By John Schmeelk
» More Columns
Let’s just, for a moment, assume that Carmelo Anthony is going to be back in a Knicks uniform next season. There are a few players you need to put around Anthony to win consistently. You need guys in the backcourt to spread the floor and hit the open three. You need a rim protector on defense. But perhaps more than anything else, you need a point guard capable of running a team and putting Anthony into a position to succeed and get easy baskets.
Anthony had his best year in Denver when Chauncey Billups was his point guard, and the Knicks should be desperate to pair him with one as soon as possible. The general consensus is to wait until 2015 and then use the team’s cap space to bring in one of the point guards that could be a free agent that offseason. The group includes Kyrie Irving (restricted), Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Jeremy Lin and Jameer Nelson. In this instance, I think conventional wisdom is wrong.
For one, there is no way to know which of those players, if any, will even reach free agency. For those that do, the Knicks would have to more or less liquidate their roster of everyone not named Anthony and Tim Hardaway, Jr. J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton would also be on the roster that offseason barring any trades between now and then. It would mean that Tyson Chandler, the Knicks’ rim protector, would also have to be let go to free up the cap space for a point guard.
Iman Shumpert is scheduled to be a free agent that summer as well. The math changes if Anthony takes less than his max contract, but the Knicks can’t count on that. In order to get a point guard next to their star, they would have to sacrifice the other pieces that help the team win games.
Waiting until 2015 also means the Knicks would be sacrificing the 2014-2015 season to create that cap space, wasting another one of Anthony’s prime years. By the time the 2015 season comes around, Anthony will be 31 years old with 12 NBA seasons under his belt. At that age, will he still be the type of player who can lead a team to an NBA championship? It’s possible, but certainly not a guarantee. If I was Steve Mills, I would be very hesitant to sacrifice any of Anthony’s prime seasons.
Do the Knicks have other options? Not very good ones, but they are going to have to explore them. Kyle Lowry is one path the Knicks could travel down. Even if costs them Felton, Shumpert and a future first-round pick, adding him this year might warrant that cost. The way he played this season, he would be almost on par with the point guards listed above. The Knicks wouldn’t have to wait for him either, and could continue to add around him, Anthony, Chandler and anyone else on the current roster. It would destroy the Knicks’ cap space in 2015, but the Knicks would have their point guard in-house for the foreseeable future. Of course with the Raptors playing the way they are, that ship might have already sailed.
The other direction the Knicks could go in is use their young players and expiring contracts in the offseason to bring in a point guard that has a contract another team might want to jettison.
Jrue Holliday might at some point be the type of player who could fall under that category. Of course, in a deal like this, the Knicks might have to jettison not only future picks or youngsters, but also take back other onerous contracts. It would be a repeat of the strategy from the past decade that could be justified if Anthony is good enough to lead the Knicks to a championship. The Knicks never had a player of his caliber 10 years ago. Sorry, Stephon Marbury and Allan Houston — you do not measure up.
Like I said, the options aren’t great. It makes you wonder if the Knicks are in fact better off re-signing Anthony to a max extension, since it might be impossible to put a good enough team around him to win a championship. A complete rebuild might be a better direction. But at this point, it’s fairly obvious that James Dolan is all in on Melo. Therefore, the Knicks need to be all in on a point guard sooner rather than later. Wait until 2015? In this case, patience might not be a virtue.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories