Rome wasn’t built in a day, and…well…the New York Knicks nowadays seem like a bigger rebuilding project than an entire city. The team is enduring a 13-game losing streak, which is the worst in franchise history. The president of basketball operations traded away two players that have been considered key contributors and the head coach is having growing pains with a talent-less roster and arguably his three best players sidelined with various injuries. The rumors are that the fire-sale for the Knicks might not be over either, fortunately there is light at the end of the tunnel for the historic franchise.
Things look bleak right now, but the Knicks will have among the most cap space in the NBA next season. There will be a number of free agents that will be available for the Knicks to obtain. Sure, it will be difficult to convince superstars to join a franchise that will finish the season with around eleven or twelve wins this season and will be drafting top-5 in the lottery, but there is still Carmelo Anthony on the court and Phil Jackson in the front office. Here are a few players the Knicks should consider if they look to get back into the playoff hunt next season in the weak Eastern Conference.
Omer Asik- Obviously the ultimate goal for Phil Jackson would be to convince Marc Gasol to leave the defensively stout and consistently playoff bound Memphis Grizzlies. Sure, you could try and convince Gasol that shifting to the Eastern Conference would be in his best bet because it is an easier path to the playoffs, but this is where Jackson will have to work some magic. Back to the player at hand, Omer Asik of the New Orleans Pelicans is a solid starting center in the NBA. He would be much more affordable than the max contract worthy Gasol and will bring a defensive presence in the paint that the Knicks failed to fill the void when they traded Tyson Chandler. The four-year NBA veteran is a seven-footer who averages 7 points, 9.9 rebounds and nearly one block per game.
These numbers might not seem too impressive, but considering the other options in New Orleans like Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, that makes Asik an afterthought. However, he is a solid player who could play a similar role on this Knicks team that is among the worst in rebounding in the NBA. Your prototypical center in the triangle offense would be a better passer than Asik, but again for the defense and rebounding he brings to the table I think Knicks fans would appreciate him in the middle.
Robin Lopez- See everything written about Asik, but in a slightly more polished form, that’s Lopez. He protects the paint for the sharp-shooting Portland Trailblazers and doesn’t get in the way down low of players like Damian Lillard and Lamarcus Aldrich. He would fit in very well with Carmelo Anthony on the wing to kick out passes too. He is a better fit in the triangle than Asik, but prying him from Portland would be tough. However, they have to pay Aldrich after this season and Damian Lillard eventually.
Draymond Green- The do it all forward for the Golden State Warriors would be an exceptional fit with the Knicks, given his effort and all-out style of play, he would be a garden favorite in no time. Slightly undersized for the power-forward position at 6’7″, Green is an exceptional rebounder for his size. He also has range out the three-point line, although his long-range game is still a work in progress. At the age of 24, there is still a great deal of room for Green’s game to grow. The Knicks could speed up the process by outbidding the Warriors for his services, given his restricted free agency.
Tobias Harris – The Orlando Magic forward is just 22-years-old and the potential of returning home has to appeal to Harris. The Long Island native has already eluded to the fact that playing at MSG intrigues him. The Knicks could use another athletic wing to pair with Anthony to defend and space the floor and Harris could provide that type of game. He is another exceptional rebounder for his position and is already averaging 18.1 points per game. The scary part is that being so young, Harris has just scratched the surface of his potential. Trying to get him away from Orlando will be tough though as he is a restricted free agent and Orlando will have the money to match a contract that the Knicks can offer.
Jimmy Butler – This young man is developing into quite the two-way player for the Chicago Bulls. So much so that the already cap strapped Bulls might not be able to afford him after seasons end even though he is a restricted free agent. Something tells me that as much of a team player as Derrick Rose is, he will not take a pay cut to keep Butler unless the Bulls win an NBA championship this season. Butler has become everything Knicks fans envisioned in Iman Shumpert that didn’t come to fruition, in my opinion due to injuries. Butler is averaging 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game and will find himself on the All-Star team for this breakout campaign.
Goran Dragic – The versatile point-guard is currently playing in a three guard rotation with the Phoenix Suns and will be an unrestricted free-agent following this seasons end. If the Knicks don’t address the point-guard situation in the 2015 draft, they will need a new floor general that better fits the triangle. Jose Calderon was supposed to be that guy, but he does not have the athleticism of a younger player like Dragic. On the season Dragic is averagin 16.9 points, 4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game and continues to get better every year. Fans seem to be clamoring for Rajon Rondo, but Dragic would be a much better fit for the triangle given his perimeter shooting ability which Rondo still lacks.
Greg Monroe – Another solid fit in the triangle offense would be the Detroit Pistons big man. The Knicks have some post scoring via Amare Stoudemire, but he won’t be around next season and they will have to fill that important piece of the triangle somehow. Monroe’s game has gotten much better since the Pistons let Josh Smith go a few weeks ago and he and Andre Drummond form quite a duo down low. However, Monroe nearly left the team this off-season if it weren’t for a lack of offers. If he continues to play well and the Pistons can be a player in the playoffs, expect the offers to be there for Monroe in 2015. He will be unrestricted and possibly looking to take his talent elsewhere, maybe the big apple.
Wesley Matthews- The sharp shooting guard of the Portland Trailblazers is having a career year. Sure, Matthews is obviously benefiting from playing with this talented roster in Portland, but the 28-year-old continues to improve every year. Matthews is averaging nearly 17 points per game and is shooting nearly 40% from behind the arc. A key part of the triangle offense is having perimeter shooters on the outside that are lights out, and Matthews in among the leagues best in that department. Adding him at the shooting-guard position can take some off the offensive load off of Carmelo Anthony’s shoulders.
Danny Green- Another native of New York makes the list in the Spurs sniper Danny Green. He is a more one dimensional version of the aforementioned Matthews, but again the Knicks need three-point shooters. Green is what the Knicks are hoping Tim Hardaway Jr. can develop into and that’s not out of the question, but why not add another shooter, after all this offense can’t have too many. Prying the shooting-guard away from the defending champion San Antonio Spurs will be difficult considering they will be looking to keep him and star in the making Kawhi Leonard as the future of this franchise. Maybe the Knicks can convince Green a homecoming would be best for his career, somehow.
Knicks fans will be expecting much more this off-season, and while some might be demanding superstars and big contracts, where has that gotten the Knicks before? It’s time for the franchise to start aiming for sustainable success. A lineup featuring Goran Dragic, Danny Green, Carmelo Anthony, Greg Monroe and Robin Lopez might not seem like the ‘sexy moves’ that the fans will want, but a team similar to this one would be playoff caliber in no time. Couple this with a lottery pick and a bench with young talent in Tim Hardawy Jr. among others will get this franchise going in the right direction, not only for the next few seasons, but for the foreseeable future.