Sunday, May 13, 2012

What Could Have Been?

In order to cope with the current state of New York Knicks basketball, I decided to make a hypothetical depth chart of what the Knicks may have looked like today if management had retained only draft picks since the 2005 Draft; that is, what the Knicks could have looked like without any trades or signings. While the Knicks seem abysmal in many regards, the one facet that the organization seems to thrive in is drafting. 

Despite the visible increase of support for the Knicks this season, I have found myself disconnected from the Knicks more-so than in previous seasons. I have attributed this to the dynamic nature of the Knicks roster over the course of the last two seasons. Players who I grew up watching such as David Lee, Jamal Crawford, and Nate Robinson are no longer with the organization. While I did not like all the Knick players at first; for example, I immediately turned off the television when the Knicks drafted Danilo Gallinari over D.J. Augustin, and, even as an avid Big-East fan, I questioned the selection of Wilson Chandler. I was able to appreciate these players and accept them as my Knicks overtime. However, none of them are any longer part of the team; thus, I have developed this sentiment of disconnection.

I'd like to note that this is highly unrealistic and even more impractical; however, I feel there is one thing that I have learned to do as a Knicks fan in the 2000s: dream. Dream Big.

Just a few more notes:
1) I have included select unsigned draft picks.
2) I have included players acquired through draft day trades (i.e. Nate Robinson)
3) I have decided to cut Andy Rautins and Mardy Collins.
4) I have included Jeremy Lin; there will be more discussion on this matter later.

Without further adieu, I present the Hypothetical 2012 New York Knicks:
PG: Jeremy Lin / Iman Shumpert / Nate Robinson
SG: Landry Fields / Toney Douglas       
SF: Danilo Gallinari / Wilson Chandler / Renaldo Balkman
PF: David Lee / Jordan Hill / Steve Novak
C: Channing Frye / Timofey Mozgov / Josh Harrellson

As a qualifier I have included each player's current salary as well as the each player's salary for next season where available. This is done to show that this is fiscally possible. The salaries are from Hoopshype, are in millions of dollars, and have been rounded up: Jeremy Lin - 0.8, Iman Shumpert - 1.6 (1.7), Nate Robinson - (1.1), Landry Fields - (0.8), Toney Douglas - 1.2 (2.1), Danilo Gallinari - 4.2 (9.5), Wilson Chandler - 7.4, Renaldo Balkman - 1.7, David Lee - 11.6 (12.5), Jordan Hill - 3.6, Steve Novak - (1.0), Channing Frye - 5.6 (6.0), Timofey Mozgov 2.6 (2.8), and Josh Harrellson (0.5). The total salary is about $42 million for this season and approximately $49.8 for next season. The salary cap is $58 million.

Now my favorite part: the completely unjustified speculation.

First, I would like to highlight the depth and the fluidity of the roster. I think the SF is only position where the rotation is definite; otherwise, the starting SG is interchangeable, and the first and second string for the PG, PF, and C are would all be active battles. Also, most of the players are quite versatile and can play multiple positions, well. As we have seen Shumpert, Douglas, and Robinson are all combo guards. Chandler can defend both guards and forwards. And all of the power forwards and centers can defend the other big position and vice versa with the exception of Steve Novak.

Second, this is a defensively sound squad. In his time this season, Shumpert has shown to be reliable defender. Wilson Chandler is known for his length and defensive prowess. Balkman is considered to be a defensive specialist. Gallinari is one of the most underrated players in terms of athleticism and defensive ability in the NBA. His is also one of the best players at drawing charges. Lee and Harrellson are both extremely hard workers and are two of the craftiest defenders who I have seen. Frye and Mozgov are also two lengthy guys who can keep up with most centers in the league.

Third, this is a fast team with a talented perimeter presence and competent interior game. Almost all of these players have proven to be effective in fast paced schemes whether it was with the Knicks or now with the Warriors, the Nuggets, or the Suns. There is at least one player at each position who is consider a serious threat from beyond the arc. This will allow the squad to spread the floor and force defense to open space. This creates lanes and relaxes interior-help pressure. With an array of three point shooters no lead would be secure. Furthermore, Nate Robinson is one of the highest energy players in the league and has the ability to change the course of any game (for better or worse). The team would have many dynamic scorers; nine of the fourteen players averaged at least 8.8 points per game this season.

Being defensively sound and superior beyond the arc would make closing out this hypothetical squad daunting at the very least. A word that sums up this hypothetical roster quite accurately is dynamic. The word encapsulates the speed, the versatility, and the flexibility of squad.

Fourth, I'd like to discuss the available cap space and Jeremy Lin. Obviously, the Knicks have quite a bit of freedom here. The team could sign a free agent; however, that would deviate from the integrity of this article. Remaining true to the integrity of the article, the Knicks would have to decide if Jeremy Lin can sustain at the level of performance that he played at during the Linsanity craze. If so, then there is plenty of cap space to retain him. If not, the Knicks could have turned to the draft to acquire a different true point guard (because the Knicks would still have their 2012 First Round Pick under this hypothetical situation); at this point, Marquis Teague (of Kentucky) would seem like a reasonable choice at fourteen with the expectation that Kendall Marshall (of North Carolina) would be selected already. Regardless, the Knicks have competent guards and the flexibility to improve at the point guard position.

Lastly, I would like to reiterate how unlikely this hypothetical situation is. To go seven years without any trades or free agent acquisitions is completely unrealistic. Also, the other teams in the NBA would likely look very different without the ramifications from dealings with the Knicks.

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