By John Schmeelk
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In an effort to get ahead with my work, I sat down last weekend and wrote what I thought the Knicks’ offseason plan should be. A few days later, Phil Jackson got fired and everything changed.
All of the assumptions about Jackson’s plan and strategy are no longer applicable. Nothing has ever been more refreshing than not having to mention the triangle offense! The truth is that nobody knows how general manager Steve Mills sees the Knicks or how he might approach free agency.
Working with no basis of a blueprint, here is how I would approach the free agency period if I were Mills. Everything is on the table. The first thing I would do is…
Keep The Wallet In The Pocket
The Knicks are still trying to figure out who their president of basketball operations is going to be. Until that person is in place, and it doesn’t look like that will happen until after free agency, the team should lay low. The Knicks shouldn’t sign anyone to more than a two-year contract. Whoever the new president ends up being is going to need to have the maximum level of flexibility when he takes over. For a rebuilding team, having unused cap space to absorb toxic assets in order to get young players or draft picks is valuable.
Find a Point Guard
Signing a big-time point guard in free agency is off the table. One would cost too much and carry too long of a term. George Teague is a good player, but he is 29 and would use of all the Knicks’ leftover cap space. Jrue Holiday would be the most attractive of the available free agents since he is younger (27) and an excellent defender, but he will likely be too rich for the cap space the Knicks have.
The answer here is to re-engage the Timberwolves for Ricky Rubio and try to work out a trade. He is 26 and only has two years and $28 million left on his contract. He would be ideal for the continuation of Kristaps Porzingis’ development. Of course, the Knicks also have to understand that….
They Cannot Resign Derrick Rose
Rose should not be back with the Knicks under any circumstances. He has one skill that helps a team: making two-point baskets. He can’t make the 3 and is one of the worst defensive point guards in basketball, which overwhelms whatever positives he creates as a penetrator. He also failed to get Porzingis involved and rarely found open teammates last season. He will not help the Knicks take the next step and he doesn’t check any of the boxes for their point guard needs. He might offer to play on a cheap, short-term deal, but the Knicks must resist. They are better off taking a point guard off the scrap heap than re-signing Rose, especially if they…
Accept Winning Now Is Not Necessarily Preferable
I am not suggesting the Knicks strip down the roster and tank, but the long-term future of the franchise would be far brighter if they picked in the top five next season instead of in the lower end of the top 10. The Knicks should not prioritize increasing their win total by a trivial amount next season just to have a chance at the No. 8 seed at the beginning of March.
Mills needs to understand this is a long-term rebuild, and every focus needs to be on being good two or three years down the road. By then, LeBron James might be out of the league, or at least the Eastern Conference, and the Warriors might look less invincible. To help the cause, the Knicks have to…
Be Patient With The Carmelo Anthony Situation
Even though the Anthony camp has been quiet since Jackson was fired, there are some reports out there that indicate he would prefer a buyout. Every single other report has indicated that while the Knicks would be willing to trade Anthony for the right pieces, they have no interest in buying him out. This is exactly the right way to go about things.
If the Knicks can’t find a trade that helps them (not taking on a long-term contract and getting some kind of asset) and that Anthony will approve, they should just let him play out the season or try to trade him again at next season’s deadline. He should be fine in the locker room without Jackson hovering about and could voluntarily opt out of the fifth year of his contract next summer. It will also help the Knicks to…
Find Gems In The Summer League
Play this summer just got a lot more fun since no one will have to stare at triangle sets all day and night. Head coach Jeff Hornacek can go back to running his offense, which will likely look much more like a spread pick-and-roll. It’s a bummer than Frank Ntilikina might miss some or all of Summer League due to a bruised knee, but it shouldn’t have any long-term impact. If he does play, he should be given the opportunity to show off his point guard skills. Damyean Dotson has a chance to light it up from outside, and we’ll see if Ognjen Jaramaz can drive and dish on this side of the Atlantic.
Other than the draft picks, Dominique Jones is a big-time scorer, but is already 29. With the way they play in Orlando, he could be an MVP candidate. Chasson Randle will have the chance to run some point. Nigel Hayes could be a versatile defender and role player. Maurice Ndour better watch his roster spot. Louis Labeyrie will be back again, but he didn’t show much of anything during last year’s summer session. He is mostly a scrappy defender. Jamel Artis was a star at Pitt and has a partially guaranteed contract, according to reports. He scored 18 per game as a senior and shot 39 percent from 3. Luke Kornet is a big that is supposed to be a good shooter. The first Summer League game is Saturday at 3 p.m.
If there’s one thing that Mills needs to keep repeating to himself it’s that first he should…
Do No Harm
It should be Mills’ motto the next three weeks. The new team president should have as much freedom and flexibility as possible whenever he takes the job. The plan should be to play young players this season for better or worse, and see what happens. The Knicks can hurt themselves much more than help themselves this offseason.
The Knicks are exciting for the first time in a long time because of the unknown. There’s so much everyone will learn about them over the next few months. How does Mills operate as a solo act? Who wants to come to be the Knicks’ top executive? It appears they are being smart about interviewing only experienced NBA front office people. Perhaps James Dolan is learning what it takes to be a good owner? What happens to Melo?
There’s optimism in Knicks land for the first time in a long time. As bad as Jackson was at his job, he did leave young pieces in place that should help the future. But it’s important to remember that firing Jackson was the easy part. The hard part is coming now: finding the right person to lead the franchise and continuing to find good young players.
On July 1, the fun begins.
For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk