One of the top offseason priorities—getting a new point guard—may be solved now that Jose Calderon is part of the Knicks family. Wichita State stretch forward Cleanthony Early has been brought on as a Carmelo Anthony backup (or replacement).
Good work this week, Phil and company. But there's more to be done this offseason. What should the Knicks' next moves be?
Give Patric Young a Chance
Despite rumors Tuesday that the Knicks would use a draft pick to bring home Florida's paint-assaulting forward-center Patric Young, they passed on him...three times. Surprisingly, no one else drafted Young either, leaving him open for the summer league or D-League.
The Knicks should jump on that unexpected opportunity and bring Young into the fold—because he has exactly the kind of talent they need, particularly now that Tyson Chandler has headed back to Dallas.
On offense, the 6'9", 249-pound Young has the strength and athleticism to play above the rim, attack the basket and set immovable blocks that help his teammates drive the lane—all skills that could help the Knicks get those desperately needed points in the paint they lacked last season. His lateral speed makes him a pesky defender, and his power and ups help him protect the rim.
With Chandler gone, there are a lot of questions about the 5 spot. At the moment, the Knicks' options for starting center are a guy with lots of experience but little stamina and a guy with potential, but little experience.
Samuel Dalembert started most of his games for the Mavericks last season, but he only averaged 21 minutes per game when starting.
Knicks' young center Cole Aldrich was fantastic in his two starts at the tail end of the season, averaging 34.5 minutes, 4.0 blocks, 12.5 points and 13 rebounds. Did Aldrich prove he deserves to start? Maybe, maybe not. But he did prove he deserves a chance.
Nevertheless, with Dalembert and Aldrich as their only real center options, there will probably be a lot of time when the 5 spot must be covered by someone better suited for the 4, like Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani or Jeremy Tyler.
Give him one year in the D-League and Young may be precisely the bench center the Knicks need.
There is, of course, a little hiccup in that plan. The Knicks already scooped up a forward-center with the No. 57 pick they bought from the Indiana Pacers: Louis Labeyrie, the 22-year-old Frenchman playing for Paris-Levallois in the Eurocup League. Yet, as with other international players chosen late in Round 2, Labeyrie may be stashed overseas for at least a year.
Convince Melo to Stay
Yet Anthony had one of his best seasons ever. While the frustrations of loss after loss caused most of his teammates' performances to get worse and worse, Anthony was one thing the Knicks could rely upon every game. A player who can continue to shine in such darkness is a keeper.
If he decides to stay in New York, it will show a devotion that should inspire the best in those around him.
Yet, if Anthony does stay this year, he will not only need to lead by example, as he did in 2013-14. He will also need to be a more vocal leader. He should more willingly take on the role of the unflappable veteran who can rev up or calm down his teammates whenever they need it...which, judging by last season, could be rather often.
Break Up With or Commit to Shump
The Knicks need to stop playing with Iman Shumpert's affections. If Melo leaves, the Knicks should not only keep Iman Shumpert, but they should also give him a promise ring (or an extended contract) and commit to their relationship. If Melo stays, it may be time to set Shump free, if the deal is right.
With Melo, Early and Delaware 87er Thanasis Antetokounmpo on the roster, there's enough depth at the small forward position to live without Shump. If Melo leaves, Early will likely need to spend more time playing the 4, and another option at the 3 would be useful.
However, if the Knicks are going to trade away Shumpert, they should get another starter or sixth man out of the deal, not just a handful of deep bench players and long-range draft picks. A straight swap with the Clippers for Matt Barnes may be an option—even without the 2014 draft trade pick that was originally part of the conversation—but New York will have to ask themselves whether or not Barnes is really an improvement.
If the Knicks decide not to trade Shump in the offseason, then they must decide to keep him for the long haul. As soon as trade rumors arose last season, he lost his swagger. He lost his focus. He wasn't confident in his shot.
In February, leading up to the trade deadline, his numbers were worse than ever. Shooting, rebounds and assists tanked as turnovers increased. If Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson want Shump to return to his former glory, they need to make him feel more secure in his job. Even if that job is coming off the bench.
|Iman Shumpert's Dip Before Trade Deadline|
Get That Old Spark Back
Team chemistry was a huge issue last season. According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, Phil Jackson certainly noticed, and he said that fixing chemistry was one of the main reasons for trading Chandler (who spent much of the season griping and getting smacked with technical fouls).
With a new president, a new coach, a new cast of characters and the black cloud of last season hanging over their heads, the Knicks need more than ever to rejuvenate team spirit. Perhaps they should hire a sports psychologist. Or go on a couples retreat. Hold a drum circle in the woods and talk about manhood. Join a bowling league. Throw a cuddle party. Whatever it takes. Next season depends on it.
Follow Sara Peters on Twitter at @3FromThe7.