What’s the Plan? is a weekly series where we look at the long-term outlooks for teams that aren’t immediately contending for a championship. This week we look at the Knicks, a team that tanked at just the right time. Albeit in part because of an injury to Carmelo Anthony, but still, should we expect the Knicks to do something right on purpose?
After missing the playoffs last year, The New York Knicks knew they needed to make a change. They hired Phil Jackson as their GM and were ready to start a new dynasty with him steering the ship. They fired Mike Woodson and replaced him with Derek Fisher; they resigned Carmelo Anthony to a max contract. The goal looked to be to build a competitive team to take advantage of the weak Eastern Conference.
Unfortunately, The Knicks were far from competitive. The Knicks lost 20 of their first 25 games, and then followed that rough start with a 16-game losing streak that was the worst in team history. Carmelo missed some games in that stretch, but he played in most of them. We know now that Anthony was playing hurt for much of the season, but he’s going to have to play better moving forward if the Knicks are going to be competitive, and it’s not a good sign that the Knicks played so poorly with him on the court last season, injured or not.
Luckily for the Knicks, this was the perfect season for them to be bad. The team does not have it’s first round draft pick next year as a result of their trade for Carmelo Anthony, and they also lost last year’s pick from the trade as well. This was the year to try and bolster the team through the draft, and if your star player needs to miss the season for knee surgery, it’s better to have him miss a year where you can reap the benefits of being one of the worst teams in the league than pass those benefits onto someone else.
The Knicks have several holes in their roster, but the good news is they have plenty of cap space to work with this offseason. Next year, the Knicks are only committed to five players on their roster and only $35 million of their cap space if they exercise their option for Shane Larkin next year, per basketball-reference.com.
The team is already heavily committed to Anthony long term, so it makes sense to try and build around him in the mean time. They should be able to use the allure of New York and cash to lure free agents this summer, so I don’t expect the Knicks to be as bad as they were last year. More importantly though, can they become good enough to compete for a championship?
I’m not sure how much Carmelo’s injury hindered him this season, but it wasn’t a good omen for the Knicks that they were just as bad with Anthony on the floor as they were without him. Either way, the Knicks have invested a lot of money and draft capital in Anthony and are already committed to him as a franchise player. They’re effectively forced to see if they can build a championship team around him, and they may as well try.
Whether or not you believe in Carmelo Anthony, he is a rare talent, and when you have that kind of talent on your roster, you have to explore how far you can go with it. The Knicks will use their cap space and draft picks to build the best team they can, maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t. But at least they play in the East, where the playoff field is much less competitive.