The New York Knicks have problems.
It is very easy to pounce on a team that underachieved in the playoffs, bowing out in the second round to the Indiana Pacers. But it runs a lot deeper than just a poor showing in the postseason.
Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire are set to make $35 million combined over the next two years. Marcus Camby is set to make $8 million over the next two seasons. That is a ton of money for three players who were non-existant over the last thirty days of the Knicks season.
Surprisingly, Chandler had one of his better rebounding season, averaging over ten rebounds per game for just the second time in his career. But injury/flu/fatigue led to a laughably poor showing against Indiana as Roy Hibbert completely dominated him. Chandler will be entering his 13th NBA season and I expect some decline. But ultimately, he's going to be their center and should bounce back.
Camby's contract -- albeit not crushing -- is a gigantic waste unless he retires. It wouldn't shock me if that happens, but I'm sure he'd love to be paid to sit at the end of the bench.
Then there's Stoudemire. What the hell do you do with this guy? Sure, he could come back and be a key piece next season, but how can you trust that? Even when he was healthy (let's use February as his peak), he averaged just under 15 pts/gm and 5.6 rbs/gm. $44+ million for that kind of production is not going to get it done.
Iman Shumpert is the Knicks most valuable player. He's young, he's due very little money, and he's coming off a great playoff run. Don't let the points fool you (a shade over 9/gm); Shumpert was the second-best player on the Knicks' roster. He's ferocious defensively and has continued to show signs of getting better.
The worry with Shumpert is the ACL he tore last postseason. It took him a few weeks to play in an NBA game, and arguably a half of a season to get back to how he played last year.
I'm going to just come right out and say it. Carmelo Anthony is not an elite NBA player.
Melo is one of the most prolific scorers in the league. He is outstanding in isolation and can get off any shot at any time. But I'm starting to worry if he can single handedly carry a team on his own.
Melo's wanted to be a Lebron James for years, but at some point, the NBA world has to accept that he is not that. He's only made it out of the first round twice. And while his numbers have either equaled or improved, the continuous seasons of underachieving has finally made me believe that he needs better talent around him rather than just being "the guy".
There aren't many moved the Knicks can make. I highly doubt any team is going to take Stoudemire straight up. Obviously they aren't trading Melo, so how can this team be fixed? I think the answer is trading the Knicks one true asset in Shumpert.
Listen, I love Shumpert and absolutely think he'll be a very good NBA player. But you have to win now and this team is setup for that.
The Knicks can kill two stones by packaging Shumpert with Amare or Chandler. Trading Chandler might not be the most popular opinion, but the possibility exists that with the amount of games he has played, he could be heading towards the downside of his career. One thing history suggests is that NBA centers fall very quickly.
But let's say they can get by with keeping Chandler. That leads Amar'e. I really believe a team will take Amar'e and the two years left on his deal to also acquire Shumpert. It's about finding the right trade partner.
Paul Pierce: Pierce has one year left on his deal. He can still score and would be a perfect compliment to Melo. But age is a BIG factor and Pierce had plenty of moments this year where he looked worn down. If Pierce were a year or two younger, I think it would make sense, but I think it's a bit too late to explore this option.
Rajon Rondo: This one is a bit more interesting. There's been rumors that the Celtics might be intrigued with trading Rondo. This type of deal would have drawbacks from both sides. Do the Celtics want to be saddled with Kevin Garnett/Pierce/Stoudemire with no point guard? Do the Knicks want to take a risk on Rondo coming back healthy? Would the Knicks also take on Brandon Bass's contract (The Celtics would also need to throw in a middle-tier contract and Bass makes the most sense)? The idea of having Rondo is nice, I just don't think both sides could make this work.
Joe Johnson: The Knicks could probably do a Johnson/Stoudemire deal straight up, but I really don't think they want to be saddled with Johnson until 2016. I'd consider this a very last resort.
Dirk Nowitzki: See Paul Pierce (plus Nowitzki has a no-trade clause AND the Knicks would probably have to take on Vince Carter as well). Just don't see this happening.
Pau Gasol/Steve Nash: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. This would be quite the shake up. It's due-able if the Knicks give up Stoudemire/Shumpert/Raymond Felton. We've heard Gasol's name in potential deals for years. And I really think the Lakers are fully ready to give up Nash, who has one-year left on his deal. But this means the Lakers would have to take a small step back. And I think the Lakers focus is going to be on how to deal with the Kobe Bryant issue. This trade feels more like fantasy land than real life.
Chris Paul: And here's one of the more interesting "what ifs". Knicks give up Stoudemire/Shumpert/Felton for Paul/Caron Butler. There's a lot of things that need to go right with this trade but it absolutely is a consideration. Paul would have to decide he doesn't want to be a Clipper. The Clippers would have to be sold on Stoudemire (and probably find a suitor for DeAndre Jordan). Imagine a Knicks lineup with Anthony and Paul? The naysayers from the Knicks end are doing to say that Paul has fizzled in the playoffs early and will wonder if his legs can hold up through the length of his new deal. But stars win in the NBA. And this could be the game changer.
Ultimately, I think the Knicks stand pat. Stoudemire's health is just too much of an uncertainty and I really don't know if another team would want to take on the risk. Both the Knicks as well as (insert trading partner) have to ask themselves "What will Amar'e Stoudemire be giving me in the next few years?"
I didn't even touch on the coach, but I'd give it a 50/50 chance Mike Woodson is fired. If he is let go, it might be even more of a realistic opportunity that the Knicks explore trades so that whoever the new coach is can almost start new.
But the future of the Knicks is going to fall on their star and how the team can build around him.
As a fan......I am definitely worried.