Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New York Knicks' 2011 Offseason

As of now the New York Knicks' Depth Chart is projected to resemble this outline:

PG: Chauncey Billups / Toney Douglas
SG: Landry Fields / Bill Walker / Iman Shumpert / Andy Rautins
SF: Carmelo Anthony / Renaldo Balkman
PF: Amare Stoudemire
C: Ronny Turiaf / Josh Harrellson

The majority of minutes will be given to the starters as we saw last season. Stoudemire and Anthony each averaged over 36 minutes with the Knicks. Billups and Fields averaged at least 31 minutes per game. This will appropriately leave most of the focus on the bench and the center position. There are four keys to the Knicks' offseason in terms of roster moves.

First and foremost, the Knicks need to continue to avoid entangling contracts. Donnie Walsh rightfully made it a priority to eliminate the burdensome contracts of the Isiah Thomas era. This precedent must be followed if the Knicks want to avoid the contract fiascoes that kept them in the cellar during the past decade. It is imperative that management sticks to one year deals and small multi year contracts when acquiring role players next season. I believe veteran one year deals is the best route for the Knicks this offseason, but if the right players falls into the Knicks' lap for the right price I am not opposed to a low figured multi year deal. The Knicks should not try to outbid anyone this offseason. The CBA (and therefore the salary cap) are currently in a uncertain situation, so the Knicks must preserve as much room for the acquisition of an elite point guard as possible.

Given that, the first target should be a center who can compete with Ronny Turiaf for the Starting Center role. I am not recommending a high priced center. I am suggesting a player who will compete with Turiaf and allow Coach D'Antoni to start whichever player is performing at a higher level at that time. All of the names that have been rumored around the Knicks so far are acceptable options. The names that have been mentioned alongside the Knicks this offseason have been Kurt Thomas, Kwame Brown, and Aaron Gray. While these three are different types of centers at different points of their careers, each player is looking to prove himself and could assume the niche of rebounder.

The next key falls in line with the previous and it is to either retain or acquire back-up front court players. Shawne Williams is probably the most competent of intra-organizational options. Williams' size and athleticism allowed him to guard twos, threes, fours, and even fives at times which makes him such a compelling player to retain for defensive purposes. Williams also shot well from the wing which is a pivotal part of D'Antoni's fast paced offense as well as an important secondary option which focuses on either Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire trying to draw attention with the basketball and creating shots. Williams' ability to play mostly without the ball could make him a piece the Knicks will look to keep down the road. In addition to Shawne Williams, Sheldon Williams and Jared Jeffries are two players the Knicks may choose to retain to provide front court depth. There are a few intriguing options outside the organization that could be good fits for the Knicks. Four free agents who are likely to be low cost and able to provide rebounding (and possibly even a spark) off the bench are Hilton Armstrong, Jeff Foster, Leon Powe, and Craig Smith. As stated before, the Knicks should keep as many doors open and refrain from settling on one specific player in order to avoid a bidding war.

Lastly, the Knicks should attempt to prepare for a PG Trade. The mold of a trade in which the Knicks acquire an elite point guard is pretty obvious. Chauncey Billups will probably be shipped for salary purposes, while it is almost certain the Knicks will have to part with Landry Fields. Some other pieces that trading partners may demand would be Toney Douglas and, recently acquired, Iman Shumpert. All of the trade-able pieces on the Knicks are guards, so the Knicks may look to stash a veteran guard to unleash as a back-up if a trade does occur. However, this would require the right player at the right price. If a veteran guard such as Anthony Carter is willing to resume such a role with the Knicks, then he would be a great fit for the squad. J.J. Barea said he would not mind joining the Knicks if he does not stay with Dallas, so he would be another great option if he is willing to assume a back-up role with New York.

Hopefully, the players and the owners can settle the CBA quickly so that we can get back to basketball (and some speculation).

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