The Incredible Shrinking New York Knicks
The New York Knicks have made very few player transactions this offseason to improve their roster. They certainly have lacked the bold, big moves that other teams in the Eastern Conference have made to shake up their respective rosters in preparation for the 2017-18 NBA season.
The Knicks went out and signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a contract that is still a “head scratcher” to many in the pro basketball industry. They have done very little outside of the NBA Draft to improve the roster. The front office keeps reiterating that it is committed to rebuilding around a young core of players, most notably, budding star Kristaps Porzingis.
The word “rebuilding” makes Knicks fans cringe because the team feels like it has been in a cycle of rebuilding for the better part of 15 years with no real results to show for that period of time. That “company line” about commitment to young players would be better received if the team did not have over half of their salary cap dollars dedicated to three veteran players: Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee.
The Knicks have been trying to move Anthony and his huge contract to the Houston Rockets (Anthony has a no trade clause but will lift it for certain teams) but those talks have slowed to a crawl in the past few weeks. The Carmelo contract hinders the Knicks from a salary cap standpoint from improving the team, and on the court it hinders them from moving into a full rebuild with a youth movement fully engaged to reinvigorate the core of the team.
The Noah contract is essentially unmovable right now because he is injured and coming off two surgeries; no team would want to take a risk on him until he proves he can still play. New York would not trade him until some point during the season because they would be “selling low” on his value by trading him at any point this summer. His contract also makes it difficult for the salary numbers to even out and meet league approval, so any trade with Noah is probably going to have to involve a third team and/or an expiring contract that is huge from another team.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors improved their roster by signing their core players to contract extensions and adding pieces to improve an already playoff caliber roster. They are positioning themselves to take on the Celtics and Cavs in the East.
The Indiana Pacers moved on from Paul George and that distraction that would have been like a weight on their chest all season. They received a nice haul from the Oklahoma City Thunder in return to begin to take their rebuild into the next phase.
The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers hooked up on a monster trade sending Kyrie Irving to Beantown, and Isiah Thomas to play with LeBron and Kevin Love. That trade made both teams better because Cleveland got other valuable assets to prepare for the future.
The Philadelphia 76ers seem poised for a breakout season and suddenly emerge with young, top-notch prospect players with high athletic skills at each position. The Washington Wizards also locked up their key core players and are building a roster to make another deep playoff run.
The Knicks have been idling in neutral while all of this is taking place around them. They are seemingly consumed by trading Carmelo Anthony, who has a no trade clause, and his market is severely limited in the first place. They are shrinking while everyone else is growing and improving their respective roster components.
The front office is reshuffled after the failed Phil Jackson experiment, but I do not see the direction for this team. I think they could have been more aggressive in pursuing other avenues to improve the team this summer. They have needs at a few positions, notably at point guard.
The East continues to improve, and if the Knicks cannot move on from Anthony or the bloated contracts given to Noah and Courtney Lee, then I am not sure how they can make the necessary changes to this roster to get younger. It is a mess, and there is no end in sight.