Updated 12:36 AM EDT, Sun, Apr 18, 2021

Knicks News and Rumors 2014: Trades, Free Agents Needed for Phil Jackson to Put New York on NBA Title Path

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It’s official: the Phil Jackson Era is underway at Madison Square Garden.

With the blessing of New York Knicks owner James Dolan and a five-year contract, Jackson, who guided the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to 11 NBA championships as a head coach, took up the helm of the Knicks as the new team president Tuesday, marking a return to the Garden for Jackson after he played an integral part in the last Knicks NBA title-winning teams of the 1970s.

For both Jackson and the Knicks, the decision to bring in one of the most respected and decorated coaches and basketball minds in the history of the NBA marks a critical juncture in their respective legacies. For the Knicks, bringing Jackson on board may be their best and most legitimate shot of winning an NBA title since the days of Patrick Ewing. For Jackson, his storied and practically golden reputation is also on the line, and should he be able successfully build the blueprints that bring the Knicks their first world title since 1973, he might even rival the great Red Auerbach in the history books as being arguably the most brilliant basketball mind ever.

But getting there certainly won’t be easy. The Knicks are projected to be roughly around $30 million over the salary cap for this season and the next. Two of their most expensive players, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, are breaking down and aren’t what they used to be. And aside from superstar Carmelo Anthony, who could be on his way out of Gotham this summer if the Knicks don’t give him a reason to think that they can win a title soon, really, there’s very few players--if any--on the roster right now that really have any star power or value on the trade market.

There’s no way around it—the Knicks are a fixer-upper. While they have won six straight games so far and are still alive in the NBA playoff chase, New York is in need of virtually everything from rebounders to defense to better shooters and overall team chemistry. They’re a far cry from the veteran team last season that beat the world champion Miami Heat three out of four times and won its first Atlantic Division title in nearly 20 years, and even that team had its share of issues given the fact that they were relying on aging veterans like Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and Kenyon Martin to carry them through the season and the playoffs. This is a team that is in need of a radical facelift if they want to send a serious message to the rest of the league that they’re back and ready to hunt for the title again.

A few key moves along the way can help get the Knicks there. Let’s take a look at some critical free agents and trades that Phil Jackson may want to look at while rebuilding New York into a title contender.

1. Re-sign Carmelo Anthony

Yeah, the critics will be arguing and debating this one. “Melo can’t win a championship!” “He’s too selfish!” “He doesn’t share the ball enough!” But let’s face it: without Anthony in the equation, New York turns back into the Knicks of 2009, a team heavy on salary cap, light on talent and low on future prospects. For all his faults, Anthony is a legitimate superstar in the NBA. Other stars in the league want to team with last season’s league scoring champion because he’s that good. Playing with a dominant scorer like Melo is what’s going to make the Kevin Loves and Rajon Rondos of the league take the Knicks seriously when it comes to free agency after next season.

2. Trade JR Smith, Iman Shumpert for Solid Bench Help

One season ago, Smith, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, and the defensively-savvy Shumpert were cornerstones of the Knicks’ bench, a big reason why they won the division. What a difference a year makes. Smith has struggled all season long, playing as only a shell of his former electrifying self, and Shumpert, already with a history of knee problems, hasn’t exactly been blowing anyone away on the bench. Reportedly, Jackson is intrigued by Shumpert’s defensive prowess and wants him to be part of the Knicks’ rebuilding plans, but in light of his knee history and his regression this season, perhaps it might be time to part ways with him. Packaging Shumpert and Smith together could land New York a decent player, maybe someone like Paul Millsap or even one of the coveted 2015 free agents in their walk year. Or you could trade them for a few decent role players or young guards to rebuild the backcourt. They have options, and packaged together, the Knicks could make out with a decent haul.

3. Go Hard After Rajon Rondo in 2015 Free Agency

The Knicks need a point guard. Badly. If anything, Raymond Felton has done a good job this season of emphasizing that point with an underwhelming performance since November, poor shooting, and injuries marring his nightly numbers. Even Knicks coach Mike Woodson has admitted that New York might have had a better season if Felton had performed as well as he did during the first half of the 2012-13 season. There’s no doubt that the Knicks need a floor general, and preferably one of the highest caliber. Enter Rajon Rondo. A former NBA champion, a four-time All-Star and one of the slickest ball handlers and most cerebral, fearless point guards in the game today. He’s smart, tough and talented and with a chippy attitude; basically, he’s tailor-made for New York. Combining Rondo with Anthony would give the Knicks and Jackson two-thirds of the vaunted Triangle Offense that Jackson crafted for two mighty dynasties—and what fine cornerstones those two would make together. 

They would just need one more piece to make that work, and that brings us to... 

4. Get Kevin Love for Triangle Offense

Kevin Love is the diamond in the rough of a young, but underwhelming Minnesota Timberwolves squad. A fearsome scorer, a terrific rebounder and a skilled shooter, Love can make an immediate impact on offense for any team. And chances are that the 25-year-old star will look to pastures far greener and more promising than what the small-town Timberwolves can offer him. While many teams will be clamoring for his services, assuming the Knicks can re-sign Anthony and get Rondo on board, the addition of Love would give Jackson’s Knicks not only a powerful front line, but three dangerous scorers at key positions. A triple threat, indeed.

5. Build Supporting Cast

Even Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin needed Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr and Toni Kukoc. And even Kobe Bryant and Shaq needed Glen Rice, Derek Fisher and Robert Horry. The Knicks need role players. They’ll need defensive specialists, rebounders, spot shooters and guys who can hustle and do the dirty work. There are plenty of those that can be found around the league, and with the right scouting and careful selection and clearing of cap space, Jackson could indeed build a powerful, deep supporting cast that can give their stars all the support they need by taking care of the little things while they handle the big picture. If Jackson can put the right crew around them, which in some ways is more important to a team than even stars, the Knicks may have what it takes to hoist their first NBA title banner in decades into the rafters of the Garden.

ENJOY READING JEAN PAUL'S JEREMY LIN / NBA STORIES? CHECK OUT MORE HERE    

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