Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What do the Knicks need to become a true title contender, and how do they get it?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Find a way to make Carmelo Anthony your second-best player. Then find a way to convince him to accept that. Now how do the Knicks go about that? They need to acquire a proven star who has the ball in his hands as much as or more than Anthony. So I’m thinking point guard. And since Tony Parker, Derrick Rose or Rajon Rondo aren’t likely to be playing home games at Madison Square Garden anytime soon, I’m thinking Chris Paul. Done.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: First, the Knicks need the realization that they are not on the doorstep of being a true contender. Not when they had a roster of Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Rasheed Wallace and a 36-year-old rookie in Pablo Prigioni and could only get out of the first round. That’s a group that’s more suited to be playing chess in Central Park than knocking off Indiana, Miami and, next season, Chicago. Good luck finding someplace to dump the $45 million left on Amar’e Stoudemire‘s contract. Could they convince small market teams in Minnesota or Portland to give up potential free agents Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge a year early? That’s the kind of home run they need to hit. As currently constructed, the Knicks are going nowhere. What they need is time … and that’s the one thing you never get in New York.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Welcome to the new CBA, boys. There won’t be any names in lights walking through that door this summer for a team over the salary cap, the luxury tax and the tax apron, and therefore left with little flexibility to do anything substantial. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Health is the key. The Knicks will have Iman Shumpert ready from the jump (he didn’t play until Jan. 17 this season) and that will keep 40-year-old Jason Kidd in his rightful spot coming off the bench. The huge minutes Kidd played early in the season ruined him late. Also (as Knicks management crosses their fingers and toes) Amar’e Stoudemire should be in good health for the start of training camp and hopefully coach Mike Woodson can lay out a mutually acceptable plan of attack with Stoudemire for next season.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: They need to balance an offense over-reliant on perimeter play, especially the 3-pointer. They need to get better on defense. They’re just not going to be able to. Without a Draft pick before No. 24, without real spending power in free agency and without many trade options, the Knicks have few opportunities to make major gains. Their best hope is that one or two free agents deliver well beyond their contracts.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: They need more balance, both in terms of offense/defense and, in regard to their offense, inside/outside. Really, they need more guys under 30 and more guys who can play on both ends of the floor. Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith are the prime examples of players who can hurt you defensively as much as they help you offensively. Given their cap situation and the age of their roster, I really don’t know how they get better this summer. Maybe they have another Pablo Prigioni they can bring over from Europe
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: They need a second superstar. They need to find Carmelo Anthony‘s Dwyane Wade or Russell Westbrook. And they need to find him now, because J.R. Smith is not that guy. Making that second superstar happen is the tricky part. The Knicks don’t have anyone of value that they could move (on his own) to get back a player of the caliber needed to help them get to championship level. The front office has to get to work and see what they can come up with, because another superstar is not going to fall in their lap. But I’m with Carmelo’s college coach, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, he can’t do it alone. He needs another player of his caliber, or possibly better, to take the Knicks to the next level. And there is no shame in that, not in today’s NBA.
Aldo Avinante, NBA.com/philippines: New York is one dependable post player away from being a true contender for the NBA championship. Their small-ball approach was exploited by the bigger and more physical Indiana Pacers. David West roughed up Carmelo Anthony in the four-spot — still an unnatural position for Melo — while Paul George‘s length gave him problems. But what lacked in their season-ending series is a dependable scorer in the low-post and consistent work on the boards. Indiana simply outworked them in the big boy stats while they looked helpless when their 3-point shots weren’t falling. The postseason is a different animal: The game’s pace slows down dramatically and the defense intensifies. Tyson Chandler needs help, but other than those problems they are still a very good ballclub.
Pawel Weszka, NBA.com/africa: They need fresh legs and creativity. Having so many experienced veterans worked well in the regular season, but the playoffs’ physicality brought fatigue and inconsistency. Carmelo needs more support on the offensive end as the Knicks become predictable – when the Knicks top scorer does not get double-teamed on a post up play, the basketball stops moving. They need a versatile big man and Raymond Felton stepping up in running the offense, but with big bucks locked up in Anthony, Chandler and Stoudemire’s contracts, pursuits of big summer trade opportunities will be limited.
Karan Madhok, NBA.com/india: This is a point guard’s league, where teams that have decent quarterbacks can help set an offense and keep the ball moving. The Knicks desperately need better ball movement to take the next step up, and currently, their two highest-paid players – Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire – cannot co-exist with both having a shoot-first mentality on offense. Felton, Kidd, and Prigioni have been half-decent but they need an upgrade at the point guard position. Unfortunately, the Knicks future looks bleak since the team of elder statesmen was built to ‘win now’. They don’t have enough financial flexibility to bring in a super-talented player next season. What they can hope for is to make a minor trade and hope to strike lucky with an underrated point guard just looking for a chance to shine.