The Knicks have just two games left in another dismal season, and then the real work begins for Scott Perry.
This will be Perry’s first full offseason as Knicks general manager. (They already drafted Frank Ntilikina, and signed Tim Hardaway Jr. and Ron Baker before Perry was hired). His to-do list will be long. Here are some items on that list:
Name your coach
If Jeff Hornacek won’t be back for the final year of his contract — odds are Perry and president Steve Mills already know that answer — then don’t wait. If he will, then come out and declare the team is going forward with Hornacek.
Since Kristaps Porzingis could be out until early 2019 and next season will be another rebuilding year, an argument can be made to keep Hornacek and let him continue working with and trying to develop these players.
He’s been a good employee in that he’s done everything asked of him, by former president Phil Jackson and now this regime. The Knicks were still playing hard for him at the end of the season.
But it’s hard to bring Hornacek back on an expiring contract. A new coach would likely be the person Perry believes will see the team through another rough season and ultimately guide them to the playoffs. If so, management should make sure that coach has a defensive background or will hire assistants who do.
Get a small forward
A major area of weakness. Natural shooting guards Hardaway and Courtney Lee played out of position and didn’t have the size or strength to match up with small forwards. Lance Thomas is a good defender, but provides very little offensively.
“That’s a real hole,” a league executive said
The Knicks should look in both the draft — Villanova’s Mikal Bridges would be a good choice — and free agency to for small forwards. Maybe they can find someone in the G League or take an undrafted player and work on developing him. They hope to do that with late-season signing Troy Williams.
They don’t want to spend too much since the plan is to maintain as much cap room and flexibility for the 2019 free-agent class. They may have to be creative and lucky.
Bring in athletes
Another major shortcoming.
A main priority has to be to get as many athletic, versatile players who can guard multiple positions to be able to switch on screens without it being a mismatch for the opposing team. The Knicks desperately need better athletes and better defenders.
Find a point guard
This has been on the Knicks’ front-office to-do-list for years.
Trey Burke goes into the offseason as their starting point guard next season. He was a good gamble that paid off for Perry. Burke resembles Allen Iverson and has some of his moves, but is he the answer?
Are Ntilikina or Emmanuel Mudiay?
Kyrie Irving likely will be on the Knicks’ radar in free agency next summer. Kemba Walker is another option. But there are no guarantees they can get either.
Unless the Knicks jump up in the Lottery to one of the top three picks, they have to consider Oklahoma’s Trae Young or Alabama’s Collin Sexton if they’re available when they pick. (Bridges might be the better choice if he’s there).
Develop the young
This is the way of the NBA: Stock up on young guys and try to develop them into reliable, productive players.
The Knicks have started to do that and should continue to follow that blueprint — especially if they want to keep payroll down. But they have to actually develop them.
With that in mind, they should spend considerable time with Ntilikina, Mudiay and Damyean Dotson this offseason. Keep them in the gym, work with them and decide if they are a part of the future.
They’re trying to make Ntilikina an off-guard. He needs to become a better shooter and change his mindset because his first inclination is to pass.
Player development coach Craig Robinson believes he has an “innovative” and “transformative” plan to improve players. It’s an important summer for him.
The big problem
Their only two serviceable centers, Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn, can opt out this summer.
It’s more likely that O’Quinn ($4.26 million) will than Kanter ($18.6 million). If both do, the Knicks should let them walk. It makes more sense to keep Kanter, but not if his salary affects the summer of 2019.
An emphasis has to be finding athletic, versatile big men who can play power forward and center, particularly since the league is going smaller. They have one in Porzingis, but he’s out indefinitely. On a side note: the Knicks should not have traded Willy Hernangomez.