Where Do The Knicks Go From Here?

melomikeThe Knicks were expected by some (predominantly Knicks’ fans) to do more than just make the playoffs this year: they were supposed to content for a title.  Instead, they are sitting on the bottom of a division whose best team is a paltry 6-10.  The Knicks?  They are 3-13.  The reason for this record?  That question is flawed.  There is no reason, but rather reasons: none of which are the coach. 

With Wade, Allen adn Bosh playing alongside him, LeBron James clearly has a superior supporting cast than does Anthony.

With Wade, Allen adn Bosh playing alongside him, LeBron James clearly has a superior supporting cast than does Anthony.

For starters, Carmelo Anthony, the team’s best player, simply does not have the supporting cast that other superstars in the league have.  Looking at LeBron James, it is clear that not only is James the best player on the planet, but he also has at least three future Hall of Famers on his roster (Wade, Bosh and Allen), two of whom (Wade and Bosh) are in their prime, and one of whom is still one of the best shooters of all time.  Coupled with this, James has the benefit of expert role players: Shane Battier, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, Rashard Lewis and Roger Mason.  Andersen and Haslem can both provide double-digit rebounding with starting minutes, while Battier and Andersen are excellent defenders.  Few players on the Knicks can offer that kind of quality minutes that Haslem, Battier and Andersen can offer.

Though Chandler may be a better defensive player than Ibaka, Anthony doesn't have anybody as Westbrook playing alongside him as Durant does.

Though Chandler may be a better defensive player than Ibaka, Anthony doesn’t have anybody as Westbrook playing alongside him as Durant does.

Kevin Durant, the second best small forward in the league, likewise has an impressive supporting cast.  Russell Westbook is considered by many to be a top-5 point guard and by some to be a top-10 player.  Aside from Westbrook, Durant also plays with Serge Ibaka, who happens to be one of the best defenders in the league.  Other defensive specialists on the Thunder’s roster include Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha.  With Jeremy Lamb’s improving FG and 3pt percentages, coupled with Derrick Fisher’s veteran leadership and Nick Collison’s consistent rebounding, Durant also clearly has a far superior supporting cast.

Though Paul George may not be better than Anthony yet, Roy Hibbert, David West, Lance Stephenson and George Hill provide more help than Anthony currently has on the Knicks.

Though Paul George may not be better than Anthony yet, Roy Hibbert, David West, Lance Stephenson and George Hill provide more help than Anthony currently has on the Knicks.

Other player boast of far superior supporting casts.  Paul George has David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, Lance Stephenson, and, when he’s healthy, Danny Granger.  Chris Paul has Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Reddick. Kevin Love has Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio.  Anthony Davis has Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Evan Turner.  James Harden has Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons.  Some of these rosters are doing very well, some are just treading water, but all of them are doing better than the Knicks.  The reason for this?  They simply have far better rosters.

Four years ago paring Stoudemire with Chandler would have had most GMs drooling, but because of injuries, there is little help either can offer Anthony on the court.

Four years ago paring Stoudemire with Chandler would have had most GMs drooling, but because of injuries, there is little help either can offer Anthony on the court.

Carmelo Anthony’s supporting cast includes two key pieces: Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire.  It is possible that Stoudemire is as good as he once was, but is simply not getting the minutes.  Regardless, the restricted minutes is preventing Stoudemire from offering Carmelo any help even if he could.  The more important piece is, of course, Chandler.  Chandler is the defensive anchor on this team.  The season before Chandler arrived, the Knicks were one of the worst defensive teams.  The year he arrived? They suddenly became one of the best.  Take Chandler out of the lineup, and what do you have?  With neither Chandler nor Amare able to offer starting minutes, Anthony has little help.  Andrea Bargnani, for anybody who hasn’t been a Raptors fan for the last five seasons, is simply not a great player.  He is far too eager to shoot given his shooting percentages, his defensive is suspect at best, and his rebounding is… well… there are point guards who have averaged more rebounds per game than this 7-footer.  J.R. Smith is a great guy to have coming off the bench to light up the offence (shades of Vinnie Johnson), but as a primary second option?  He simply is not efficient enough.  The Knicks aren’t a good defensive team without Chandler, and they simply aren’t an efficient enough offensive team to compensate without him. 

Whenever people discuss the best small forwards in the league, two names come up before anybody else's, and Anthony is not one of those names.

Whenever people discuss the best small forwards in the league, two names come up before anybody else’s, and Anthony is not one of those names.

Aside from the fact that Anthony’s supporting cast is inferior, there is the fact that Anthony himself is inferior.  There is no doubt that LeBron James and Kevin Durant have better supporting casts than Anthony, and likewise, there is no doubt that Anthony himself is inferior to James and Durant.  Anthony was the consolation prize when New York failed to sign James and, as is the case with any consolation prise, Anthony is just not as good as the first prize.  Head-to-head, Anthony is going to be outperformed by James and Durant on a nightly basis.  In a 7-game series he’d be lucky to have one game that was outright better than either James or Durant.  And with younger guys like Paul George developing into franchise players, Anthony’s standing as the third best small forward is quickly waning.  And this is simply comparing Anthony to other small forwards.  Comparing Anthony to other franchise players and he is likely not even in the top ten in the league. This is not meant as a knock on Anthony.  He is, after all, one of the best players in the world.  He is an elite athlete and few people on the planet could match his ability.  That said, he simply is not as good as James, Durant or Chris Paul, and likely isn’t as good as George either (at least in terms of his all-around game).  When building a team, there are likely 20 players that every GM in the league would take before Anthony.    

J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony can play as well as anybody in the league on a good night, but they are not consistently as efficient scorers as other players at their respective positions.

J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony can play as well as anybody in the league on a good night, but they are not consistently as efficient scorers as other players at their respective positions.

So considering the weak roster, is it possible to point a finger at the general manager?  Not really.  The Knicks current GM inherited a problem from the previous one (who had inherited the problems from Isiah Thomas).  Donnie Walsh was brought in to clear cap space and make a run at LeBron James.  That is what he did.  When that plan fell through, there wasn’t much else left to do but sign an All-Star and hope for the best.  They signed the best available All-Star (Stoudemire) and eventually gave up more than they ought to have to obtain Anthony (against Walsh’s wishes).  The New GM has picked up a team crippled by huge contracts and inferior and/or injured players.  Last season Mike Woodson had his first full season with the Knicks, the team was relatively healthy, and some aging vets filled out some roster spots.  Woodson did about as well as any coach would have done with this roster: an appearance in the second round that saw the Knicks push a clearly superior team to 6 games.  Since that time Woodson’s defensive anchor has gone down with an injury, his offensive options are limited to inefficient scorers (Anthony, Smith and Bargnanin simply don’t shoot the ball as well as other players at their respective positions) and a lack of depth.  Their starting point guard, Raymond Felton, is a good player, but not a great player.  He is not even in the top 15 at his position.  The vets who filled out the roster from last season are either gone (Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby, and Rasheed Wallace), or arguing with the new vets (Keyon Martin and Metta World Peace respectively).  Not to mention the departure of Chris Copeland to the rival Indiana Pacers.  With such a huge turnover in player personal, coupled with an injury depleted team, there is little Woodson can fairly be expected to do.

If bringing in Andrea Bargnani was the best the Knicks could do to improve the team, perhaps it is best that they start making some moves now.

If bringing in Andrea Bargnani was the best the Knicks could do to improve the team, perhaps it is best that they start looking into making some moves now.

The Knicks were desperate enough to make this failing project work that they moved an efficient 3pt shooter (Steve Novak) for an inefficient one (Bargnani) with the hopes that this Hail-Mary trade might payoff.  It hasn’t.  Bargnani is playing about as well as he did in Toronto.  Firing Woodson is not going to fix this mess, even if the Knick brought Phil Jackson in to replace him.  The Knicks are simply a bad team.  What needs to be done is a drastic trade with a desperate team that is looking to shed a contract, or the Knicks need to completely blow this roster up and move some pieces with the hopes of securing as many first-round draft picks as possible.  This roster is simply not that good, and even if they manage to get into the playoffs, it is highly unlikely that they would reach the second round, let alone the NBA finals. The Knicks are going to have to bit the bullet and admit that building around Anthony was a mistake and move on.  If they don’t get what they can for the players they have, they may find their franchise player, Anthony, will leave them in the offseason and they won’t get anything in return for him.

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