By John Schmeelk
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If you ask a casual Knicks fan who the stars of their team are, they would likely answer Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Kristaps Porzingis.
Only Porzingis is assured to be a member of the team next year, which foreshadows another likely roster deconstruction by team president Phil Jackson as he is given a fourth chance to put the Knicks on a path to being a winner.
What about Rose and Anthony? A month ago, the thought that the former might return seemed impossible, but the Knicks have been very careful to leave the door cracked open to the possibility. Coach Jeff Hornacek said just last week that Rose could return. The New York Post's Marc Berman has also indicated that the front office would consider bringing Rose back if the price were right.
It can't happen. Rose's return shouldn't ever be considered by the Knicks no matter his salary demands. His recent knee surgery proves he still can't be trusted to stay healthy. He is a shoot-first point guard who can finish (shoots well mid-range as well), but rarely drives and dishes to his teammates. He has poor court vision, averaging less than five assists per game despite a sizable usage percentage. He has been more of a hindrance than a help to Porzingis' development. His 3-point shot is nonexistent, despite pleas from his head coach to shoot more of them.
He is also an awful fit for the triangle offense, something the Knicks want to implement far more consistently next year. He dribbles too much, doesn't catch and shoot well, doesn't stretch the floor and doesn't move without the ball. He is a pick-and-roll point guard. The fit makes no sense, and he has been vocal about that himself. Despite these flaws, he is still far better offensively than he is on the other end of the floor.
On defense, Rose is a sieve. He is one of the worst point guard defenders in the league. The analytics match the eye test. He doesn't fight through screens, rotate properly, close out on shooters or work hard on that end of the floor. When the Knicks signed him, fans liked to say, "Well, at least he is better than Jose Calderon defensively," but after watching him for a full season, that's no given. The Knicks defense must improve, and it never will if Rose is still the point guard.
This doesn't even include his off-the-court issues, such as going AWOL in the middle of the season and his rape trial during training camp last year.
The Knicks would be far better off investing in a point guard in the draft or getting a low-cost stopgap than investing any more time, money, playing time, touches or anything else in Rose. Chasson Randle hasn't shown a ton and he might not even be a NBA-caliber player, but it would be better for the long-term development of the team to roll with him and Ron Baker (another fringe NBA player) than give any of the franchise's future to someone with Rose's flaws.
Anthony, meanwhile, is more complicated. His "writing on the wall" diatribe the other day makes it seem like he is unhappy and would be OK with a trade to the right place, but it won't be that easy. Finding a team that he is willing to go to that will also give the Knicks close to fair value will only be a little easier now than it was in February. Offseason cap space might help, but it will still be very tricky, and Jackson hasn't given anyone any confidence that he is able to pull something like that off.
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The best-case scenario for the Knicks is that they get a first-round pick and some kind of young asset for Anthony and let Rose walk. The nightmare scenario is retaining Rose and trading Anthony for no return at all. A scenario only slightly better is retaining both. Anthony's value will only decrease as he ages, and the Knicks will not be competitive in his window. That said, keeping him is better than moving him for nothing of value.
A Knicks team with both Rose and Anthony in 2017-18 will be a little better than this year's team unless Porzingis ascends to superstar status or they draft someone who can be a star right away. Both of those are not very likely. The team must change this offseason, and it starts with their two stars.
The Knicks got some bad news Monday night with losses by both the Magic and the 76ers. They are now mathematically eliminated from being better than sixth in the NBA Draft lottery odds. They can still drop, however, with the Timberwolves and Kings just a game and a half "behind" them in the standings.
The Knicks don't play until Wednesday, when they meet the Sixers in a very winnable game. The Wolves and Kings play Tuesday night. If the Kings beat Phoenix at home or the Timberwolves upset the Thunder in Minnesota, the Knicks will clinch sole possession of the sixth spot. The Wolves visit Houston on Wednesday while the Kings play on the road against the Clippers.
For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk
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