The Knicks have had a rather successful campaign considering all the hardship they have had to endure to this point. In a rollercoaster season of ups and downs the Knicks seem to be getting to the end of the tracks leaving the fans walking away with a positive experience similar to Space Mountain. The injury bug hitting their two biggest stars often, Linsanity, the Departure of D’Antoni, the Rise of Woodson and All the MeloVP performances down the stretch on the way to what looks like a playoff birth after all.

This gives fans hope going into the playoffs and the team as constructed is very similar to the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, which Ian O’Conner pointed out, if Amar’e and Lin can get back into the rotation during the playoffs. Despite their small chances at winning the division or a slightly better chance at grabbing a seed above 7 this Knicks team can contend, now. I’m not so convinced about next season. Lin and Fields are set to because Free Agents along with Bibby, B Diddy, Jared Jefferies, Novacaine, Billy Waka and likely Earl Smith the III aka JR.

Even though the Knicks can retain both Lin and Fields due to a RFA tag and the Gilbert Arenas rule the key to the success of next years team is tied to JR Smith. When looking at this outgoing group we need to determine who it is that belongs and who doesn’t. Even harder we need to understand a high percentage of these guys came in on Vet minimum or below market value hoping to get a raise. The first guy that comes to mind is Steve Novak. He has vastly outperformed his contract and without at least the Bi-Annual exception I have a hard time believing he will be back. The Knicks can match any contract Landry Field or Jeremy Lin are offered and bring them back but unfortunately the Knicks would have to use one of their two exceptions on Lin since he was acquired via waivers and they no doubt will… considering his youth/potential, production and marketability. Mike Bibby and Baron Davis have both seen better years and a true healthy signal caller with the ability to shoot might be the most significant upgrade so I wouldn’t expect either to be back despite both likely could be signed at the minimum. Jared Jefferies has played well this year and he might be the one guy that could make sense for another year at the vet minimum considering his age and leadership on the team. Then comes the volatile JR. Arguably the most athletic player on the team and a guy who can drop 35 as easily as he drop 5. Teams need big moment players who can shoot lights out. The problem is he is making 2.5 million next year if he chooses to stay. An amount that is probably half of what he would of made had he not gone to China. He has the potential to even make something in the 7.5 range next year, something he has received before, which would be the exact amount he would make with the Knicks over the next two years if he decided to not opt out and they used their MLE on him. I wouldn’t plan on him staying but considering he is from Freehold, New Jersey, loves the spotlight and is on a potential championship contender if he stays, nothing is impossible.

Saying that Knicks fans should plan on him being a Clipper next year and not a Knick. The first move despite the great job Woodson has done is to offer Phil Jackson the keys to the Castle. Offer him an opportunity to run the team office like Pat Riley is doing with the Heat and ask him if he would like to also coach said team. This allows the Knicks to reach out to Phil for a position that also has an Interim tag and avoid some media scrutiny. Phil being in a prominent role can bring in a higher level of talent at a lower cost just like Riley. If he decides to Coach as well no one will complain, if he is in a Front Office role and they keep Woodson no one will complain and if they offer him a Job in the Front Office publically, he declines and then hire Woodson no one will complain. It’s a win-win situation.

After that you have to reach out to Jeremy Lin and ask him to take the Bi Annual 2.5 Million Dollar exception. Although he is definitely worth more he is still is a young player who wouldn’t be making much more if he were drafted. Also he is coming off an injury and was a D league player up until a few months ago. If he agrees to a 2-year deal he can make all the money in the world when his bird rights kick in and the Knicks can pursue another player to push this team over the edge. Lin just seems like the kind of kid who understands economics and long-term investments. Saying that he probably also understands supply and demand and the Knicks will have to use their full MLE on him to match the max offer he can receive but until then leave the 2.5 on the table till he signs an offer sheet.

That leaves the Knicks with Lin, Shumpert, Fields, Melo, STAT, Chanlder, Harrelson and Toney Douglas. Not a bad core to retain and if they can bring back Jefferies for the Vet minimum it is really shaping up to be quite nice. A guy I would consider bringing in is Jason Kapono. He is very similar to Steve Novak and it wouldn’t surprise me to find lightning strike for a second time if placed in a similar role. The issue becomes where do you use the Bi Annual. The Team has not had a successful point guard that also brings experience to this version of the Knicks. Although a great frontcourt player with size might be intriguing, the PG position must be of the highest importance. Two players that come to mind are Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton; both have experience with members of this frontcourt. If they could add one of the two, bring back long lost Marcus Camby for the Veteran Minimum and use their 2nd rounder on a guy who plays in the front court that has supreme athleticism this Knicks team has the chance to blow past teams that have been staples of the post season over the last few years and after all that JR staying may = a championship…without him I’m not so sure.