2011 NBA Offseason: New York Knicks

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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New York Knicks (Last Year: 42-40)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

The Knicks reached for both players in my opinion. We heard them talk about Iman Shumpert’s ability to defend and his athleticism, but he is somewhat of a mess offensively in terms of playing under control and understanding the game. There were better players available who would have fit their need (i.e. Chris Singleton). The Knicks need size and that is what Josh Harrellson has, but I am not sure he is an NBA player. When you have money like the Knicks though, you can afford to buy picks whenever you want, I guess. (Team Grade: Meh)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

17. Iman Shumpert, SG, Georgia Tech
We knew the Knicks were high on Shumpert who was a late riser in this draft. He is crazy athletic but not necessarily the best basketball player. He will bring athleticism to the wing and plays solid defense, but I think there were better options available. (Pick Grade: Meh)

45. Josh Harrellson, C, Kentucky
New York traded for the Hornets pick at No. 45 and selected the Kentucky big man. Harrellson is really nothing more than a big body and wasn’t on many mock drafts. However, Landry Fields was a guy who wasn’t expected to be drafted and he turned OK, so who knows? (Pick Grade: Don’t get it)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
Dating back to a couple of years ago, the New York Knicks put into motion a plan to clear as much cap space as possible and make a run at LeBron James in the summer of 2010. While that plan did not exactly go as hoped, the Knicks took the first step towards re-building their reputation when they signed Amare Stoudemire last offseason. The second domino then fell when, as many expected, New York was able to trade for Carmelo Anthony prior to the trade deadline and embark on their own Miami Heat-like journey.

Prior to Melo’s arrival in the Big Apple, the Knicks were already on pace to finish with their best record in a decade. Surprising as it might seem, New York only ended up with a .500 record after the blockbuster acquisition, partially because the team was still trying to find a chemistry on the court and partially because the deal gutted the already thin depth across the roster. However, that was the price management knew it would have to pay to form its dynamic duo that averaged nearly 50 points per game in their time together.

The almost forgotten “throw-in” of the Anthony trade was veteran point guard Chauncey Billups who took the reins from the dealt Raymond Felton. Felton was having a breakout season in New York and Billups played well after the trade but also began to show his age a bit. With Billups entering the final year of his contract, expect it to be his last in New York. The Knicks could actually try to use him as trade bait during the season in hopes of acquiring a player like Chris Paul.

The biggest surprise of all for the Knicks was second-round pick Landry Fields who was considered a reach when New York took him with the 38th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Fields wound up starting 81 games and was exactly what the team needed from a financial standpoint – cheap but effective production.

The lack of depth caught up to New York late in the season when they were swept out of the playoffs by the Celtics as Billups was sidelined with injury and the team relied on guys like Jared Jefferies, Anthony Carter and Roger Mason to play significant roles. Still, the 2010-11 season is just the beginning of the re-birth of the Knicks franchise. Now the goal is to continue to make improvements so New York can once again be a legit factor in the Eastern Conference.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Ronny Turiaf/Josh Harrellson

PF: Amare Stoudemire/Renaldo Balkman

SF: Carmelo Anthony/^Derrick Brown

SG: Landry Fields/Bill Walker/Andy Rautins

PG: Chauncey Billups/Toney Douglas/Iman Shumpert

NBA Free Agents:

SF-Shawne Williams (UFA)

PF-Shelden Williams (UFA)

PG-Anthony Carter (UFA)

PF-Jared Jefferies (UFA)

SG-Roger Mason (UFA)

^F-Derrick Brown (RFA)

Offseason Transactions:

Knicks acquire 45th pick (Josh Harrellson) from Hornets for cash considerations

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $60.6 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Cheap Depth: With their own big three pretty much eating up the entire Knicks cap space, New York now enters Miami Heat zone in trying to find veterans who are willing to sign league minimum deals to fill out the depth of their roster. This is not an easy mission to accomplish although the attraction of playing in New York City should only help their cause.

2. Frontcourt Help: Depending on what happens with the salary cap after the pending lockout is resolved, the Knicks’ biggest asset in free agency will be their mid-level exception. That should be spent on finding some frontcourt help, ideally a true center who can protect the rim on the defensive end.

3. Front Office Stability: Despite playing an integral part in resurrecting the franchise, team president Donnie Walsh stepped down (cough, was forced out, cough) of his job with the Knicks. With that decision comes uncertainty about Mike D’Antoni’s future with the team as the head coach is entering the final year of his contract. Owner James Dolan must replace Walsh with someone who can continue the blueprint that Walsh laid out for this franchise while also figuring out if D’Antoni is the man for the job or if there is a better replacement available. Any franchise that has hopes of contending for a title needs stability at the top so the men wearing the expensive suits in the Knicks front office better figure things out.

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