Overview: The 42-40 New York Knicks had high hopes for the playoffs after qualifying for the first time since 2003. The Knicks battled key injuries as Amare Stoudemire was injured badly for games 2,3 and 4, while Chauncey Billups was injured late in game 1 and missed the entire rest of the series. The Knicks were swept by Boston 4-0. They go into this offseason of CBA uncertainty with optimism not seen by this franchise in many years. While Billups’ 14.2 million dollar option has been picked up, there is still plenty of work to be done in terms of working the roster. Of course resigning Donnie Walsh should be priority number 1, although that is said to be done sometime this week. Overall the team is headed in the right direction but needs some work with its bench as well as adding a big man or two. The Knicks select number 17 in the first round of the upcoming NBA draft
Guards: The point guard situation is filled with uncertainty. Billups’ knee is not all the issues we have. While it’s critical that his knee reaches 100% before the season (if we have a season) starts, the backup point guard position is just as critical. While Toney Douglas played that role well last season, his size suits him better as a backup shooting guard. The backup point guard position is a position that many expect to be filled with the 17th pick in the draft. Anthony Carter’s contract is up and it’ll be interesting to see if he is re-signed. The coaching staff loves his professionalism and leadership and I was impressed with his play down the stretch, especially in game 4 of the playoffs as he sparked a Knicks comeback that ultimately fell short. As far as the shooting guard situation, the bench spots will be determined by what happens in the draft. Landry Fields should be the starter next season, and it is imperative to the teams success that he finds his pre-carmelo trade form. If he cannot, then suddenly the Knicks have a gaping hole at the shooting guard position. While Bill Walker and Andy Rautins will both be under contract next season, I’m not high on either player. Everyone seems to think Walker is okay but I think he’s an oaf, in the playoffs he had like 6 offensive fouls. I’m not a fan. Rautins is a wildcard because we haven’t seen what he can do yet. He was a great shooter in college but we know that doesn’t always translate to the NBA. Roger Mason played well in the 2nd half of the year when he got minutes due to injuries to Walker. Mason also played decently in the playoffs when his name was called but he’s undersized and in D’Antoni’s doghouse. Roger Mason is the only shooting guard who’s contact is expired and he is expected to be let go next season.
Forwards: Armelo, Camare, Batman and Robin. Whatever you wanna call them, they are the keys to the 2011 Knicks season. How they mesh is absolutely key to the offense and how they evolve into 2 way players is key to our defense. Offensively, it has to be about ball movement. While Amare and Carmelo are both great isolation players, the key to their cohesion is going to be ball movement. Granted they are dominant scorers but they aren’t the only scorers on this team. Landry Fields, Chauncey Billups, Shawne Williams and Toney Douglas are all lethal 3 point shooters. In order for this team to make the jump to 50-60 wins next season, the offense needs to feature more than 2 players. Don’t get me wrong, they both need their touches on offense but the throw it to Melo, stand around and watch offense needs to be abolished next season. Same goes for Amare, although he was good at feeding Carmelo on cuts and screens when the plays presented themselves. It shouldn’t be a competition for points, rather a mesh of efficient offense that results in high percentage shots being buried by two of the top 10 scorers in our league today. Defensively, the Knicks are a work in progress. The Heat have shown us that defense wins in the playoffs. As much as I hate Miami, I give their guys credit, namely James, Wade and Bosh, for transforming themselves to a dominant defensive team as well as a quality offensive team run by the big 3 (or 2 depending on how you look at it). This transformation needs to be executed by Melo and STAT as well. If the Knicks can at least get stops when needed, the sky will be the limit for this team that is just loaded with scoring. In terms of the backups, Derrick Brown, Shawne Williams and Jared Jeffries are all free agents this summer. Renaldo Balkman, acquired in the Denver deal, is the only backup forward that remains under contract. I believe that all 3 are decent players but depending on who we get on the market, all 3 are extremely expendable. I love Jeffries but his lack of offense is just sickening to watch. If he’d come back, it would have to be on a veteran’s minimum and he’d have a very minimal role (I would hope). Derrick Brown is very interesting to me. As shown in the Toronto game at MSG, he’s incredibly athletic. He’s a guy we should try to keep for cheap and develop. His athleticism gives me reason to believe he can be a serviceable backup wing player much like Shannon Brown from the Lakers. The player I believe we are most likely to resign is Shawne Williams. While he, like Fields, crapped out a bit at the end of the year, he proved to be a versatile player (having guarded Dwight Howard at one point) and a potent 3 point shooter. I think he has the toughness that we need on this team. We need some Mason’s and Oakley’s that will enforce and I think Williams can be that sort of player.
Centers: Ronny Turiaf was the playoff starter and he’s likely coming back on his 4 million dollar player option. I like Turiaf but not at 4 mil a season. He’s a high energy game but any more than 18 minutes a game and he wears down. I’d like him on a vet minimum and coming off the bench, he’d be a nice piece. Jeffries and Shelden Williams were the other two players who saw minutes at center. While Shelden Williams played well in the season, he saw no minutes in the playoffs leading me to believe he will not be back. The big story for the Knicks at center is Jerome Jordan, the 7 footer we purchased from Milwaukee last summer. He played this past year in Serbia and played well averaging 9 points and 4 boards a game. He should be a strong piece coming off the bench, or maybe starting a la Timofey Mozgov last season. This, along with Point guard is a position that may be addressed with the 17th pick in the draft.