COMMENTARY | The New York Knicks have wrapped up their playoffs and their season with a disappointing loss to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. While showing signs of a great team throughout these playoffs, the bigger picture was the glaring need of help on this veteran team. The Knicks, led by the NBA scoring champion Carmelo Anthony, could not find a way to overcome the physically overpowering Pacers. This season the Knicks finished 11th in scoring at an even 100 PPG. However, at times during the regular season and in the postseason, the offense was stagnant. The defense held strong through the season ranking 7th, and got even better during the postseason. The Knicks have their key pieces returning with Carmelo, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, and JR Smith who appears to be ready to sign long term with New York. This leaves a team that is desperate for help on the inside.
This season, the Knicks had a lot of help from Kenyon Martin, who many thought would not be a valuable asset. With a virtually lost season for Amar’e Stoudemire, Martin provided a lot of defensive support to Tyson Chandler and the forward position. However, Martin does not provide the scoring needed to help support Anthony and Smith. A healthy Stoudemire could bolster the scoring attack, but we have seen that he does not mesh all that well with Carmelo, and it looks like Amare will be primarily used as more of reserve player in the foreseeable future. Carmelo likes to play the four, but if these playoffs dictate anything, it shows that teams with a steady big man game are succeeding. The Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs are three of the final four teams this year, and they all have solid starting bigs at the four and five positions. Also, the other favorites like the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder have shown that they can be vulnerable against these bigger teams. The Knicks need to follow the trend and get bigger to help complement the scoring of Carmelo and JR.
When looking at the options the Knicks have, they will look at their free agents to be, the draft, or free agency. Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and Marcus Camby were brought in to be the stronger bigs that was lacking from the roster, but this season showed that these veteran bigs are brittle and do not have much left in the tank. Wallace is officially retired, Kurt Thomas will most likely not be resigned, and Camby in my opinion, should be let go. He was ineffective in the few minutes he received, and overall does not fit in with this roster very well. The draft has a few interesting prospects at the power forward and center positions who could very well be available at the Knicks late first round position. If they want to boost their backup center position, they could turn to a player like Jeff Withey from Kansas, or Gorgui Deng out of Louisville. Both of these players have great defensive abilities with a knack for blocking shots, but their offensive games are somewhat limited. I see the Knicks going with Tony Mitchell from North Texas, who is a versatile forward that would play the three next to Carmelo given that the power forward position in the late first round is limited. This does not solve the Knicks inside problem. They will need to turn to free agency to acquire some pieces to fill the roster. Given the salary cap restraints on the Knicks, they will have to be smart with their signings. Brandan Wright is a 6’10” center who could play a little power forward next to Chandler. He averaged 8.5 points per game this past season with the Dallas Mavericks, while shooting close to 59.7% from the floor. He adds length and a little offense and defense which the Knicks could definitely use. Another play I like that the Knicks may take a look at is restricted free agent Andray Blatche. This season with the Brooklyn Nets, he averaged 10.3 PPG with an above average 21.98 PER. He has the ability to be a strong pick and pop forward which the Knicks could really use to space the floor to help Carmelo.
At the end of the day, the Knicks still finished #2 in the Eastern Conference and won their first playoff series in 13 years. They showed that they can beat the top teams, and were dominant through stretches this season. Their guard play will be good enough with Raymond Felton, Shumpert, and Smith next season. They have scoring options to go to in their starting lineup and off the bench, but if they can get some help in that department through the inside, they will be one of the favorites to compete for the NBA title next year.
Andrew Dinardi lives in New York and has recently started covering the Knicks.