NY Knicks Rumors: Is Josh Howard a Fit for This Veteran Squad?

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2012

Feb 22, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Utah Jazz forward Josh Howard (8) against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Jazz 100-98. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

The New York Knicks may not have made a Lakers-sized splash this summer, but they've upgraded their roster one small move at a time—ultimately infusing it with a combination of needed role players (Raymond Felton, Ronnie Brewer) and skilled veterans (Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace).

For a club with no cap space and few tradable assets, it really wasn't a bad haul.

ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling reports that they may not be done either, citing a source claiming the organization still has its eyes on small forward Josh Howard:

The source said the Knicks are in "wait-and-see mode" before bringing on anyone else. They first want to evaluate their talent pool to see if a player like Howard would make sense -- and perhaps if they really want to get older.

If the Knicks aren't entirely sure Howard "would make sense," far be it from any of us to have the final answer.

Indeed, there's a strong case to be made either way.

The chief objection to adding Howard is that he'd occupy a roster spot that might otherwise go to a younger, long-term project. Though the Knicks are clearly in win-now mode, they do still have a future to think about. The front office won't make or break that future with any of the young players in training camp at the moment, but you never know when you'll find a diamond in the rough.

Making space for a 32-year-old who probably won't play a significant role may not be worth missing out on the opportunity to cultivate some young talent.

On the other hand, it's not as if Howard would be completely useless in the near-term.

Though injured Ronnie Brewer should be back in time for the start of the season (or shortly thereafter at worst), guard Iman Shumpert will be out until December at the earliest.

Though Howard is technically classified as a forward, there's no question his presence on the wing and ball-handling ability would make life a bit easier for the Knicks in the short-term, perhaps even alleviating any urgency to rush Shumpert back to the floor.

Apart from the backcourt situation, there's also something to be said for giving Carmelo Anthony a legitimate backup. If nothing else, Howard gives the Knicks an insurance policy in the event Anthony goes down for an extended period of time.

And to whatever extent the Knicks opt to play Anthony at the 4 (a formula that paid off last season), having another small forward around would certainly make that arrangement more palatable.

In short, the rotation doesn't necessarily need Howard, but he couldn't hurt.

The better argument for bringing him aboard has more to do with his skill set and what it would mean for NYC's second unit.

After suffering through two injury-plagued seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11, the swingman may have lost a step, but he's still a capable defender. You can never have too many of those around.

On the offensive end, Howard's recent production certainly doesn't stand out, but he was decently efficient from mid-range and makes effective use of runners just inside the free-throw line. According to Hoopdata.com, Howard made 44 percent of his attempts three to nine feet from the basket and 41 percent from between 10 and 15 feet.

With guys like J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd doing so much of their damage from the perimeter, the Knicks could use a guy on the bench who can mix it up from mid-range instead of crowding that three-point arc.

Sure, none of this qualifies as a significant impact—but it's 15-20 minutes of contributions on any given night that no one else on this bench would offer in quite the same way. When the matchups are right or Carmelo needs an extended rest, there are worse solutions out there.

Now the only question is whether those 15-20 minutes of contributions are worth passing on to a younger prospect. 

You can see why the Knicks want to take a look at those guys in training camp before making a call on this one. It's not an especially easy call to make.