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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

What’s next for the Knicks this offseason

Another important offseason has begun for the Knicks after a fifth straight year of missing the playoffs.

Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott

Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry speak to the media at the team's training facility on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

Another important offseason has begun for the Knicks after a fifth straight year of missing the playoffs, a fourth consecutive season with at least 50 losses and a roster that probably won’t be built to win next season, either.

What’s next:

• The Knicks need a coach, and one who stresses defense and demands it from his players. A top-notch assistant with a defensive background should be required, too.

Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry said the search would be “very open,” but it sounded as if they’re looking at younger coaches that can relate to today’s players. That would seem to exclude some good names out there. But we won’t. Here are some coaches they consider and should consider:

They’ve already reached out to Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse and Jeff Van Gundy. Jay Wright, Doc Rivers, David Blatt, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, Monty Williams, Mike Brown and Stephen Silas all have all been linked to the Knicks to the well.

The Knicks should also put a call into Mike Budenholzer and Steve Clifford now that they’re available. But in the case of Rivers and Budenholzer, they’re both under contract. The Knicks can’t and shouldn’t give up any compensation (draft picks). You also never know if a coach will be fired if there’s a quick playoff exit or the team doesn’t go deep enough. Toronto’s Dwane Casey could be a name to watch.

• Prepare for the draft. The Knicks’ win in Cleveland on Wednesday gave them the ninth-worst record in the league (29-53). They have a 1.7 percent chance of getting the first pick and a 6.1 percent chance of jumping to the top three. They also have a 93.5 percent chance of picking nine or 10.

They need a small forward, but at this stage of the game, they need to take the best player available. Perry said the Knicks are in “the talent-acquisition phase,” and they should be with that roster.

“Internally, we may think one position over another,” Perry said. “But at this time I think at the end of the day, we’re going to try to get the very best talent we can get depending on where we’re drafting and be fine with that.”

We could speculate, but let’s wait to see where they’re picking after the May 15 Draft Lottery.

• Develop the young players, namely Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, Damyean Dotson, Troy Williams, their own first-round pick and the Bulls’ second-round choice (No. 37).

Have them in New York, working with the new coach. Bring them to Las Vegas for the summer league. Bring them back to New York late in the summer. See how much they improve and who is a part of the long-term future. But also think about building their trade value.

The Knicks made a mistake here with Willy Hernangomez. They should have either moved Kyle O’Quinn or given Hernangomez minutes to see if it would increase his trade value. Getting two future second-round picks for a player Mills touted as a cornerstone and said would be a Knick for the life of his contract seems a little light.

If either or both of those second-round picks facilitate trades that improve the Knicks, that could change the opinions of the trade.

“I think we got some good young players here who have a chance to develop,” Perry said. “I think we have a lot of assets in front of us, starting with the draft coming up this year. We have a high lottery pick. We have a fairly high second-round pick. We have all of our draft picks in the years to come. That allows us a great amount of flexibility, not only to draft future players but also to either move players or acquire more players with those picks.

“When we’re trying to build, you want to have all of those resources available to you. Fortunately for us, we have those in existence right now.”

The Roster

Who stays and who goes?

Ron Baker ($4.5-million player option): Plays hard and defends, but he needs to hit open shots. It would be shocking if he doesn’t pick up the option, because he won’t see that money anywhere else.

Michael Beasley (free agent): He can score, but he gets lost defensively. Beasley could be back on a small deal because the front office likes him and the Knicks need scoring with Kristaps Porzingis out.

Trey Burke (partial guarantee): A good signing who could be the starting point guard next season. He plays as if he has something to prove. Still a work in progress, but Knicks need players with an edge.

Damyean Dotson (under contract): Showed signs at the end of the season that he can contribute. He has the body and strength to defend wing players, but he has to knock down shots consistently.

Tim Hardaway Jr. (under contract): One of the cornerstones, he gave more effort defensively than in his previous Knicks stint. Streaky shooter who goes for the home run too much. Needs to improve three-point shot.

Isaiah Hicks (free agent): He could be back with the Knicks’ G League team and brought up when the Knicks need a body. But he’s not that athletic and needs to improve in many areas.

Jarrett Jack (free agent): Gave the Knicks more than expected and was a good mentor for the young guards. They could try to bring him back on a vet minimum contract to fill that role again, but Jack wants to play.

Enes Kanter ($18.6-million player option): The Knicks like his game and passion. He loves New York. But he wants a long-term deal. Opting out is a risk. The Knicks could let him walk to keep their future payroll down.

Luke Kornet (free agent): He needs to get stronger to play inside. He could have a spot next season because the Knicks could be short on big men, he won’t cost much and he is a stretch four/five.

Courtney Lee (under contract): He will come up in trade rumors near the draft, but he could be back for the short term. The Knicks want to get out of his contract by next summer.

Emmanuel Mudiay (under contract): He struggled overall after his February acquisition. He needs work on both ends and to improve his conditioning. Unless he makes big strides, he may not be here long.

Joakim Noah (under contract): The new coach could want an intense, defensive-minded big man for spot minutes, but a plausible scenario is that the Knicks will stretch his contract and waive him after Sept. 1 for salary-cap relief.

Frank Ntilikina (under contract): His numbers didn’t jump out, but he’s one of the Knicks’ best defenders. He’ll grow and get stronger, enabling him to guard three spots. He needs to develop a jump shot to play both backcourt positions.

Kyle O’Quinn ($4.26-million player option): After his best season, he’ll probably look for more money and years. He may get it, but it shouldn’t be from the Knicks, who want to limit long-term commitments.

Kristaps Porzingis (under contract): The Knicks’ franchise player needs to focus on getting healthy. He believes he’ll return stronger and better than he was before he tore his left ACL.

Lance Thomas (under contract): Doesn’t do enough offensively to impact games, so it may be tough to trade him. But he’s a solid defender and the most respected person in the Knicks’ locker room.

Troy Williams (partial guarantee): This late-season signing fills several needs. He is athletic, a small forward, a versatile defender and someone who plays with energy.

New York Sports

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