Bobby Marks, a longtime executive with the Nets, provides extraordinary details that are focused on the inner-workings of player deals and organizational decisions for The Vertical. His note last summer on Jamal Crawford not being able to be traded to the Knicks, despite reports to the contrary provided tremendous clarity during a whirlwind offseason.
Another important note was the gem Marks reported providing critical clarity on Carmelo Anthony's contract trade kicker, which adds $9 million dollars to any trade that includes Anthony, as well as an ensuing cap hit for the team that absorbs Anthony's contract. For a team like Cleveland or the Clippers, who are well above the cap anyway, and have gone "all-in" on title hopes over the next few years, that added salary likely wouldn't matter. However, that may to other teams interested in Anthony's services, thus making trading Anthony a challenge even after he decides to wave his no-trade clause this summer.
While taking the temperature of Anthony's market is important and falling in line after hiring a head coach, another extremely critical part of the Knicks rebuild is what Marks referred to today as "adding the second floor" in Marks' latest piece for The Vertical:
The biggest part of that, to me, is perimeter support and specifically adding speed at the two and three positions. Looking at the Knicks stats, their front court improved drastically, as you'd expect with the return of Anthony from injury, plus the addition of Lopez and Porzingis quickly made them a vastly-improved front court that could both defend the rim and close possessions. The Knicks finished 10th in total rebounding, improving from 29th in 2015 according to basketball-reference.com.
With the front court intact, it is imperative that the team add athleticism and speed, particularly in transition, where the Knicks were absolutely dreadful last year. Tony Wroten, a rim-attacking specialist in Philadelphia before a knee injury derailed his career, should help, as his 4.90 average speed as measured by the NBA is one of the league's best, but the Knicks need more veteran legs to constantly put pressure on the defense and stop opponents in their own transition game.
Two names worth considering are free agents who fit Phil Jackson's philosophy of system players are, in my opinion, are Evan Turner of the Boston Celtics and Kent Bazemore of the Atlanta Hawks.
The versatile Bazemore, 26, has been at the center of the Hawks resurgence, was 18th in the NBA this year in field goals made off drives (1.7) one spot behind Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. His 6.7 drives per game ranks 17th in the NBA directly behind NBA 6th man of the year C.J. McCollum (7.0), LeBron James, Paul George and Tony Parker all tied at 7.3 per STATS.
Turner, 27, has established himself as one of the best, young two-way guards for the surprising Celtics playing in 81 games this year and averaging 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and an impressive 12.0 PIE ranking, an overall "impact" metric, in just 28 minutes per game. Turner has added tremendous strength and depth to the Celtics backcourt and would do the same for the Knicks in a similar capacity. Bazemore and Turner combined for 178 steals this season, which would be a major boost for the Knicks who finished dead-last in the NBA in steals per game. Steals lead to easy scoring opportunities, which the Knicks were also dreadful at having been consistently outmatched in transition night after night.
Both players won't come cheaply, but won't break the bank and would immediately add the second floor talent on top of what the Knicks were able to accomplish last year that Marks is referring to. They don't solve the Knicks' need for point guard and may require longer term deals in terms of years to coax them away from their current situations, but both are in their primes and are proven, solid options at the guard, small forward, spots. Bazemore can even stretch the floor out to the perimeter and play small four, having averaged 4.1 three pointers per game shooting them at a 37% clip this season.
Adding players of Turner and Bazemore's ability to a nucleus of Anthony, Porzingis, Lopez, Hernangomez, Lance Thomas, Grant and Langston Galloway gives the Knicks a solid core unit and the chance to improve significant weaknesses. They proved this past year what adding Lopez and Porzingis could do to the front court, now it's their turn to focus on the perimeter. Improving depth up front led to and NBA best 15 more wins from the previous season, adding perimeter depth should create similar results for the 2016-17 season.