Alex Park, Staff Writer
When the New York Knicks clinched their worst season in franchise history with their sixtieth loss of the season, it was just like all their other losses: disappointing. With an NBA worst 39 double-digit losses, it’s clear that a lot of work is needed to improve the quality of Knicks basketball.
So how should the Knicks handle the offseason? Here are some specifics.
Go After Defense In Free Agency:
New York’s current superstar, Carmelo Anthony, has earned a negative reputation as a poor and lazy defender. Naturally, playing alongside an above-average defender would help on the offensive side of the floor. Over the four seasons he played alongside Iman Shumpert, a solid defender, Anthony averaged a 45.4 field goal percentage when Shumpert was on the court while only 43.8 percent when he was off.
The numbers don’t do Anthony any justice, as Shumpert regressed defensively in his final two seasons in New York.
The biggest disparity of On-Off FG percentage was back in the 2011-12 season when Shumpert was a rookie, arguably his best defensive season as a Knick. It’s clear Anthony plays better with a great defender taking pressure off of him.
Notable free agent targets should be: Marc Gasol, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, DeAndre Jordan, Rajon Rondo, Draymond Green, Roy Hibbert and Tyson Chandler.
With enough cap-space to offer a max-contract, the Knicks should pull out all the stops to attract the best possible defender. Even if they fall short of signing an impact defensive player, this free agent class is very deep and any player will most likely be a major upgrade.
Draft Whoever Is Left On The Board:
Although taking defensive pressure off Anthony should be a priority, passing up on Jahlil Okafor is like committing a sin: it should not be done. Defensive deficiencies aside, Okafor has the potential to become an elite player in all of basketball. That speaks volumes about Okafor’s dexterity, ability to work out of the post and offensive playmaking ability.
It should be an easy decision if he’s still available in the draft. But what if he’s not?
Karl-Anthony Towns should immediately be the next option. The 6’11” star out of Kentucky would serve as an immediate upgrade to the Knicks frontcourt and can play either power forward or center. His defensive potential is significantly higher than Okafor’s (2.3 blocks per game) and has an impressive midrange game.
Their transition to the triangle offense will have its bumps and bruises, but either Okafor or Towns could spark a reversal of fortune.
Going after Emmanuel Mudiay (China) or D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) shouldn’t be out of the discussion. Either of these players would provide a boost to the New York roster and could easily take some of the load off of Anthony.
Not every turnaround is instant, while some don’t even happen. Forget what Head Coach Derek Fisher said about going from worst-to-first, the Knicks need to prioritize their growth and development, as well as learn the triangle offense.
In 2016-17, the salary cap is set to explode with the new television deal between ESPN and Turner. The deal is reportedly worth $2.66 billion a year for nine years, per Richard Sandomir of The New York Times. Developing the younger players and the possibility of adding on a third or fourth superstar would do the Knicks wonders.
Although it may seem like win-now mode, there’s still plenty of time.