Regardless of what they happen to achieve this season, it's important that the Knicks are able to recognize what is going right and carry it over with them to next season as they continue to build.
Despite some inconsistencies, both Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams continue to do positive things. Each one has endeared themselves to New York, so much so, to be considered a part of the team's "core," meaning the Knicks hope they both opt in to their player options for next season (New York Post, February 3).
Retaining Afflalo and Williams' services would obviously be a smart basketball decision, but it would immediately eat into much of the expected cap space the Knicks could potentially have this coming summer.
With that in mind, encouraging such players to opt in would limit the team's ability to upgrade the point guard position via trade or free agency. This would put the pressure on Phil Jackson and Co. to seek out trades to rid the team of the contracts of Jose Calderon, Kyle O'Quinn, or others.
But as evidenced last season, Jackson can be persuasive and effectively find teams to bite on his salary dump bait. Moving such aforementioned players before this month's trading deadline would set the Knicks up to fully and freely explore more promising options this coming offseason. On the flip side, however, it could very well disrupt chemistry and effect the team's chances for playoff contention.
With the trading deadline just weeks away, Jackson will need to decide relatively quickly what's more important, and if he believes allowing the team to see this season through as currently constructed (as a means of developing some rhythm and respective confidence to build upon for next season) is the way to go. Gaining more flexibility for next offseason could be a good thing, but it may come at the cost of rocking the boat and leading to an unfortunate and demoralizing demise for those players expected to still be a part of next season's core.
Of course, there would be obvious motivation to explore a deal sooner, rather than later. While a veteran like Calderon and serviceable big man like O'Quinn may be appealing for teams currently looking to make a playoff push, they may not stand as desirable come the offseason. Teams, much like the Knicks, will obviously have cap room and there are set to be other options available to choose from at the time.
In essence, if the Knicks truly want to hang on to Afflalo and Williams next season (and they should), the pressure is on to make other moves in the more recent future. This would allow them to prepare to make other potential improvements along the way as well.