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New York Knicks: Grading Glen Grunwald's Major Moves This Season

Ciaran GowanContributor IIIApril 27, 2012

New York Knicks: Grading Glen Grunwald's Major Moves This Season

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    After 10 months in the interim general manager role for the New York Knicks, Glen Grunwald has been promoted and is now the executive vice president and general manager of the New York Knicks.

    On the surface, it's easy to assume that Grunwald has done a pretty bad job this season, as the team has dropped down a place from their sixth seed in the Eastern conference last year and is only six games over .500.

    Looking deeper, though, a lot of Grunwald's individual moves have been fantastic, setting the Knicks up well for a playoff run this year and a bright future.

    Going through them chronologically, I'm going to grade each and every one of the major moves Glen Grunwald made in his time as the interim GM, and come to a conclusion as to whether or not promoting him from his role was worthwhile. 

Hiring Mike Woodson

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    Just as hiring Mike Woodson was his first major decision last year, his decision on whether or not to keep the former Atlanta Hawks head coach will again be one of his first decisions to make in his new full-time role.

    Originally signed as a defensive assistant to Mike D'Antoni, Woodson has done all you could have asked of him and more in terms of improving the defense, with the Knicks now conceding only 94.8 points per game this season, as opposed to 105.7 last season.

    But the real advantage of signing Woodson was that he was a genuine alternative to D'Antoni as the full head coach, a man who could step in right away in the event that D'Antoni continued to disappoint.

    D'Antoni did just that, and the Knicks now have a 17-6 record under Coach Woodson.

    Grade: A

Amnestying Chauncey Billups

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    Deciding to use the new CBA's amnesty provision on point guard Chauncey Billups was the first of Grunwald's player moves, and it appears to have paid off big time.

    The veteran was due a huge $14 million this season, after the Knicks picked up a team option on his contract following the 2010-11 season.

    The bulk of the money that move made has gone into Tyson Chandler's contract with the Knicks, but that space was also allowed for a minimum contract on top of that—and minimum contracts have gone a long way for Grunwald and the Knicks this year.

    Meanwhile, after being picked up by the much-improved Clippers, Billups found his season cut short by injury after just 20 games.

    Based on Billups' age and injury history, you have to give Grunwald credit for preemptively letting him go, as a season-ending injury in a Knicks uniform would have been devastating for the team and the season.

    Some may criticize Grunwald for using the amnesty clause so soon after it was introduced, as the franchise may benefit from having the ability to get out of the Amar'e Stoudemire contract at some point in the future, but he made the decision to improve the defense right now and it worked. 

    Grade: A

Trading for Tyson Chandler

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    After giving up on the idea of trading for Chris Paul, Grunwald's eyes turned immediately turned to filling the Knicks' other big need: a starting center.

    Tyson Chandler fit the bill perfectly, and using a sign-and-trade and the cap space from amnestying Billups, he was pried from the hands of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

    The move really shocked the NBA world, as no-one really expected the stout defender to leave the Mavericks, nevermind for the Knicks to find a way to afford him.

    The Knicks gave away only Andy Rautins, Ronny Turiaf, a 2013 second-rounder and cash considerations for the 29-year-old center, and it seems to have paid major dividends.

    Chandler's four-year, $56 million contract was originally a worry for Knicks fans, especially considering his past injury problems, but so far in his Knicks career the center has been worth the money, putting up a Defensive Player of the Year-calibre season in 2011-12.

    We'll have to wait and see how his body holds up in the long-term to fully assess the quality of the contract. 

    Grade: A

Signing Mike Bibby

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    For the most part, veteran point guard Mike Bibby has been woeful during his time in New York, with the man originally touted to start for the Knicks falling as far down as fourth in the depth chart at times during the season.

    The supposed deep threat that Bibby was going to bring to New York has not been evident at all, as he's shooting 32 percent from downtown—his lowest percentage since his rookie season in Vancouver.

    At 28 percent, his overall field goal percentage is even worse, and his stats beyond that aren't even worth mentioning.

    Heading into the playoffs, though, Bibby is finally showing some signs of life, but he'll need to step up even more to avoid being replaced by fellow struggler Toney Douglas as Baron Davis' back-up against the Heat

    Grade: D+

Re-Signing Jared Jeffries

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    Considering the lack of players the Knicks had on their roster at this point, re-signing Jared Jeffries was a bit of a no-brainer for Glen Grunwald.

    Still, Jeffries has had his best season as a Knick in six years playing for the team, with his defensive effort earning him cheers to replace the boos he's used to hearing raining down from the MSG crowd.

    Ironically, Jeffries' best year also comes with the lowest per year salary he's earned as a Knick; he's bringing in the league minimum for the season.

    Grade: B

Signing Jerome Jordan

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    Drafted by the Knicks in the second round of the 2010 draft, Jerome Jordan finally made his NBA debut this season.

    Though he was disappointing in that he spent the season bouncing up and down from the Knicks' D-League affiliate Erie BayHawks, it must be noted that Grunwald wasn't actually responsible for drafting the young center.

    Instead, all Grunwald did was bring in Jordan as an extra cheap and available body, with the potential to turn into a real contributor in the future.

    For this season alone, though, Jordan was nothing special, so it's hard to give Grunwald much credit, as he could have replaced Jordan's roster spot with a player better suited to back up Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire. 

    Grade: C

Signing Baron Davis

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    After being amnestied by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Baron Davis was signed by Glen Grunwald to a league minimum contract, a bargain whichever way you look at it.

    Though he missed the first part of the season with injury—which we were warned about going in—Davis has contributed well in recent weeks when he's had to start in place of the injured Jeremy Lin.

    Davis has been nowhere near his old self in a Knick uniform, though recent weeks have shown that he can still be a decent contributor to a playoff team, and that's all you can really ask for considering his contract.

    B-Diddy was mainly brought in for his veteran leadership and playoff experience, both of which will be tested tremendously in the Knicks' series against the Miami Heat.

    For now, he looks like a solid pickup, but only after we've seen what he can do come playoff time will we get a clear view of just how good the signing was.

    Grade: B

Signing Steve Novak

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    As yet another player on a minimum contract, the NBA's best three-point shooter is perfect in terms of value for money.

    Grunwald decided to give the former Marquette man a shot after being released by the San Antonio Spurs, and the move has payed dividends, as Novakaine has averaged career highs in points, rebounds and minutes played.

    Grunwald does lose points on this one due to the length of the contract, though.

    As a player who was advertised as a knock-down three-point shooter in the first place, Grunwald should have made the move to sign Novak long-term, because now there's a major risk of losing him in free agency. 

    Grade: A-

Signing Jeremy Lin

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    The Jeremy Lin signing is one of the hardest to grade of all Grunwald's moves because, though Lin has been fantastic, it's unlikely that Grunwald thought he would be quite this good.

    I'm going to give Grunwald the benefit of the doubt though, because it can be seen that his reasoning for not signing the point guard to a long-term contract was due to his understanding of the Gilbert Arenas provision, allowing him to keep the star for the mid-level exception after the season anyway.

    Though, like Novak, Lin was only signed to a one-year deal. It's hard to discredit him here, as Lin has been better than anyone would have thought at what he does.

    Grunwald has unearthed a starter for the cost of a bench player's contract on this one, and also found the player who was responsible for the season's turning point.

    Great work. 

    Grade: A+

Signing J.R. Smith

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    The signing of J.R. Smith mid-season was more of a short rental than anything else, so the one-year contract length is understood.

    As for on-court performance, though, Smith has been a perfect signing for only $2.34 million, and his instant offense off the bench has been really helpful down the stretch.

    Smith has been given the option to return for $2.5 million next season, but it's likely that he'll decline this option and pursue a larger contract elsewhere. Grunwald did a good job making sure he didn't do so this season.

    Grade: B+

Signing Dan Gadzuric

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    At this point, it's impossible to rate the signing of Dan Gadzuric, as the center has played a grand total of 13 minutes in blue and orange.

    It will likely end up being one of those so-so bottom of the roster moves that don't particularly mean a great deal for a team's big picture.

    If Jared Jeffries doesn't return to the court soon, though, Gadzuric may be called upon more than expected, at which point grading Grunwald's final signing of the season becomes a possibility.

    Ungraded

Overall

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    Grouping all the moves together, Glen Grunwald has done a fantastic job of creating a deep roster for a team whose roster situation was looking pretty bleak once the lockout was lifted in November.

    The stars were already in place, so Grunwald had to do what many consider to be a tougher job: building the right squad around them.

    Maneuvering around a very top-heavy salary situation, Grunwald has managed to do this. Despite a few worries regarding contract length, the Knicks look set going into the playoffs and moving forward even further.

    Grunwald's real test comes in his first offseason as the new full general manager, where he'll be called upon to re-sign as many of the key role players as possible and build upon his good work so far.

    The 2012 offseason also brings Grunwald's first draft in his new role, which will be a lot tougher without the presence of Donnie Walsh.

    Grade: A

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