Despite their quick exits from the postseason, both the Knicks and Pacers are in a better place than they were a year ago, when they were saddled with the two longest playoff droughts in the Eastern Conference. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end, because these two franchises have taken different paths back to relevance.
New York is building around two of the best scorers in the league. They’re in the market for some role players, but in acquiring Carmelo Anthony, they’ve lost a lot of their roster flexibility. Howard Beck of The New York Times writes…
The Knicks desperately need a 7-footer to rebound and defend, an established shooting guard to replace Fields (who should be a reserve), a backup power forward to spell Stoudemire, and more size and shooting off the bench. Billups and Stoudemire listed big men as a top priority.
Scouts and executives often say that it is much harder to acquire a star like Anthony than it is to acquire top role players. But the Knicks will not have an easy time replacing the ones they traded.
Gallinari and Felton were high lottery picks. Chandler, drafted 23rd, would be a top-10 pick if the 2007 draft were held again.
The Knicks are drafting 17th this June and will probably not be back in the lottery for many years. They have just one first-round pick in the next three drafts. When they do pick, they will have to be nearly perfect.
The Pacers have the role players, but not the star or the market to attract one in free agency. They finished eight games under .500, but clearly put up more of a fight against the No. 1 seed Bulls than the Knicks did against the Celtics. Now, it’s about developing their young core.
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star likes what he’s seen …
Still, this was the best thing that’s happened to this franchise in many years. It was only five playoff games, but it was an experience these young players and this young coach desperately needed. For the first time since before The Brawl, the Pacers gave the region a reason to look forward and not look back at the glory days of Reggie Miller and Company.
“We’ve put Pacers basketball back on the map, and it’s here to stay,” said interim coach Frank Vogel. “Fans should be very, very proud of this team. It’s a team they can fall back in love with.”
This is going to be a process, a long process for a team that doesn’t have a franchise-altering superstar like Rose. But look at this group: Darren Collison was in his first year as a starter. Paul George is a rookie. Tyler Hansbrough is essentially a rookie, having missed most of his first year. Roy Hibbert just finished his third year.
These players got a taste, and if they go back home this summer, do the things they need to do to get better individually, it should be the first of several playoff appearances in the coming years.
Two teams, two entirely different paths back to the postseason, and two types of roster challenges going forward.
Both the Knicks and Pacers believe the future is bright, and that they’re done with playoff droughts. But a lot can happen between now and next April.