After the New York Knicks lost to the Miami Heat in five games in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, they are now facing a long offseason filled with important decisions. J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Jared Jeffries, Mike Bibby, and Landry Fields are free agents. Jeremy Lin is a restricted free agent. Oh, and coach Mike Woodson is still wearing the interim tag.
After last night’s elimination from the Heat, J.R. Smith tweeted, “Damn didn’t know this [many] people didn’t want me in #NY might just get what you asking for! #sorrykidz.” Although he did tweet later, “Damn I’m glad I don’t care what y’all say! LMAO!” Smith went 11-48 from the field in Games 3,4, and 5 and 24-76 in the series. That’s 31.6 percent from the field. Smith is a streaky shooter and when he is on he can turn the tide of a game, especially as a scoring option off the bench. However, in this series he was asked to become the Knicks second option behind Carmelo Anthony and Smith launched the second most shots among Knicks players in the series, behind Carmelo. For all of his ups and downs, Smith can be a valuable member of a team when he isn’t asked to do more than he should. He holds a $2.5 million player option that if will either make him a Knick or a free agent.
The Knicks need Smith. As streaky as he is he can sway the momentum of the game and that is worth the $2.5 million. The Knicks also need to bring Steve Novak back who offers the same quality with his ability to hit the three-pointer. Having players like Smith and Novak coming off the bench makes the Knicks better. Even if they aren’t hitting the three the other team has to respect their ability to do so and has to spread their defense to account for that which opens up lanes.
Another important, and often overlooked, cog in the Knicks system is Landry Fields. He doesn’t score in bunches and he doesn’t show a ton of flash. But Fields is a basketball player. He reminds me a little of Shane Battier, a smart, unselfish player who can score at times and play defense. There is a reason Fields is a fan favorite, he plays his heart out. He is a throwback to when the Knicks were always battling Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Alonzo Mourning, and Hakeem Olajuwon for playoff supremacy. The Knicks need to make re-signing Fields a priority this offseason, preferably to a long-term deal. He won’t be asking for crazy money so he should be able to fit within the cap. If not, the Knicks need to make a sign-and-trade that will net them someone who can have a similar impact.
Jared Jeffries is an often overlooked player. He doesn’t score much but he teamed with Tyson Chandler to bring some defensive heart to the Knicks. The Knicks need defensive heart, especially if Mike Woodson remains the coach. Jeffries is a valuable guy to have off the bench, someone who can come in and grab a rebound and make the opposing team work for their points. I don’t know what the money situation will be like but I would be surprised if Jeffries walked or if the Knicks let him.
As for Jeremy Lin, the Knicks thrived when he first started running the point. Lin was able to penetrate opposing defenses and score or dish the ball after collapsing the defense. The Knicks will bring Lin back. There are a lot of question marks surrounding Lin for me. Can he sustain a high level of play over an entire season? Can he cut down on his turnovers? Can he stay healthy? Will he be affordable?
There is always a chance that another team comes in and offers Lin a crazy contract. This is the NBA after all. The Knicks will need to bring in at least one point guard. Baron Davis was thought to be that guy but he couldn’t stay healthy and now his career is in jeopardy. Mike Bibby has almost nothing left. Lin is a question mark, though the Knicks should bring him back. All signs point to Steve Nash. Nash is not the same player that was winning the MVP award a few years ago. However, he is a point guard that knows how to pass the ball and can still hit a jump shot when needed. Having Nash around to tutor Lin wouldn’t be such a bad idea. OF course, it is all a matter of money though that shouldn’t stop the Knicks from at least inquiring about Nash. They need someone who can run the offense when Lin isn’t on the court whether Lin is the starter or not.
Finally, the Knicks need to sign Mike Woodson to a three-year contract. The man took a struggling team and went 18-6 with them down the stretch. He has the respect of the players and he gets them to play for him. The playoff loss to the Heat shouldn’t even be factored in. The Knicks were not a complete team. They lost Iman Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire (through his own stupidity) and Baron Davis to injury in the series. They still took arguably the best team in the NBA to 5 games despite having Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas running the point. The Knicks might have been able to win the series had they had better point guard play and a healthy Lin. At the very least it would have been more competitive.
It is imperative the Knicks give Woodson the extension. I don’t think Phil Jackson is coming out of retirement and he would be the only reason the Knicks don’t sign Woodson. Woodson deserves this chance. He took the Atlanta Hawks to the playoffs three straight years before getting fired, despite winning two playoff series over the course of those three years.
The Knicks need to bring Woodson, Lin, Jeffries, Novak, Smith, and Fields back while adding a capable point guard. If they can do that this offseason I think the Knicks might very well be among the top three seeds in the Easter Conference next season. And who knows after that?