Team President Phil Jackson completed step one of the offseason process to help form the Knicks back into a contender. What he does over the next couple of months will be even bigger, if he can do anything at all.
Jackson's next step in the process is out of his hands though. I'm referring to Carmelo Anthony, who can decline his $23.5 million player option this offseason and become an unrestricted free agent.
To be quite honest, Jackson has a mess to clean up with the Knicks, and he may not be able to do anything until next offseason. Look at some of these player contracts next season: Amare Stoudemire (23.4 million player option), Andrea Bargnani (12 million), Raymond Felton (4.3 million). That's almost 40 million dollars in player contracts for guys that missed a combined 74 games last season.
The Knicks are already $28 million over the salary cap next year if Anthony & Stoudemire decide to pick up their options. Stoudemire is a given to pick up his and I don't blame him one bit, he'd have trouble finding 25 per cent of his current contract in the open market. He'll make more money next year than minutes played per game last season, as he averaged just over 22 minutes a game. They've already used up their amnesty clause in 2011 on Chauncey Billups, so that's not an option for Stoudemire either. They will have to bite the bullet with Amare.
New York does not have a draft pick in this month's upcoming draft, as Orlando has the rights to their lottery pick (12th), and Houston has their second round pick (42nd). The Knicks have some expiring contracts to possibly use as trade assets, Tyson Chandler would be the hottest commodity, with one year left on his deal at $14.5 million. Another candidate would be Bargnani, who the Knicks traded for last offseason.
Other than that, we're talking about a team that went 37-45 in the Eastern Conference, in a year arguably the worst the East has ever been. The Knicks missed the playoffs by one game, the first time in Anthony's 11 year career that he missed out on the postseason. Hopefully Jackson has his selling shoes on, because it seems like it would take a lot to keep Melo in a Knicks uniform next year. The only perk for Anthony is that the Knicks can pay him the most out of any NBA team, and owner James Dolan will have to take a nice little hit in luxury tax to do so.
With new blood running the ship and Derek Fisher at the helm, there's no doubt in my mind this team can compete if Anthony stays, as they have pieces around him, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr, Stoudemire, Chandler, Bargnani, Felton, Iman Shumpert & Pablo Prigioni isn't the worst nine man rotation. And maybe Fisher is all they need, but they've handcuffed themselves for this season to improve upon that roster unless they can find a trade partner. It is the Eastern Conference we're talking about and they had some health issues last year, so there's a little bit of room for optimism. Keep in mind, the team built this year was supposedly going to challenge the Heat in the East...
Ideally for the Knicks, they need to try and keep this roster intact by persuading Melo to give it one more shot. Then they will have over $54 million in cap room for the 2015 offseason and can re-sign Melo long term and rebuild with some quality pieces.