I said before the series started that the Knicks would have to get some big performances from Toney and Landry if they were going to have a chance in this series. Well, not only did that not happen, but Amar'e and Chauncey got hurt, while the Celtics' health (with the exception of a marginally significant Shaq) remained pristine. Game over. Now what? The Knicks should improve a lot with some time together but they also have gaping holes on their team.
1. Toney Douglas is not our starting point guard of the future, and he may not even be our backup point guard of the future.
2. The guys we could sign in free agency this year probably aren't either.
3. Chauncey Billups is probably not worth 14 million next year.
4. Chauncey Billups' 14 million expiring deal is probably more likely to get us our point guard of the future than anyone we'd sign with whatever cap room we'd have by not signing him. Plus we'd probably win more games next year picking up the option than not.
5. We are not going to know who we draft until well after we make the decision whether or not to pick up Chauncey's option.
6. It appears that Landry Fields might be more suited to back up Carmelo at small forward rather than start at shooting guard alongside him.
7. Ronny Turiaf is pretty good but his knee isn't. The Knicks sorely need a big man that can contribute major effective minutes.
So, what do we have to work with?
A. Free agency. The mid-level, whatever that turns out to be, plus a possible chunk of money if we don't pick up Chauncey's option.
B. The draft. We pick 17th in the first round. No picks in the second round. Next year, no first rounder.
C. Trades. Landry, Toney, or Extra E might have some value on the market.
In other words, not very much.
What then, is the strategy?
Well..... First of all, I would pick up Chauncey's option. At first I was against it, but I don't think they'll get anywhere near as good a player if they try to replace him with a free agent, and I don't think the team can play at a consistently high level with Toney Douglas at the point. You can attempt to make Carmelo into a point guard, and that seems to make some sense, but relying on that is a bad gamble. I say, bring Chauncey back and the worst case scenario is that Chauncey is your point guard. The best case scenario is that his expiring gets traded for Chris Paul.
I would go after a guard in the draft. I just think that picking 17th, the chances of getting a big man that can contribute immediately better than She-will is unlikely. I think it's possible you can get an impact player guard at 17 that may have fallen through the cracks a bit. Depending on who's available, picking a shooting guard or a point guard would work. A point guard might be able to develop backing up Chauncey and that would be nice. A shooting guard would give us a shooting guard.
Now, as for a big man - yes, the Knicks need a center. So do 20 other teams. The guys that are available are going to be heavily pursued and expensive. I would love to see the Knicks get Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, or Sam Dalembert. But honestly, I just don't see how this is going to happen. How can the Knicks pay for those guys? By relinquishing Chauncey? It might get them enough space - might. But then who is playing point guard? Toney Douglas? Some rookie they draft? Anthony Carter, Carmelo Anthony? Another problem with signing one of those guys is that they're going to be expensive and take a multi-year deal. What does that do to our flexibility? We could try to work out a trade for a big man, but our trade chips are few and probably diminished in value this postseason.
Unfortunately, the more realistic option is that the Knicks bring in a low price veteran power forward. They're more plentiful and can be had for a low price. Even a guy like Kurt Thomas would be very helpful for the Knicks. Then, you bring in Jerome Jordan from overseas, get Ronny some sort of knee operation and hope for the best.
I could be wrong, but the Melo trade, as it happened, left us without a whole lot of flexibility to add major pieces. I'm sure we will see some additions and subtractions, but the impact type of stuff everyone is talking about seems unrealistic to me. We could have pokered the Melo trade to the point where we added Melo (or Deron Williams) to our already established team, like the Pau Gasol trade or the Kevin Garnett trade - but we went the route of being absolutely 100 percent sure we got Melo. Now we have Melo, Amar'e, and big holes we need to fill somehow. It's true that the chance of playing with Carmelo and Amar'e might be attractive to free agents and we might get someone good on the cheap that way. We also might get a major contributor with our 17th pick. In my opinion, we are going to be good, but we are going to have to get a little lucky if we want to take the next step to true championship contender.
Now, Branch Rickey once said "Luck is the residue of design", and I think the first way to get lucky is to get Donnie on board. I have faith that Donnie can get the best possible players in here with what he has to work with.