The New York Knickerbockers had quite the campaign this past year, one that included a number of highs--Linsanity, Carmelo Anthony's performance to close the regular season--as well as a number of lows--multiple injuries, multiple prolonged losing streaks, Mike D'Antoni's resignation--yet in the end finished the way many envisioned it would, with a playoff berth and a first round exit.
The Knicks were a much-talked-about franchise heading into the season after making a big splash by acquiring a defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler. This was a positive move for many reasons, however it left them without both a legitimate starting point guard, and really any bench depth to speak of-both serious holes that, despite some great mid-season pickups, eventually spelled the end for this club in the first round of the playoffs.
Now, saddled with three humongous contracts, the Knicks look like a team that may be nearing their ceiling in terms of potential output.
Does that change how we look at them in comparison to the Raptors? Let's find out in today's edition of "Who'd You Rather Be"...
This category is a clear win for the Knicks. The Knicks play in perhaps the biggest market in the NBA, and in one of professional sports' most historic arenas. Their fan base also happens to be one of the biggest in basketball and includes a number of fairly recognizable celebrities.
The combination of these things makes the Knicks a prime destination for potential free agents, and acquisitions-something that the Raptors have clearly had some difficulty with over the years. The ability for an individual player to brand and market themselves simply by playing in New York is something that few other markets in the NBA offer, and something that we saw firsthand this season with Jeremy Lin.
Another fairly sizeable advantage for the Knicks as after all, they possess multiple All-Star talents in Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, the Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler as well as some solid role players like Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, Steve Novak and for the time being, J.R Smith and the aforementioned Lin.
Although all of those pieces may not necessarily be compatible enough to win the Knicks a championship, they are certainly good enough to get them into the playoffs consistently which, is more than you can say for the roster the Dinos currently have in place.
Here is where things get interesting. On one hand, the Knicks have an extremely competent GM in Glen Grunwald who has done just about everything in his power to put together a contender in New York following Donnie Walsh's exit from the club. On the other hand, there is also the owner, James Dolan who has as much say as anyone in personnel moves and by all accounts was the driving force behind bringing Carmelo Anthony to New York, whether or not that was the best move for the franchise.
Given Dolan's history of backing Isiah Thomas, who essentially destroyed the Knicks during his tenure there, and the fact that he ok'd the signing of Amar'e Stoudemire without insurance for his deteriorating, surgically repaired knees, it is possible that he can be a bit of a wild card.
But, when you look at what the Raptors' management looks like, there isn't much competition there. Aside from one impressive off-season, Colangelo has proven very little as Raptors GM. Granted, he has made a couple of decent draft picks, and has finally come around in terms of rebuilding, however to give the Raptors management the edge based on those facts would be a little shortsighted.
Finally, a category that definitely belongs to the Raptors. The Knicks have put themselves in a challenging situation by signing Chandler, Stoudemire and Anthony all to long term deals. This means they will be searching for cheap veterans, mid level players and D-League call ups for as long as those contracts are on the books.
The Dinos on the other hand, as previously documented over the course of this series, will be looking at a sizable chunk of cap space this off-season and potentially beyond should they choose to manage it that way.
The difference in these teams' financial situations is also representative of the main difference between these teams in general, which is that the Knicks have more-or-less maxed out in terms of their big talent acquisitions. Barring the signing of an impact veteran player like Steve Nash for little-to-no money, or some sort of blockbuster deal, the Knicks are who they are.
The Raptors though, are in the midst of a rebuild that will (hopefully) drastically change the face of the franchise for the better. Armed with cap space and young assets this Raptor squad will be a much different club in two or three seasons, which is something I'm not sure you can say about the Knicks.
All in all, this is a pretty big landslide victory for the Knicks, which is something I think you would expect going in. But, as I pointed out in the last section, these are two teams are very different points in the building process.
Two seasons ago, the Knicks were one of the worst teams in the league, however were able to rebuild rather quickly thanks to their ability to add quality free agents. The Raptors have taken a little longer with their rebuilding process and have gone a different route; one that they needed to go due to their inability to attract big-name free agents.
As it currently stands, the Knicks are at a point with their franchise that they are selling a winning team with the current roster they have in place, while the Raptors organization is currently selling hope.
Which team will be in the better position three years down the road? Who knows, but for the time being It seems obvious to me that the Knicks are in a much better position.