The task of trying to rebuild the New York Knicks around star forward Carmelo Anthony will depend mainly on the type of big-time additions team president Phil Jackson can bring next summer, once he has some significant salary cap room to work with.
Until then, the Knicks will have to make do with what they have, aside from some possible trades that Jackson is currently exploring.
But as Jackson shops J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in an effort to bolster a team in need of better big men, he might find that the Knicks as presently constituted will be what New York will have to rely on for the 2014-15 season.
If that’s the case, the Knicks figure to face a similar problem which plagued them last season — that of having primarily a collection of one-way players.
Up and down New York’s expected roster for the upcoming season, the Knicks, as before, have primarily offensive and defensive players, but not both.
One of the NBA’s best scorers, Anthony has never been known to approach that kind of prowess defensively.
The same can be said of fellow forward Amar’e Stoudemire, even in his much healthier days, when he too, was an offensive force.
Andrea Bargnani’s defense on the ball is credible, but he struggles mightily with help defense, and he as well, is mainly an offensive player.
Rookie forward Cleanthony Early has the tools to be solid backup for Anthony offensively, but it remains to be seen if he has the combination of physical strength and agility to defend against NBA-caliber forwards.
Newly acquired center Samuel Dalembert can bang, defend and rebound, but he’s never been a dangerous offensive threat. Jason Smith (when he’s actually healthy) and Cole Aldrich each show flashes of helping on either end of the floor, but neither can be counted on to consistently provide significant production both offensively and defensively at the same time. Meanwhile, Jeremy Tyler, who also demonstrated his ability to score off the bench last season, won’t scare opposing offenses while trying to protect the paint.
In the backcourt, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway, Jr. can each be exciting parts of the Knicks’ offense. But Hardaway often struggled to defend during his rookie season last year and when Smith’s often streaky shot doesn’t fall, he has a tendency to lose focus defensively,
Iman Shumpert may be the best defender New York has, but he normally can’t create his own shot and over a season and has never made better than the below-average 40.1 percent from the floor as a rookie. He has dipped each year since, to the poor 37.8 percent he shot in his third season last year, when he averaged just 6.7 points per game despite starting 58 times and playing 26.5 minutes per contest last season. Shumpert often disappeared, reaching double digits in shot attempts just six times in 74 games.
Newcomer Wayne Ellington will help the Knicks in a limited role from three-point range, but he doesn’t exactly fit the“3-and-D” profile that widely popular among teams throughout the league.
Shane Larkin has the ability to be a good point guard who can get into the paint and set other up, while also causing some problems with quick hands and a capability to get his fair share of steals. But while he seems to have good upside, Larkin also didn’t get much of an opportunity during his rookie campaign with Dallas to prove that he will make a big impact yet on either side of the floor.
Calderon is one of the league’s better point guards and one of the NBA’s most accurate three-point shooters, but he normally can’t stop opposing point guards. Prigioni, meanwhile, is usually reliable defensively, and helps his teammates communicate on that end. But he’s a very reluctant shooter who won’t score much nor post big assist numbers even though he helps move the ball well and keeps his turnovers at a minimum.
Add it all up, and some difficult dilemmas will be presented for first-year head coach Derek Fisher, who will have to decide whether he wants to go with offense while sacrificing defense, or vice versa.
More often than not, the Knicks’ makeup next season won’t allow Fisher to have much balance between offense and defense.
And as Jackson continues to search for help the rest of this summer, during next season and especially next summer, he’ll have to do so with a keen eye on making sure that he not only acquires talent, but that he does so to help fix what is perhaps the Knicks’ biggest problem of all.
He’ll have to improve the team’s chemistry in such a way that New York can move away from its overreliance on players who only play one way, and who can instead provide a refreshing change to the Knicks’ lineup at either end of the floor.