasis on the one spot and the executive’s belief in Tony Wroten, who has yet to play a minute for the Knicks since being signed. Conley is no lock to leave Memphis, but even if he does, his nagging Achilles concerns should give the team pause when thinking about handing out a max deal to the talented playmaker. Rondo would bring with him a new set of concerns, chiefly his lack of outside shooting, advancing age and reputation for being difficult to coach. If New York could swing a short-term deal with Rondo, he would be an intriguing option, though his addition would need to be supplemented with a backcourt mate who can consistently nail his outside shots.
Outside of Anthony, and assuming Porzingis is untouchable (as he should be), the Knicks don’t have much in the way of tradeable assets. Jose Calderon could be a valuable bench player on a contender, but teams likely won’t be lining up to ship anything of substance to the Knicks in return for the aging guard whose production has steadily been in decline since he arrived in New York.
If the Knicks are unable to sign a point guard this summer, the team could look to acquire one, with the Hawks’ Dennis Schröder and Jeff Teague as well as the Kings’ Darren Collison being prime targets. It’s doubtful New York has enough assets to land either of Atlanta’s playmakers, but Collison is perhaps within the team’s means to obtain. The Knicks have reportedly discussed the possibility of making a play for Collison, but it is difficult to gauge what the Kings’ plan is for anyone on the roster until Sacramento names its new head coach.
The Knicks are without a pick this June, which is the final penance the franchise will need to pay from its ill-advised trade with the Raptors for Andrea Bargnani back in 2013. New York’s pick is currently projected to be No. 7 overall, though the Nuggets will swap their pick for the Knicks’ if New York’s ends up higher than Denver’s after the lottery. Toronto gets whichever pick the Nuggets don’t take. Jackson could look to buy a second-round pick, but it’s doubtful that would yield an immediate rotation piece.
Much of the Knicks’ offseason cap flexibility depends on the decisions made by Arron Afflalo ($8MM) and Derrick Williams ($4,598,000), both of whom possess player options on their respective deals. If both opt out, the Knicks could ink two upper-tier free agents instead of just one. Afflalo is likely to opt out given his dissatisfaction with being relegated to a bench role and the team’s indication that he would again be a reserve if he returns next season. Williams has signaled that he would like to remain in New York, though it isn’t clear if he intends to exercise his option to do so or decline it and attempt to sign a new deal with the team.
To say this is a pivotal offseason for the Knicks franchise is an understatement. If Jackson is unable to score big on the free agent market this summer, it could mean the end of Anthony’s tenure in New York and usher in a complete rebuild of the team. Although, that may not be the worst thing that could happen, given that the Knicks, barring some unexpected turn of events, are unlikely to become true contenders before age and wear begin to take a significant toll on Anthony’s game. Whiffing on landing a noteworthy free agent haul could also push Jackson out the door sooner than intended, though given his seemingly laissez-faire approach, that also could be a boon for the franchise in the long run.
- Carmelo Anthony ($24,559,380)
- Robin Lopez ($13,219,250)
- Jose Calderon ($7,708,427)1
- Kristaps Porzingis ($4,317,720)
- Kyle O’Quinn ($3,918,750)
- Jerian Grant ($1,643,040)
- Total: $55,366,567
- Tony Wroten ($1,050,961)
- Langston Galloway ($2,725,003/$2,725,003)
- Cleanthony Early ($1,180,431/$1,180,431)
- Totals: ($3,905,434/$3,905,434)
Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)
- Arron Afflalo ($9,600,000) — Pending player option
- Derrick Williams ($5,280,000) — Pending player option
- Kevin Seraphin ($3,376,800)
- Lance Thomas ($2,127,895)
- Lou Amundson ($2,126,119)
- Sasha Vujacic ($980,431)
- Total: $23,491,245
Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000
- Waiving Calderon via the stretch provision, a maneuver that’s been the subject of much speculation, would reduce his salary for next season to $2,569,475.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.