New York Knicks: Predicting the Roster for the 2012-13 Season
Though there's still basketball to be played for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat, the NBA's other 28 teams sit here today in preparation for what is likely to be yet another eventful offseason.
Amongst those 28 teams, of course, is the New York Knicks, and with only six players under contract heading into 2012-13, general manager Glen Grunwald has a lot of work to do between now and October.
The draft, free agency and maybe even a few trades will provide Grunwald with the opportunity to build on the core of players that's been established over the past couple of seasons, and will be key to whether or not this team can compete for a championship in the near future.
I'm going to take you through some predictions for how the Knicks' roster will look once Grunwald and company are done with their offseason moves.
Starter: Jeremy Lin (Restricted Free Agent)
Back-Ups: Scott Machado (Draft), Mike Bibby (Unrestricted Free Agent)
At this point in time, the biggest question for the Knicks heading into the offseason is whether or not free agent point guard Jeremy Lin will be re-signed by the team.
Rumours of future Hall of Famer Steve Nash taking his place in New York seem to be heating up, but the salary he's accustomed to makes him a very unrealistic option.
Lin is younger, more marketable and—despite the likely negative result of Wednesday's arbitration hearing—a lot easier to fit under the salary cap.
And for those reasons, he'll be New York's starting point guard in 2012-13.
As for the back-ups, the Knicks will probably look to draft a point guard with their 48th overall pick in the draft, and Iona's Scott Machado—who led the NCAA in assists last season—looks like a potential option.
The New Yorker has already worked out with the Knicks, and they'd be a great all-round fit for each other, as the Knicks are in real need of a back-up one guard.
Behind Machado, you'll have Mike Bibby, who Knicks fans will probably be surprised to see back in town again.
The former Atlanta Hawks guard was by all means terrible last season, but his relationship with Mike Woodson and his veteran minimum deal make him a (relatively) attractive third option for a team already over the salary cap.
Starter: Iman Shumpert
Back-Ups: Ray Allen (Unrestricted Free Agent), Landry Fields (Restricted Free Agent), Keith Bogans (Unrestricted Free Agent)
After Iman Shumpert's horrendous ACL tear back in the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat, the shooting guard position has all of a sudden become one of need for the New York Knicks.
Right now, the Knicks need to plan for the worst-case scenario, which would mean Iman Shumpert not returning to the Garden floor until January.
To do so means both re-signing restricted free agent Landry Fields, and doing all they can to persuade J.R. Smith to pick up his $2.5 million player option.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, the second part of that plan is unlikely to work out exactly as they'd like, because a player like J.R. can demand a lot more money on the free agent market.
Smith's departure could be a crushing blow, but if Grunwald scours the free agent market well enough, he may find himself a solid guard willing to take both a minimum salary to start until January and then take a place on the bench once Shumpert returns.
One such player is three-point maestro Ray Allen, who may well be leaving the arch-rival Boston Celtics after their defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals this year.
Though still a good player, Allen's value has dropped quite a bit this season—which will work in favour of the Knicks—and he may be willing to sign a minimum contract simply because he wants a chance to win another ring.
According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, the soon-to-be 37-year-old has both the Knicks and the Heat atop his free agency list already, and based on the heart-breaking defeat he just faced at the hands of Miami, it's unlikely he'd choose going there over coming to New York.
Allen would be perfect to help out the Knicks' with the long-ball, and has just enough gas left in him to start for a few months and play some big minutes come playoff time.
The Knicks will probably need one more shooting guard beyond that—again because of Shumpert’s injury—but with only the veteran’s minimum available to them, a player like Keith Bogans will have to do.
Bogans is a great perimeter defender and a genuine threat from outside, and seeing as only a season ago he was starting for the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls, he’s certainly good enough to demand a few minutes off the bench.
Starter: Carmelo Anthony
Back-Ups: Lamar Odom (Bought Out/Unrestricted Free Agent)
The small forward position is probably the toughest position of them all to predict, mainly because of the number of variables surrounding whether or not the Knicks can get their hands on the players who'll fit best on the team.
The starter, of course, will be Carmelo Anthony—the face of the franchise who owner James Dolan will not be looking to trade any time soon—but the back-ups are a little less straightforward.
The expected result of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing (that the Knicks will not have Bird rights for Steve Novak) will make it all but impossible for the Knicks to sign Steve Novak, unless of course he’s willing to take another contract thereabouts the veteran's minimum to stay with the team.
But if Novak does as expected and instead accepts a slightly bigger offer from elsewhere, the Knicks will be left with very little money to sign a replacement.
There will definitely be enough cheap small forward options available on the free agent market for the Knicks, the problem is just that they’re not very good.
Instead, the Knicks should look to power forward Mirza Teletovic (who I’ll get to later), to play some minutes at the three.
Now, to Lamar Odom.
The forward is currently under contract with the Dallas Mavericks for $2.4 million of guaranteed money in 2012-13, but would have to be paid up to $8.2 million if kept by the Mavericks or traded to another team.
This inflated salary makes him a very unattractive trade option, but if the Mavericks were to buy him out for that $2.4 million, he suddenly becomes an unrestricted free agent willing to sign a one-year minimum deal.
Most people seem to agree that either of the two New York or Los Angeles teams would be a good fit for the 2011 Sixth Man of the Year award winner, but the Knicks would make the most sense.
Odom is a Queens native who supported the ‘Bockers growing up, and would actually not be able to join his old Lakers team until December 11th, which all but puts them out of the running.
If the Knicks were to acquire Odom, they’d have themselves a versatile player who could play minutes behind Melo, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, and even Jeremy Lin thanks to his ball-handling and play-making ability.
Starter: Amar'e Stoudemire
Back-Ups: Jared Jeffries (Unrestricted Free Agent), Mirza Teletovic (Unrestricted Free Agent), Drew Gordon (Draft)
A lot of Knicks fans are rallying for Amar'e Stoudemire to be traded this offseason, the reality is that his contract and injury history essentially make him untradeable, and the Knicks will be better off simply trying to fit him into their plans.
Backing up STAT—an important role considering the potential for him to miss a lot of time with injury—will be Jared Jeffries, who'll surely be re-signed for his defensive effort and the chemistry he has with his teammates.
But Jeffries simply doesn't have enough offensive firepower to help a Knicks bench out that will sorely miss J.R. Smith, so on top of that the Knicks will look to Europe and sign stretch four Mirza Teletovic, who went undrafted back in 2007.
The Bosnian's failure to be drafted back in 2007 makes him an unrestricted free agent, and though the Brooklyn Nets and a few other teams may be able to offer him slightly more generous salaries, the league's bi-annual exception of $1.98 million should be enough to get a deal done.
Teletovic could act as somewhat of a like-for-like replacement for the departing Steve Novak, as a 6’9” forward with a game based almost exclusively outside the arc.
It’s worth noting also that Teletovic should only be signed if Novak is unwilling to accept the bi-annual exception for himself.
With the late first-rounder picked up in exchange for Toney Douglas, the Knicks will likely look for yet another big man, and New Mexico senior Drew Gordon is a player who could cover for both Stoudemire and possibly even centre Tyson Chandler if need be.
Starter: Tyson Chandler
Back-Ups: Josh Harrellson (Restricted Free Agent)
Though it seems to be a position of need behind Tyson Chandler—who'll without doubt be the starter for next season—the Knicks will struggle to find another centre any better than Jerome Jordan or Josh Harrellson.
As a result, the Knicks will have to settle with hoping that both players will improve in their sophomore seasons, and that a combination of Amar'e Stoudemire, Drew Gordon and Lamar Odom will be able to man the position when needed.
It's a dangerous game to play considering Chandler's injury history, but when the only realistic free agents out there are Semih Erden and Jamaal Magloire, they'll just have to roll the dice.
In order to make up for a lack of roster space, the Knicks should also begin the season with either Jordan again playing for the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League, which would allow for the Knicks roster to effectively have 16 players.