An Orange and Blueprint: The Knick Fan’s Guide To The 2015 Off-Season

A detailed, comprehensive plan to improve the Knicks – now and into the future.

Carmelo needs to play not only in a winning system, but with winning players.

The clock is ticking on Melo’s prime. The chance for the Knicks to acquire all-star talent around him is now or never.
(Photo courtesy of New York Times)

Let me start off by explaining what inspired me to write such an article about the Knicks off-season plans. Despite the impending draft and free agency being covered at nausea by bloggers and mainstream sports media alike, I have been waiting for the 2015 Knicks off-season for approximately half a year. This occurred once it was apparent that the Knicks were going to be nearly the worst team in the NBA this past season. Ultimately, Phil Jackson decided to dreadfully trade away the last remaining bits of talent on the roster last January, setting up the most exciting moment for Knicks fans to be the upcoming off-season.

In my opinion, there are three ways for the Knicks to make the leap from ‘’worst to first‘’ – or to take a more realistic approach – at least assemble a championship contending roster. It can happen this off-season, if Phil Jackson plays his cards right. And judging past performances of Knicks management, it will take quite a bit of fortune for the man in charge to hit a home run in June and July.

The Draft

Another spark to my interest regarding the Knicks off-season was reading the consensus on who the Knicks should draft now that they’ve slipped to 4th overall. The consensus is…well, simply put, there isn’t one.

The Knicks have a plethora of options, already outlined in an excellent write up in Bleacher Report. The problem, however, is this draft is incredibly unpredictable. Outside the top two big men (Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor) that every lottery team so dearly covets, there is no agreement from experts on where the other top prospects will land.

For examples of this, look no further than two of the leading draft prediction sites, and a major sports media publication:

NBA Draft.net has New York taking Jahlil Okafor, the Duke Center who helped lead the Blue Devils to the national title. This is making the lofty assumption that the Wolves, Lakers and Sixers all pass on the franchise big man.
Draft Express has the Knicks landing D’Angelo Russell, the exciting lefty-point guard from Ohio State.
Sports Illustrated has the Knicks selecting Kristaps Porzingis, the 19-year old talented stretch Power Forward from Latvia.

Predictions are great, but I am more interested in who the Knicks should draft, instead of who I think they will draft.

Justise Winslow should be there for the taking at number four overall.

Could Winslow come in right away and make an impact like he was able to do at Duke? That remains to be seen.
(Photo courtesy of News & Observer)

Draft Justise Winslow

I’m a firm believer in the NBA moving to a game dominated by guards and wings, and Winslow fits that role perfectly. Unfortunately, no major draft outlets have New York selecting Winslow. This is a big mistake, in my opinion.

Comparisons are always inevitable, and here’s my take on the former Duke Blue Devil: He has the smoothness of a James Harden, yet isn’t as offensively talented. He has the defensive spirit of Jimmy Butler, yet is a better ball handler and rebounder. Think of the possibilities of a James Harden and Jimmy Butler combo, and you have yourself Justise Winslow. Oh, and the fact that he is just 19 years old, and in the same size class as both those players, measuring in at 6’6” – 222 lbs.

All of the chatter about Winslow should have Knicks fans ecstatic, despite the disappointment of not being able to get Towns or Okafor. Ultimately, all of this is not to say Winslow will ever become James Harden or Jimmy Butler – he may never reach that level. However, the potential to be a more complete player than both of those all-stars is there, and he is exactly what the Knicks so badly need. A future star in the making – the Knicks haven’t had one of those guys in forever. It’s time the Knicks seek Justise.

Re-Signing Current Players

Although Knicks fans may tremble at the thought, many players from last year’s team will be back. I am convinced that choosing the right guys to let go, and the ones to bring back, will be extremely key to the future success of the franchise.

These five players are already under contract for next season:

• Carmelo Anthony (guaranteed)
• Jose Calderon (guaranteed)
• Tim Hardaway, Jr. (guaranteed)
• Langston Galloway (partially guaranteed)
• Cleanthony Early (guaranteed)

Here are the expiring contracts (or team options):

• Andrea Bargnani
• Alexy Shved
• Quincy Acy
• Shane Larkin
• Ricky Ledo
• Cole Aldrich
• Jason Smith
• Lou Amundson
• Travis Wear

Andrea Bargnani

Again, if you talk to most Knicks fans, I would guarantee the preference amongst a majority would be to never see Andrea Bargnani in a New York uniform again.

While his time in the big apple has been frustrating, he still has a ton of talent. The opportunity to bring a 7-foot scorer like Bargnani off the bench should excite Knicks fans – if it’s for the right price. Giving Bargnani a bit more than the veteran’s minimum seems like it would be a fair deal for both sides, and if he could stay healthy, in limited minutes Bargnani would provide much needed bench scoring.

Alexy Shved

The Knicks probably had the worst backcourt in the NBA last season, and the addition of Shved improved them only marginally. However, the Russian’s ability to get to the basket and create for others could equip the Knicks with depth at the guard position. At just 26 years old, similarly to Bargnani, he provides real upside if he can stay healthy and is brought back on the cheap.

Jason Smith

Smith was an interesting storyline last season. He played in all 82 games, which was an anomaly for a guy who has been injury prone his entire career. The former lottery pick has been inconsistent for nearly a decade now, but he is smack in the middle of his prime. Smith provides a nice mid-range game for a near 7-footer. Just like Bargnani and Shved, he’s an excellent role player in the triangle system and for the right price.

Free Agency

I saved the most interesting part for last. With nearly $25 million to spend on free agents, this is the Knicks real opportunity to alter the franchise – giving Carmelo Anthony the necessary talent to make the playoffs, and ultimately compete for a championship.

The 2015 free agent class will likely headline (depending on who opts out of their current contracts) LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe. It could potentially feature other big names as well. However, for the purposes of the article, we are going to make the assumption that Kevin Love, Marc Gasol, Reggie Jackson, Goran Dragic, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler all re-up with their current teams. I think it is very unlikely any of them bolt for free agency, even if they do use the process as a leveraging tool for the most money from their current club. This leaves the Knicks with only a few top options, so doing some shrewd shopping will be vital to the chances of building a contending roster.

Center/Power Forward

LaMarcus Aldridge OR DeAndre Jordan

If both of these outstanding young big men are available, it will be devastating if the Knicks do not bring in one of them. Both are franchise altering talents, but the preference would be Aldridge, in a perfect world.

LaMarcus Aldridge could slide to the center position, allowing Carmelo Anthony to play the power forward slot; a position he seemed comfortable in during the Knicks successful 2012-2013 campaign. Aldridge would be the low post threat and rebounder the triangle offense demands.

DeAndre Jordan would play a different kind of role, but just as important nonetheless. Jordan is a relentless rebounder and shot blocker, and would anchor the middle for years to come. His offense is limited and his free throw shooting notoriously atrocious. But, Jordan could fill the defensive and rebounding voids that Tyson Chandler’s departure left a few seasons ago.

Small Forward/Shooting Guard

Gary Neal OR Dorrell Wright

This is where the Knicks need to spend wisely. With Justise Winslow, Cleanthony Early, and Tim Hardaway, Jr. all vying for minutes at the small forward or shooting guard slots, it makes sense to bring in a veteran wing or backcourt player. In addition, Carmelo Anthony can always slide back to his original SF position, allowing Winslow, Early, and Hardaway, Jr. to assume roles at SG.

Gary Neal represents a tenacious, hard-working defender who has the ability to have double-digit scoring nights. As a third or fourth option, Neal would fit in quite well in either a starting or bench role.

If the Neal idea doesn’t pan out, a potential backup option is Dorrell Wright. He has been a disappointment in Portland, but the 26 year old still has a boatload of potential. Plus, he is a knockdown shooter who can help space the floor. With my planned roster, New York will feature a high-percentage, post-oriented offense. This is key, since floor-spacing shooters are now at a premium. This gives the Knicks an opportunity to nab an underrated three point shooter. Shawne Williams is a viable option for the veteran’s minimum, as he could also play the stretch-four role off the bench.

Rajon Rondo and the Knicks make sense.

Rajon Rondo’s career may be revived if he signs with the Knicks.
(Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)

Point Guard

Rajon Rondo OR Patrick Beverley

The Knicks haven’t had a franchise level point guard in years, maybe since the days of Stephon Marbury. In order to compete at the highest level, this needs to change. With a front line ideally featuring LaMarcus Aldridge and Carmelo Anthony, you don’t need Magic Johnson or Chris Paul. Those guys would be great, but the Knicks do need to upgrade over Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway, or Alexy Shved.

Rajon Rondo would be the most realistic option here. The Dallas experiment hasn’t worked out for Rondo and he has a worthy relationship with Melo. Financially, the Knicks should be able to make this work. Rondo probably won’t receive more money than what Phil Jackson could offer, so he’s worth a shot here. In a new situation and the bright lights of New York, he could shine on both ends of the floor.

If Rondo signs elsewhere, Patrick Beverley would be a nice second tier option. Although his career has been riddled with injuries (seriously, I feel as though this guy is never on the court), Houston was a different team with him in the lineup. He is a nat defensively; constantly hounding the opposing team’s ball handlers (just ask Russell Westbrook). If nothing else, he will give you great perimeter defense, which is certainly worth something in today’s guard oriented NBA. Beverley will get a good amount of offers, but for the right price, he would make for a nice backcourt addition with Hardaway, Jr. or a Gary Neal.

The Opening Night Roster (2015-2016 New York Knicks)

If everything breaks the Knicks way, this could be their roster heading into next season. This would be the most talented roster they have had on paper in years, and assuming they stayed healthy, is easily a 50-win team in the East. Is this a championship roster? I would lean towards no, because they still lack the necessary depth (look at the Warriors just these last few weeks, depth is a real weapon over an eight month season). In addition, Winslow is probably years away from making the necessary impact for this to be a contending team. However, this roster does give the Knicks a chance to win a round or two in the playoffs, and a realistic three year window to contend for a championship.

Starters:
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Tim Hardaway, Jr.
SF: Justise Winslow
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: LaMarcus Aldridge

Bench:
SG: Gary Neal
PF/C: Andrea Bargnani
SG/SF: Cleanthony Early
PF/C: Jason Smith
PG: Jose Calderon
SF/PF: Shawne Williams
PG: Langston Galloway
PG/SG: Alexy Shved

What do you think of my plan for the Knicks? Is this a championship contender, or is there still work to do? Reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or using the comment system below.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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