NBA Free Agency 2012: New York Knicks Boast Deep, Experienced Bench
Much clamor has been made over the New York Knicks' recent bench acquisitions at mid-level prices.
Point guard Jason Kidd (three years, $9 million) and center Marcus Camby (three years, $12 million) are too old.
Small forward Steve Novak (four years, $15 million) is a defensive liability who can't create his own shot.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith is erratic (two years, $5 million).
However, each player will give the Knicks excellent value, both individually and cumulatively. They all excel at a particular skill set, and together, they will comprise one of the deepest and versatile benches in the NBA.
Keep in mind that the average starting salary in the NBA is $5 million a year.
For $3 million a year, the Knicks added a steady on-court presence in Kidd. Kidd's defense is still above average and he'll see more open shots this year than he did with the Mavericks. Kidd will also serve as a mentor to young point guard Jeremy Lin.
The Knicks will be paying Marcus Camby $4 million a year for what should be 20 minutes a game, constituting seven rebounds, one blocked shot, good around-the-rim scoring and solid defense. In addition, Camby will provide the Knicks a rare commodity in the NBA: a legitimate backup center to reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler.
Admittedly, Novak is a little overvalued at $3.75 million a year. He will struggle to create his own shot and is a defensive liability.
However, Novak is the most lethal three-point shooter in the game; he shot the three at a 47 percent clip last year. With Kidd and Lin distributing the ball, Novak will get his spots.
It's impossible to argue that J.R. Smith—albeit a streaky shooter—is overvalued at $2.5 million a year. The Knicks are paying close to the veteran's minimum for a relatively young guard who, if he ever gets his head on straight, has the handle and shooting range to be a perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
The cumulative value of these players must be taken into account. At 20-to-30 minutes a night, the Knicks will be able to rest their starters while maintaining scoring proficiency (Novak, Smith), leadership (Kidd) and interior defense (Camby).
Here is another thing fans are forgetting when they hem and haw about these allegedly inflated contracts: Because they are all short-term and for less than the league average, the Knicks can dump them in two years to teams looking to create cap room.
Most of the noise surrounding the Knicks' overpayment for players has deeper roots, dating back to the Knicks' overspending on oft-injured Amar'e Stoudemire in 2010 (five years, $100 million) and one-dimensional player Carmelo Anthony in 2011 (three years, $60 million).
However, the Knicks did not make the same mistake as when they signed their starters. They made strong value decisions with their revamped bench, which will be formidable next season.
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