Final Pre-Free-Agency Predictions for NY Knicks
Phil Jackson has had a successful start to his tenure as president of the New York Knicks, but there's plenty of hard work left to be done this offseason.
New York first needs to do everything in its power to keep Carmelo Anthony in town and then fill the roster by spending the taxpayer exception and adding veteran's minimum contracts.
Barring a Melo sign-and-trade, we shouldn't expect the roster to look too different in October—the Knicks only have a handful of roster spots available and can probably only afford to bring in one major difference-maker.
Trading Tyson Chandler was a good way to improve the roster without denting their flexibility, and the arrival of point guards Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin adds experience and youth at what was New York's biggest position of need.
With that said, success in free agency is still of the utmost importance. The Knicks should be aiming for at least a 10-game turnaround next season, and that won't be possible unless they make their few free-agent signings count and persuade Anthony to stay.
Let's take one last look at the Knicks' situation going into free agency and predict how they'll handle the rest of the offseason.
Bill Cartwright Will Be Hired as Derek Fisher's Assistant
If we've learned anything about Phil Jackson's tendencies as president in these first few months, it's that he likes to bring in people he's worked with in the past and knows on a personal level.
This is why Steve Kerr was the first person he interviewed for the vacant head coaching role and why Derek Fisher was eventually chosen to fill the position. It's safe to assume Jackson will go a similar route when it comes to finding an assistant for Fisher.
With a young coach like Fisher, it's important to bring in someone with head coaching experience and a compatible outlook on the game, which makes Bill Cartwright the ideal candidate.
Cartwright—arguably the Knicks' third greatest center of all time behind Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing—played for Jackson's Chicago Bulls in the '90s, before returning as an assistant after his retirement and eventually coming back to coach the team between 2001 and 2003.
Things didn't work out well for him in Chicago, but he's won a pair of championships as an assistant. He's also previously worked with Amar'e Stoudemire during their time with the Phoenix Suns and was so successful there that the team decided to retain him after a coaching overhaul in 2009.
Most recently, Cartwright has been coaching in Japan, but a return to Jackson and the NBA is an opportunity he won't pass up. For the Knicks, it would be the perfect way to add some real experience on the bench while also bringing in someone to coach up the likes of Jeremy Tyler and Andrea Bargnani.
Toure' Murry Will Return for the Minimum
Besides Carmelo Anthony, the only free agent the Knicks have worth making a fuss over is Toure' Murry—a raw, defensive-minded player who can hold his own at three positions.
He wasn't given much of a chance under Mike Woodson but has shown flashes of working as a defensive specialist and is the kind of player any team would love to have on the end of the bench.
There will be a market for Murry this offseason, but the chances of his value extending much further than the veteran's minimum are slim. Even if he does get slightly higher offers, New York has a very good chance of bringing him back, especially considering it gave him his first shot in the NBA.
From New York's perspective, Jose Calderon, Pablo Prigioni and Shane Larkin look set to make up the point guard rotation, but considering their collective age, it's worth adding a fourth. Murry's flexibility also means the team can afford to do so without hurting the depth at another position.
Losing him would hardly be a devastating blow for the Knicks, but it would be nice to see him as part of a growing pool of young talent that already includes Larkin, Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert, Cleanthony Early and Jeremy Tyler.
Metta World Peace Will Be Given a Second Chance
No free-agent signing last season was more disappointing than Metta World Peace, whom the Knicks spent the bulk of their mid-level exception on in the hopes of adding a starting-quality player.
Instead, his season can only be described as confusing. He suffered injuries early on and was inexplicably benched along with Beno Udrih, before the pair were bought out of their contracts in February.
World Peace didn't play nearly enough for us to gauge where he is as a player, and with his former coach Phil Jackson taking over as president, there's a good chance he'll get a second homecoming to New York, this time for the minimum.
Even after drafting Cleanthony Early, the Knicks are in need of depth at small forward, and World Peace could potentially provide that, competing with Lamar Odom and Thanasis Antetokounmpo for a roster spot in camp.
The worst-case scenario is a repeat of last season (without the financial impact), and the best case is that New York finds the backup small forward it thought it had signed last summer. It seems like a risk worth taking for the minimum.
Phil Jackson Will Kick the Tires on Andrew Bynum
Speaking of low-risk, high-reward moves and former Los Angeles Lakers, Andrew Bynum is a free agent again this summer, with his value having dropped down into the Knicks' price range.
He played well in 26 games last season—averaging 15.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2 blocks per 36 minutes—but as expected, injuries kept him out for most of the year.
After trading away Tyson Chandler, New York should see what it can get out of Bynum for the veteran's minimum. The Knicks could end up with a productive starter, or he could bow out with injury by December; either way, there's no harm in trying him out.
Just a couple of years ago, Stoudemire was in a similar situation when injuries looked like they could force an early retirement, but two knee debridements later he's recreated himself as one of the league's better sixth men.
Admittedly, Bynum's knees appear to be worse now than STAT's ever got, but if Stoudemire recommends the same procedure and trainers, there may be basketball life in Bynum yet.
The likelihood is that a Bynum signing will be a repeat of last season, but having a player who can give you a productive 20 minutes for a quarter of the year isn't a terrible thing to get for the minimum. And the chance of getting that same player for a little longer makes it all worthwhile.
Iman Shumpert Will Stay Put...For Now
Rumors of an Iman Shumpert trade have been on and off for two years now, but the arrival of Phil Jackson should give the guard a chance to prove himself before they begin again.
He is one of the Knicks' best trade pieces, but after the Chandler deal they are no longer in a position where they need to move him to get better elsewhere on the court.
At this point, Knicks fans should temper their expectations for Shumpert's future—it's unlikely New York has an All-Star on its hands—but he can still be a very useful player once his confidence is back.
With a little more consistency on the defensive end and some additions to his offensive game, he can still be an above-average starter in the NBA, and it's worth seeing how he performs under new management before considering a trade.
The Knicks can re-evaluate their situation at the trade deadline, where they'll likely be in the market for upcoming free agents anyway, giving Shumpert the opportunity to prove why he should stay or even to increase his trade value.
New York Will Make a Serious Run at Pau Gasol
In a summer when LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are hitting the open market, Pau Gasol's impending free agency has gone under the radar.
Even after his struggles in recent years, he is still a player who can command a significant salary in the NBA, putting the Knicks at a disadvantage with a maximum of $3.2 million to offer him.
If there's one team Gasol will be willing to take a pay cut for, though, it's the Knicks.
Not only does New York have his former head coach running the show, but it also has two of his former point guards at key positions—fellow title-winner Derek Fisher coaching the team and Spain teammate Jose Calderon at point guard.
It would be quite poetic for Calderon and Gasol, who are arguably the NBA's two greatest Spanish players of all time, to finish their careers on the same team, while a Gasol-Jackson reunion would work well for both sides.
More to the point, the addition of Gasol could be the key to keeping Melo in town, and that's a frontcourt partnership that would vault New York back into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks would arguably be more talented with Gasol than they were when they won 54 games back in 2012-13, so the chance to be a part of this turnaround could be appealing to him after a season without playoff basketball.
Gasol has already said he will listen to offers from the Knicks, and that was before the arrival of Fisher and Calderon, so there's a very real chance we see him in orange and blue.
Carmelo Anthony Will Re-Sign for the Max
As you'd expect, this free-agency period for New York and a handful of other teams is going to revolve around Carmelo Anthony.
If Melo wants to win immediately, the Knicks aren't his best option. The Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat can all offer him the chance to be a top-tier contender as early as next season.
What New York can offer him, though, is a five-year, $130 million contract, which would essentially make him the league's highest-paid player. And when Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani come off the books in 2015, he'll also have the chance to hand-pick his No. 2.
Anthony and Phil Jackson have already had their meeting, and after seeing Phil put Phase 1 of his plan into action by trading Chandler for a great package, Melo has to be intrigued about what he can do for this team.
Ultimately, if Melo gets the guarantee from Jackson—an 11-time champion—that this team isn't far from contention, it's unlikely that he'll leave his hometown and $30 million on the table just to get that opportunity a year earlier.
This is the city Anthony wanted to be in, and as bad as last season was, it's hard to picture him turning down a max deal and leaving when the Knicks finally look like they know what they're doing.