The Knicks came into this season resigning the great Carmelo Anthony. Playing within an incredibly poor Eastern Conference, many Knicks fans, including myself, came into this season with optimism, but the 2014-2015 Knicks are one of the worst teams in franchise history. The Knicks actually have a draft pick this season, and although it’s early, many fans are thinking about the lottery already.
Why are the Knicks bad?
Between a lack of ball movement, a lack of any rim penetrators, a lack of leadership and a lack of shot selection, the Knicks have a very boring and sloppy offense. However, offense is not their main problem. About half of the players on the Knicks roster have proven they can score throughout their careers. At the end of the day defense creates offense, and the Knicks are one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
Although the effort is occasionally there, the communication is not. The amount of open threes the Knicks collectively let up every game is astonishing. A huge issue within their defense is that players will reach, overplay the passing lanes, and help when there’s no reason to help, which allows teams to swing the ball to the open man on almost every possession. No one on this defense is disciplined enough to hang back, keep their man in front of them, and contest shots. To add even more frustration, whenever we’re lucky enough to see the Knicks defend for 24 seconds, a lack of boxing out leads to second chance points. The Knicks being extremely bad at defense is not new; in fact, this has been an issue for over a decade.
I expected Jose Calderon to come into this season being a floor general for the Knicks. In the past, Calderon has been one of the best players in the league at running an offense, but this year he has been very passive. In crunch time we’ve seen him shy from the ball on many occasions, and I’m not sure how much Carmelo factors into that equation, but something looks wrong. I’m all for Carmelo getting his shots, but I’d like to see Calderon actually setting Carmelo up for these shots, not Carmelo simply isolating.
The triangle offense occasionally looks decent, but when crunch time settles in, everyone is nervous, stagnant, and all eyes are on Carmelo to save the day. I’m not a fan of how Carmelo is used this year. He’s at his best when he’s close to the basket, and the team works to get him the best shot.
Carmelo critics will compare the differences of how he plays to say a Lebron James. Critics will say that Lebron makes the players around him better, while Carmelo does not. They will say that Carmelo isn’t a leader, and can only thrive when he’s scoring, whereas if Lebron has an off night shooting, he’s still valuable in every other aspect of the floor. While I think these critics can be harsh, they’re not far off. With that being said, Carmelo is still one of the best players in the league. His defense isn’t perfect, but it’s way overblown to say that he is a horrible defender. Carmelo is not a leader; he is an offensive-anchor. I have faith that Phil Jackson will build a team that is suitable for our 124 million dollar man.
This is what the Knicks' salaries look like:
The salary cap is currently at 63 million dollars, and is projected to rise this summer. That allows a whole lot of spending money for Phil Jackson. Now I know what you’re thinking… MARC GASOL! Anyone hoping that Marc Gasol is going to join #KNICKSTAPE needs a reality check. The new CBA allows teams to resign their players for more money than any other team. If you can convince me why Gasol is going to sign for less money, to play on a team as bad as the Knicks, instead of making more money on a championship contending team, then you can outsell Jordan Belfort.
The Knicks already committed to Carmelo and are saying that he is the man. There is no reason to hope for another blockbuster trade or signing, because that is not what it always takes to build a successful team. This summer is going to have a surplus of B-list free agents. Realistic signings that I hope Phil Jackson will pull off are:
Defensive centers: Roy Hibbert, Omer Asik, and Robin Lopez.
Defensive wings: Luol Deng, Danilo Gallinari (just kidding), Aaron Afflalo, Wesley Matthews, and Wilson Chandler (I would have added Jimmy Butler to this list, but he’s a restricted free agent, and I assume Chicago is going to try to lock him up unless something catastrophic happens between now and the summer).
Point Guards who are good at getting to the rim: Rajon Rondo, Goran Dragic, Reggie Jackson, and Brandon Knight.
The Knicks’ dire need for defensive centers and wings is self-explanatory at this point. As for a good point guard, one might say they already have one in Jose Calderon. I am a huge Calderon supporter, but I think his days at running the point guard position should come to an end sooner than later. During the Knicks' 54 win season in 2012-2013, their starting point guard was Raymond Felton (who is now the 4th string point guard for the Mavericks). Jason Kidd played shooting guard the entire year, and it proved to work tremendously, because although he wasn’t the primary ball handler, he still ran the offense. Kidd was literally a coach on the floor. I want Jose Calderon to play the Jason Kidd role as soon as the Knicks have a player who can bring quality minutes to the point guard position.
What should Knicks fans do for the remainder of the season?
Knicks fans should spend time with their families, and not get emotionally invested in games that 1) don’t matter, and 2) hurt to watch. Instead, they should pray that Phil Jackson will somehow trade J.R. Smith, which would give the Knicks another 6 million dollars to spend this summer.
For any Knicks fans hoping for instant success, it’s time to get realistic. Unless it means shipping J.R. Smith somewhere, I don’t think Phil Jackson is going to do anything this trade deadline, and that’s okay. We still have four more years of the Carmelo Anthony Era, and a lot of the damage that Phil Jackson inherited is going to turn into free cap room. If the Zen Master plays his cards right, the Knicks may climb up the top of the Eastern Conference sooner than we think.