New York Knicks' To-Do List in Free Agency
The New York Knicks are fresh off their best regular season in over a decade and are sitting pretty with a 2-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics. When you take a look at the Knicks' current roster, a theme emerges: free-agent acquisitions.
While most teams try to build through the draft, the Knicks opted to spend their bucks in free agency, where they acquired three of their five starters: Pablo Prigioni, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. They acquired one starter through the draft (Iman Shumpert) and one via a trade (Carmelo Anthony). On top of that, several key bench players, such as J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Chris Copeland and Steve Novak were free-agent acquisitions. And of course, the injured Amar'e Stoudemire started everything by signing with New York three offseasons ago.
While the Knicks have nine players under contract for next year, there are still holes to fill for next year. Here are some ways to fill them.
Re-Sign J.R. Smith
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The Knicks were 22-3 this season when Smith shot at least 50 percent from the field. In games he didn't, they were 31-24. When Smith scored at least 20 points, the Knicks were 19-9. The Sixth Man of the Year was spectacular all season, showing an increased awareness on offense and more aggressiveness on defense.
He currently has a player option of $2.9 million for next year, which he is likely to turn down. For comparison's sake, Jamal Crawford, who finished second in the sixth-man voting, made $5 million this season and is due $5.225 next year.
Essentially, Smith is underpaid by basketball terms, and with the Knicks having a majority of their money tied up in Chandler, Stoudemire and Anthony—as well as already burning their amnesty on Chauncey Billups two offseasons ago—re-signing Smith to a long-term deal may be difficult.
But should he opt out, the Knicks may need to get creative to keep him. Steve Novak is the only Knick under contract for 2015-2016, meaning the Knicks cannot afford to defer the big bucks to the back end of the contract.
Still, Smith is the only Knick besides Anthony who can consistently create shots for himself, and he is an important part of the bench. Without him, the Knicks bench would take a major hit.
The Knicks finished the season tied for 25th in rebounding, which can be partially attributed to Stoudemire missing a majority of the season and Chandler missing key chunks of time.
Kenyon Martin is an unrestricted free agent, but he may seek more money, especially after not signing until mid-February this season. If he's willing to come back at the right price, the Knicks should try and retain him.
Other free-agent targets on New York's radar should be Milwaukee Bucks center Samuel Dalembert (though the Haiti native has openly spoke of landing with the Miami Heat), Charlotte Bobcats PF/C Josh McRoberts and New Orleans Hornets PF Lou Amundson.
McRoberts has played great in his brief time with the Bobcats, averaging 9.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG while shooting over 50 percent from the field. The former Duke star is certainly not an NBA star, but he is a high-energy player who can be an important bench player for the Knicks.
Amundson is a poor man's Chris Andersen—what he lacks in skill, he makes up for in hustle. While he won't be a big minutes guy, he is a good rebounder and would be a nice addition deep on the Knicks bench.
Block More Shots
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The Knicks finished dead last in the NBA in blocks this season (3.6 per game), which, like their rebounding issues, can be attributed to injury issues that plagued Chandler, Stoudemire and Marcus Camby.
Jermaine O'Neal is a shell of the player he used to be, but he can be effective 15-18 minutes per game by bringing physical defense and a veteran presence off the bench. In 55 games for the Phoenix Suns this year, O'Neal averaged 1.4 blocks in just under 19 minutes of play. He's a solid offensive player and would give the Knicks another defensive-minded big man.
Cole Aldrich was the 11th overall pick four years ago but has hardly cracked any rotation in any of his three teams. The 6'11, 240-pound big man may never live up to his high draft selection, but his 0.9 blocks in under 12 minutes of play with the Sacramento Kings show that he can be a plus defensive player.
Samuel Dalembert may have his eyes set on Miami, but if he changes his mind, he'd fit in well in New York. The 6'11, 250-pund center has averaged 1.8 blocks per game over his career and averaged 1.1 blocks in just over 16 minutes a night for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Knicks are the oldest team in the NBA, and that won't change next year. Despite Rasheed Wallace's retirement, the Knicks are set to bring back 40-year-old Jason Kidd, 36-year-old Pablo Prigioni and 39-year-old Marcus Camby.
After 35, players start to break down and are unable to play a full season, especially when a playoff run goes deep.
J.J. Hickson had a fantastic season in Portland, but with LaMarcus Aldridge and last year's first-round pick Meyers Leonard already on the roster, Hickson may not be in the Trailblazers' long-term plans.
If he's willing to take the mid-level exception, Hickson would be a great addition to the Knicks. At 6'9" and 240 lb, Hickson averaged 12.7 PPG and 10.4 RPG while shooting over 56 percent from the field. Here's the best part: He'll be 25 years old when next season starts. However, he is expected to field better financial offers than the Knicks can afford.
Earl Clark is set to become a free agent, and the New Jersey native may seek to come back to the East Coast with the Knicks. At 25 years old, Clark can play either forward position, is an adequate three-point shooter and can rebound effectively.
Brandan Wright, the former eighth overall pick, is an advanced metrics demigod, registering the 20th best player efficiency rating in the NBA (21.03) and a high true-shooting percentage (60.6 percent). In reality, Wright isn't as good as his advanced metrics indicate, but he is deserving of more playing time.
He's a very lanky 6'10, and with the Dallas Mavericks set to make big noise in the offseason, look for him to move on. If he does, the Knicks would be a great landing spot for the 25-year-old forward/center.
Find Another Scorer
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At 100 PPG, the Knicks ranked 11th in the NBA in scoring, which was above average but didn't blowing anyone away.
Carmelo Anthony is an isolation scorer who doesn't often involve his teammates. This is why J.R. Smith is so important to the Knicks, as he can create shots on his own, especially when Melo is on the bench.
If the Knicks can't re-sign Smith, look for them to go after guys like Marco Belinelli, Nick Young and Mo Williams.
Williams is the most intriguing of the bunch, as he's a veteran point guard who is a good three-point shooter and a better passer than he's given credit for. While he may be reluctant to take a bench role, especially in a crowded backcourt, his style of play would fit well in Mike Woodson's system.
Get More Assists
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The Knicks finished last in assists, which is indicative of their style of play and their lack of a great passer. Pablo Prigioni is a good passer but not a great athlete, and while Jason Kidd is one of the NBA's all-time best, he's a step slower than he used to be and can't play big minutes.
Mo Williams would be a good fit, as he's a good three-point shooter and a solid passer.
Another interesting name is D.J. Augustin, who has never really fit into the Indiana Pacers rotation this season. While in Charlotte, Augustin proved his toughness and smarts and averaged 6.4 and 6.1 assists per game in two years running the show for the Bobcats. After struggling to play big minutes this season, he's a 25-year-old guard who would be a good long-term fit in New York.
Jarrett Jack has been a perfect fit in Golden State, and I think he'd be making a mistake leaving the Warriors. If he does, he'd be a no-brainer option for the Knicks. After a great season in New Orleans, where he averaged 15.6 points and 6.3 assists in 2011, he put up another great year for the Warriors, averaging 12.9 points and 5.5 assists and receiving Sixth Man of the Year votes.
With 5.5 assists per game, Jack would have tied Felton for the lead on the Knicks. He's shown a willingness to come off the bench, and at 29 years old, he's not old but still brings a veteran presence.
Will Bynum could also be in the mix, as the 30-year-old is a solid yet unspectacular bench player who would probably take less money to leave the toxicity of the Detroit Pistons and prove himself on a short-term deal.