2017 NBA Free Agency

New York’s Summer Is Almost Done, But They Still Have a Few Kinks to Work Out

Critiquing the offseason moves of the NBA’s most dysfunctional franchise and how they can better position themselves for the future.

Photo: Bailey Carlin/TKW Illustration

This offseason has been characterized by strange signings, lots of ‘Melo drama and front office changes. Making sense of what the Knicks are trying to do is always a difficult task. With Scott Perry set to take over as the new GM, look for the Knicks to continue to move in a younger direction and attempt to rebuild what Phil Jackson burned to the ground with his flagrant ineptitude. Undoubtedly, it will be many years before we see the Knicks even close to dominance again. The road to quality basketball again begins with better front office decision making. Cleaning up the mess made over the past few years will be a long and daunting task, but it is possible.

Ridding the cap of large contracts like Joakim Noah and Carmelo Anthony won’t be easy, and until that is done, it will be very hard to sign big time free agents. A more quick fix for this team is to make sure to stockpile as many assets and draft picks as possible through intelligent trades and strategic tanking.

via The Knicks Wall/SoundCloud

It pains me to see my Knicks be awful next year, but it would be the best thing for this franchise to be able to score a lottery pick and add another piece to the puzzle of their young core.

Any move that compromises the plan to get younger, free cap space, and collect assets is the wrong move and will only set the franchise back even further.

Photo: via NY Daily News

Handling the ‘Melo Situation

At this juncture of the offseason, Carmelo Anthony has very low trade value. Teams like the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers are the only two clubs that seem remotely interested in acquiring Anthony and quite frankly, what they are willing to give the Knicks in exchange is laughable. An aging Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson and his albatross of a contract? No thanks. The fact that the Knicks have had trouble trading the 10-time All-Star is a blessing in disguise.

Even though I’m all for the Knicks youth movement, holding onto ‘Melo longer is what’s best for the organization at this time. He will be a more valuable trade commodity come the trade deadline (or maybe even before) when a contending team needs to add a veteran presence who can score the rock. At that point, the Knicks will be able to bring back more assets like first-round pick(s) or maybe even a young, up and coming player. Knicks fans should be rooting for ‘Melo to stay and put up big numbers in the first half so the Knicks can sell him high.

Also, it’s not like ‘Melo is a toxic guy who is going to cause issues in the locker room. He has proven he knows how to handle the brutal New York media and is an overall classy guy. Now that Phil Jackson is gone and management is undergoing somewhat of an overhaul, ‘Melo will be able to coexist better with the front office and hopefully keep his distance from all the drama that built up towards the end of last season.

I’m not sure what Carmelo has to offer in terms of teaching the young guns, but his veteran presence alone will be at least decently helpful for players like Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Kristaps Porzingis.

Sooner or later the Knicks are going to have to get Anthony’s contract off the books, but there is no rush to do it now without appropriate compensation.

Photo: Getty Images

Fountain of Youth

The Knicks have made some extremely questionable offseason decisions from draft night up until this point. Selecting unproven and relatively unknown French point guard Frank Ntilikina over Dennis Smith, Jr.–who already looks like a future star and was sitting right there for the taking–angered a lot of Knicks fans. I’m not going to sit here and trash the draft pick too much, because Frankie could turn out to be great, but the optics of the selection weren’t the best. The kid is only 18 years old and definitely has the skills and upside to be the point guard the Knicks have been looking for.

Perhaps the most head scratching moves in the league this year was the Knicks signing of THJ to a four-year, $71 million deal. Personally, I would have loved to see Dion Waiters as a Knick instead due to the fact that he is more explosive and was cheaper (four-year, $52 million deal with Miami).

Although Hardaway has improved his game and put up decent numbers for the Atlanta Hawks last year, remember the Knicks got rid of him for a reason. He doesn’t play defense, he’s an erratic shooter, and he doesn’t offer much else in other facets of the game. Hardaway returns to the Knicks with a second chance to prove himself in New York–and I’m praying he can become that consistent scorer and three-point threat the Knicks were hoping for when they drafted him in the first round out of Michigan. The positive is that THJ is only 25 years old and has time to work on his craft.

Photo: via NY Daily News

Finally in most recent news, the immortal Ron Baker inked a two-year/$9 million contract. Baker competes hard when given time and always plays intense, hard-nose basketball, but he is extremely limited offensively and athletically. Seeing that $9 million go to Ron Baker instead of guys like Ian Clark or Jonathon Simmons is nauseating. On the bright side, Baker is only 24 years old and is a fan favorite at MSG.

Notice a youth pattern here? Ignore the bad contracts the Knicks gave to Baker and Hardaway for a moment and lets take a look at the bigger picture: It seems like their plan is to get younger, which is encouraging. Yes the money committed to these guys will make you cringe, but you have to give credit to the front office for at least attempting to sign young guys with promise rather than going after the Joakim Noah’s of the world who eat up cap space, have no future, and do absolutely nothing.

Adding the three players mentioned above to a core with KP and Willy Hernangómez, allows the Knicks to have a solid, young core. Don’t get me wrong they are going to be an atrocious team next year, but at least there will be excitement and optimism for growth.

Photo: Bailey Carlin/TKW Illustration

Adding a Veteran Point Guard

To me, adding a veteran point guard would be a nice addition to the team, but definitely not a necessity. I’d almost rather see Frankie play and make mistakes and endure the growing pains so he can develop as a player. So what if he’s not very good his first year, he’s 18, plus the Knicks should be tanking anyway right? If you want to bring in a journeyman veteran PG to backup/help Ntilikina that would be fine with me, but thrillingly, the Knicks are most likely not going to re-sign D-Rose, and didn’t intensely pursue Jeff Teague or Rajon Rondo, the latter who’s notorious for his terrible, divisive attitude and destroying locker rooms everywhere he goes.

If the Knicks so choose to add another point guard, it must be a short term deal at a low cost. There are too many bad contracts on this team and adding another one would be disastrous. If I were Steve Mills or Scott Perry, then I would be very cautious and think before investing in a veteran point guard.

However you look at it, the Knicks are not in the best place right now to say the least. They have bad contracts on the books, a weak roster, and will probably be one of the worst teams in the NBA next year. Despite this, there is no doubt they are in a much better place than they were a few weeks ago with Phil Jackson running the show.

Knick fans are going to have to trust the process and realize that losing basketball is still going to be a pattern over the next few years. The focus should be on how these players develop and how quickly these poor contracts can get off the books, something overlooked for awhile under different management.

Hopefully, Scott Perry will have enough voice within the organization to be able to make the moves he feels necessary without involvement from James Dolan. Anticipate a relatively quiet remainder of the offseason for the Knicks, aside from maybe a ‘Melo trade.

Nick Scolaro, staff writer

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