Knicks News and Rumors: With Carmelo Signed, Which Top Free Agents Should the Knicks Target in 2015?
If the New York Knicks were looking for another chance at putting together the complicated NBA championship puzzle that has baffled them for decades, Carmelo Anthony is about as good a cornerstone piece as they can get.
Deciding that he was "a New York Knick at heart," the Brooklyn, New York-born Anthony, the lethal scorer and 2012-13 NBA scoring champion, waved off other offers from more championship-ready teams in order to commit the next few years of his prime to the Knicks in the hopes of bringing a championship to the Big Apple for the first time since the days of Willis Reed and Walt "Clyde" Frazier in 1973.
For the Knicks, it was great news. They don't have to start from scratch now. Their No.1 priority in the offseason -- re-signing their franchise player and the second-biggest star on the NBA free agency market -- was accomplished. They got their man.
Now, here comes the hard part.
Much like LeBron James acknowledged about his own situation in his letter on Friday when he announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Anthony deep down has likely acknowledged that his Knicks are not ready to compete for a world title in their current state. On offense, the team was the 11th worst in the NBA this past season, scoring only 98.6 points while allowing teams to score 99.4 points on them (tied for eighth best in the NBA). Their bench depth was woefully depleted, injuries left the roster ravaged, and without the veteran presences of Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and other key veterans who left the season before, New York looked lost and aimless on both ends of the floor all season long en route to a 37-45 season that saw them just miss the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.
This team is in need of serious fixing. And while team president Phil Jackson has started the building process with gutsy, salary-clearing moves like trading Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton while acquiring veteran point guard Jose Calderon, the Knicks still need more help. Barring a trade of the expensive salaries of Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire, they won't have the financial room to do much else this summer.
But when those two contracts, and a few other expendable ones, expire next summer, that's a much different story. The Knicks could have upwards of $20 million to offer free agents next summer, pending the final amount that Anthony signs for, which reportedly has wiggle room in the first two years of his contract to allow the Knicks to build a contender. And with the salary cap projected to expand to roughly $68 million by 2016, that could put New York in prime position to go after the biggest fish in the waters of next summer's deep-and more balanced-NBA free agents class.
But who should they go after? And which ones would help the Knicks contend for an NBA championship? Latin Post takes a look:
The big fish. Young, tall, strong, and talented, Love is a walking double-double in points and rebounds (26.5 points, 12.5 rebounds last season), knows how to get it done in the low post, and can shoot from the outside. Getting Love as power forward would add the second scoring option that Anthony desperately needs while filling out the second part of the Triangle Offense that is trademark with Jackson's teams. But if Love is traded to Cleveland, where James and a young, promising roster of No.1 picks awaits, the Knicks could miss out. In that instance, they can turn to...
An outstanding defender, good rebounder and rim protector, Hibbert would bolster New York's defense significantly while giving New York a center that could go toe-to-toe with any big man in the NBA. He had a meltdown in the latter half of last season with the Indiana Pacers, which has prompted reports that the Pacers are looking to shop him on the trade market. With a chance of scenery and paired with a scorer like Anthony, Hibbert might be able to re-energize his game, letting Anthony handle offense while he could lock down teams on defense.
When healthy, Rondo is easily one of the top five best point guards in the NBA. A natural floor general, he gets teammates involved, runs the offense like a well-oiled machine, and is not shy about crating his own shot. With Love likely going to Cleveland, the Boston Celtics may have no choice but to trade Rondo next season. And if he doesn't commit to any team, he's fair game on the free agency market next summer. Aside from providing Anthony a great No.2 scorer when necessary, Rondo's uncanny court vision, quickness, and playmaking ability could be the key ingredient in the Knicks' championship formula.
As well-rounded as they come, the Barcelona, Spain-born Gasol is one of the NBA's top centers, and perhaps its most balanced. Last season's NBA Defensive Player of the Year averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per night to go along with his 1.3 blocked shots, and he's been battle-tested in the playoffs with the dangerous Memphis Grizzlies. Reports have indicated that Gasol loves Memphis and wants to stay, but with the right offer and a decent showing by the Knicks next season, Gasol may be tempted to see what The Big Apple tastes like.
A solid scorer and improving defensive player, Gay has been getting better with each year, and he's only 27 years old. After splitting time between the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings, Gay is likely longing to be a part of a winning team; some serious cash thrown his way would be nice, too. The Knicks are a team that could give him both. Adding Gay's offense to New York would give Anthony a breather on most nights, and if he can fit into the Triangle Offense while improving his commitment to defense, the Knicks would have the makings of a very dangerous team.
A talented shooting guard with scoring talent and a solid defender, Matthews has been a big part-yet an underrated one-of the Portland Trail Blazers' success. When he comes off the books next summer, he'll be 28. He could bring much-needed athleticism and balance to the Knicks roster and provide a solid backcourt for Calderon, if he sticks around, while giving Anthony some breathing room on offense. Whether that balance would translate into an NBA title contender for New York is anyone's guess, but with Matthews' talents, the Knicks couldn't be blamed if they want to give him a shot.
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