New York Knicks: Re-Grading Their Offseason Moves at the All-Star Break
There have been some major changes with the New York Knicks this season, and mainly this has come down to their work in the offseason.
After two seasons of shallow rotations with no true point guard, New York has turned into one of the league's deepest teams, addressing the majority of their needs in the supporting cast.
Even so, each individual move has had varied success, and while some have paid off big time, others aren't looking quite so good.
With the All-Star break upon us, we've had ample time to evaluate each move, so let's go through and grade them based on what we've seen.
Signing James White: C
James White was never really expected to be a major part of the Knicks' rotation, so in that sense he's lived up to expectations.
Earning a place in the dunk contest and providing solid defense when required was about the best White had to offer, and the Knicks have gotten that out of him.
The wings are now relatively crowded for the Knicks with Iman Shumpert returning and Chris Copeland emerging as a realistic option, so White should continue to be a bench warmer until further notice.
Re-Signing J.R. Smith: A+
An A+ may seem like an exaggeration at first, but when you remember that it only cost the Knicks $2.8 million to re-sign J.R. Smith, the grade makes a lot of sense.
Essentially, New York got themselves a borderline All-Star with the money that typically gets you an average bench player in today's NBA (excluding rookie contracts).
Smith's deal might actually be the best value contract in the entire league, and making moves like this has been a big part why the Knicks have been able to succeed despite a top-heavy roster.
The guard has been averaging a career-high 16.2 points per game this season, and has done so while also improving his defense out on the perimeter.
Mike Woodson's tough love has been influential in Smith's transformation from a frustrating talent to an elite sixth man, as we've seen him make less and less boneheaded plays.
Smith will need to shoot more efficiently the rest of the way to make a run at the Sixth Man of the Year award, but either way the Knicks got their money's worth and then some with his production so far.
Signing Jason Kidd: A
Kidd has been playing primarily at the 2 rather than as the back-up point guard he was initially expected to be, but has proven he can be just as helpful to a team playing off the ball.
The main thing Kidd has brought to New York is his championship pedigree and experience, which has really rubbed off on the likes of Carmelo Anthony.
Even at his age he makes players around him better, which has resulted in the Knicks being one of the league's best teams in terms of ball movement and ball possession.
Kidd has made smart plays all season long for New York, raising his game in the clutch and providing an assuring presence on the floor for just around 27 minutes each game.
His ability to hit the three has also been important for the Knicks, with his 38 percent mark from downtown making him one of the team's best shooters.
With the nagging injuries starting to build up, Kidd may not last the full three years of his contract, but for now he's been great value for money at $3 million.
Re-Signing Steve Novak: B-
When the Knicks re-upped Steve Novak on a four-year, $15 million deal, they did so primarily to ensure that they'd have one of the league's best shooters for the foreseeable future.
Novak's 44.7 percent mark from outside may not be as high as the 47.2 percent he shot last season, but even so it's good for second in the NBA this season.
The real problem with Novak is that he has been playing more minutes this season, yet has been attempting less threes, struggling to get open as well as he did last year.
This is only a major issue because Novak doesn't bring anything to the table outside of his shooting. His defense has improved, but he's still clearly a liability on that end of the floor.
The Knicks knew Novak was just a shooter when they signed him, but he'll need to contribute more consistently and improve the rest of his game to be worth the contract he was given.
Trading for Marcus Camby: D
Though at the time it was considered to be a fantastic move, the sign-and-trade to bring Marcus Camby back to New York just hasn't worked out so far.
Camby was expected to be a great back-up for Tyson Chandler, providing defense and rebounding for the second unit, but instead has managed only 14 games due to injury.
It's through no fault of his own that he hasn't been able to contribute—it's really just a case of bad luck—but with hindsight, taking a risk on a player so old and with such a bad injury history was not a good idea.
The bottom line is that Camby was the Knicks' most expensive move of the offseason, both in terms of salary and what they gave up to get him, but somehow ended up as the player who has contributed less than anyone else on the team.
There is still time for Camby to justify his $4.6 million this season, but time is running out, and the $8.5 million he's owed over the next two years is not looking like a smart investment.
Signing Chris Copeland: B+
Not much was made of the Chris Copeland signing when it happened, but he's made a good impression in his rare opportunities.
Though his defense and rebounding has been questionable, Copeland has shown that he can score at the NBA level, with three games on the season in which he has scored 20-plus points.
In the eight games this season in which Copeland has played over 20 minutes he is averaging 17.3 points, which goes well with his per 36-minute average of 19.1 points on the season.
With his quick release and well-developed post game, Copeland is a player that can contribute well for the Knicks down the line, and it's been a real surprise that Mike Woodson hasn't used him more often.
Since Copeland is shooting a solid 37 percent from three, he may even be a better option than Steve Novak at small forward, simply because he has a more well-rounded game. His presence could even open the door for Novak to be used as trade bait if New York can find a good deal.
For the rookie's minimum, Copeland has been the prime example of a low-risk, high-reward signing, and should definitely be locked up by the Knicks when the time comes.
Trading for Raymond Felton and Kurt Thomas: A-
Coming off the worst season of his career, the Knicks showed a lot of faith in Raymond Felton to let Jeremy Lin walk in favor of him.
When not injured, Felton has been great for the Knicks, running the offense well with his ability to penetrate and kick.
On the season, Felton is the Knicks' fourth-leading scorer, and also leads the team in assists with an average of 6.3 per game.
All in all, now that he's in shape, he has been the veteran point guard the Knicks were looking for, and a player that can be trusted to lead the team in their most important season in decades.
Former Knick Kurt Thomas was also brought in as part of the Felton sign-and-trade, but hasn't featured very much at all.
The league's oldest player has been a solid contributor when used, but at his age really can't be expected to play much more than 10 minutes each game.
New York will have Felton for the next three years at a very reasonable price of $3.8 million per year, which is a bargain price for an above average starting point guard.
Signing Pablo Prigioni: B
Pablo Prigioni has been a great addition, but it still feels like New York should be getting more out of its back-up point guard position.
Prigioni is a willing passer, but the way he passes up shots have been very frustrating at times.
At his age, Prigioni is also unable to penetrate or create any space without the help of a screen, which is a lot different to the way Raymond Felton runs the offense.
This leaves New York looking very different when Felton is off the floor, which is not an ideal situation considering Felton's struggles with injury this season.
It's hard to criticize the move, since it is just the rookie's minimum we're talking about, but the Knicks may well scour free agency or explore trade options to find an upgrade on Prigioni.
Signing Ronnie Brewer: B-
Ronnie Brewer has dropped off significantly after a strong start to the season, but is still a good player to have for only the veteran's minimum.
While his shooting has been inconsistent, his perimeter defense has remained solid, making him good wing depth to have if injuries come in before the playoffs.
For the time being, however, Brewer won't feature much in Mike Woodson's rotation, with most minutes going to Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith.
Because Brewer is still a relatively valuable player, he may actually help the Knicks indirectly by being used in a potential trade.
The Knicks could use a new back-up center right now, and a swap of Brewer and possibly a future draft pick could get a deal done.
Bringing Rasheed Walace out of Retirement: B+
For a player who people were actually worried about being a distraction, Rasheed Wallace has turned out to be a helpful presence for the Knicks as a veteran leader.
Expectations were low coming into the season, but Wallace quickly emerged as a key part of the rotation with his early-season performances.
Even at his age, Wallace has been a great defender—mostly because of his communication more than anything else—and has shown that he still has deadly footwork in the post.
Unfortunately for both Wallace and the Knicks, it has been two months since we last saw him in action, with the injury situation looking very bleak.
As reported by ESPN, what started as a sore left foot is now something that could put Wallace's season in jeopardy, which will be a major hit to New York's title chances.
It's looking more and more likely that a replacement for Wallace will be needed soon, with free agents Kenyon Martin and Lou Amundson looking like realistic options.