The fact of the matter is that, barring one impenetrable, iceberg-sized problem that has been sinking this team for the past two years, they are not as far off as many seem to think.
Needless to say, the iceberg that has been sinking the Knicks goes by the name of Amar’e Stoudemire.
There are certainly many other aspects of the Knicks' 2012-2013 season that can be dissected and criticized.
The Knicks lived and eventually died with the three-point shot, which is always a very risky strategy for any team. The team relied on one player—Carmelo Anthony—to produce instant offense every single night. It was also the oldest team in the history of the NBA, which is not the best label to have when heading into a grueling playoff series against a much younger and more physical Indiana Pacers squad.
These are all very credible criticisms of the Knicks. But no matter which way you throw the blame, it eventually curves like a boomerang back toward Stoudemire.
Anthony and Stoudemire were paid a combined $40.46 million this past season, which is more than 50 percent of the Knicks' team payroll—a payroll that is already $21 million over the salary cap (per Spotrac.com).
Stoudemire has played just 76 games over the past two seasons while raking in $18.22 million in 2011-2012 and nearly $20 million in 2012-2013.
Anthony earned $19.45 million this past season, which is essentially what an NBA leading scorer goes for these days.
It is not by any means out of the ordinary for a team that has true aspirations of contending for an NBA title to devote half of its payroll to two legitimate superstars that it can count on to produce every single night.
The problem with the Knicks is that they have essentially been throwing $20 million down the drain with Stoudemire over the past two years, which creates a very difficult situation for Anthony and the rest of the team.
The Knicks spent nearly $80 million to build a team consisting of two superstars and a group of strong role players.
Yet, for that $80 million, they have gotten a team that has consisted of one superstar and a group of role players that have been asked to do far more than they are capable of.
The Knicks had to rely on J.R. Smith to be a premier scorer this past season.
Smith is not that guy. He is not the Knicks equivalent to Dwyane Wade.
Smith is simply a streaky scorer that the Knicks could have used as a weapon off the bench from time to time when he happened to be on his game.
The Knicks needed a scoring threat down low, so they looked to Tyson Chandler.
Chandler is not that guy either. He is and always has been a defensive specialist that excels mostly in grabbing rebounds and protecting the rim.
Now, the purpose of this article is not to blame Stoudemire for all of the Knicks' troubles as if he had just decided to take a few extended vacations over the past two years.
Stoudemire has suffered legitimate injuries which have come through no fault of his own.
However, the bottom line is that the Knicks have been down a 25-point-per-game, $20-million-per-year superstar for two years now, which makes winning a very difficult task despite Anthony’s 28 points per game during the 2012-2013 season.
So what are the Knicks’ options moving forward?
Well, it would be foolish for the Knicks to rebuild at this point, as they will literally be wasting the prime years of Anthony’s career while trying to rebuild around him.
Signing a big-time free agent or trading for another legitimate scoring threat is also not much of an option for the Knicks for two reasons.
The first is that they don’t really have a stock of players that they could trade away for a steady scoring threat. Stoudemire would be the only player with enough name recognition to command some attention, but that is more the Stoudemire of 2006-2011.
Unless the Knicks can find a GM out there who has been living under a rock for the past two years, Stoudemire is a risk that no one will be willing to take on at $20 million per year.
The Knicks also have the sixth-highest payroll in the league. Adding another $15 million salary is not really an option right now. As it stands, the Knicks are facing the very real possibility that Stoudemire might wind up being their version of Bobby Bonilla…only the NBA happens to have a salary cap.
What the Knicks are ultimately faced with is the hope that Stoudemire can somehow come back and be the nightly 25-point, two-block and eight-rebound guy that they are shelling out $20 million for.
They could also hope that a player such as Smith or Iman Shumpert can evolve into a consistent scoring threat that the team can count on for 20 points per night.
It’s clear that something must change prior to next season if the Knicks truly want to contend for the title, but it is also clear that very few, if any, roster changes will take place during the offseason.
The Knicks' only option for the 2013-2014 season is to improve from within, which is something that New York sports fans are not used to hearing.
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