Plan B: If Carmelo Anthony Leaves, Knicks’ Best Bet Is Rondo, Aldridge and Love

Posted on Jun 23 2014 - 9:19am by John DeRosa
Will Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki be teammates next season?  Mandatory Credit: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Will Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki be teammates next season? Mandatory Credit: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

With Carmelo Anthony exercising his early termination clause, it’s starting to look more and more like ‘Melo will bolt New York for a chance to win a championship.

Chicago, Houston, Dallas and even Miami (a shiver just went down my spine as I wrote that) are all possible landing spots for the talented forward.

The best thing that the Knicks have going for them is that they can offer Anthony more money than anyone else. But, if we are to take Anthony at his word, money will not be the motivating factor in his decision. Should he determine that his time in New York has run its course, what will Phil Jackson’s next move be?

There’s no question that the Knicks’ roster needs a shake-up, with or without Anthony.

At center, Tyson Chandler is in the last year of his contract, but when healthy, he’s an above-average contributor and the only player that the Knicks have who can defend the rim. At power forward, Amar’e Stoudemire showed signs of life towards the end of the season. If healthy – and that’s one gigantic IF – Stoudemire is still one of the better players at his position, though his minutes will need to be monitored. Like Chandler, Stoudemire is in the final year of his contract. And so is Andrea Bargnani, which is his only real value at this point. Youngster Jeremy Tyler showed some promise when given the opportunity, but can he be counted on for an entire season?

Shooting guard is, no doubt, the Knicks’ deepest position with 2013 sixth man of the year award recipient J.R. Smith, defensive ace Iman Shumpert, and 2014 rookie sensation Tim Hardaway, Jr. all on the roster. Since Smith, Shumpert and Hardaway, Jr. are all solid contributors, and there are only so many minutes to distribute, look for Jackson to try and move one of these three.

The likely candidate to go is Shumpert since: a) no one really wants Smith and his mercurial personality, b) Hardaway had a very good rookie season and is cheap, and c) Shumpert will be looking for a pay raise after the 2015 season.

The point guard position is very instable for the Knicks. Raymond Felton had a down year in 2014, and might be facing a gun charge. Pablo Prigioni is a nice piece, but is really more of a backup than a starter.

So, the $64,000 question is this: what do the Knicks do if Anthony leaves town?

Well, the interesting wrinkle in all of this is that the Knicks will still be over the salary cap if Anthony leaves. So, the only move that the Knicks can make in free agency is to use their mid-level exception, which will not land them players such as Luol Deng or Kyle Lowry. Look for the Knicks to go after a point guards such as Jerryd Bayless – who played in Boston last season – or Patty Mills who served as Tony Parker’s backup with the San Antonio Spurs. The biggest moves that the Knicks can potentially make this offseason are via trade – and they do have the flexibility to pull that off.

As mentioned above, they can get some decent pieces in return for someone like Shumpert. Also, don’t discount the value of having three players (Chandler, Stoudemire, and Bargnani) who are in the last years of their respective deals. And should they decide to use their mid-level exception on someone like center Chris Kaman, they could use Chandler as trade bait to fill out another position on the roster.

But the reality of the situation is that the Knicks will most likely need to wait until the summer of 2015 to add a big name like LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo or Kevin Love (assuming he doesn’t get traded this offseason).

This is why Jackson gets paid the big bucks because it is quite a dilemma, especially with the 2015 free agent class being so talent-rich.

Do you make moves now or wait until next year? If I had a vote, I’d say don’t wait. We don’t want 2015 to be 2010 part-two, do we?