Highlighting New York Knicks' Top Free-Agent Target at Every Position

Mike BenjaminContributor IMay 14, 2013

Highlighting New York Knicks' Top Free-Agent Target at Every Position

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    Remodeling a basketball team is very much like home renovation.

    Home renovation isn’t about wholesale change: That’s where real estate agents come in and make their bread. For most folks, home improvement targets those small hangnails and bothersome divots that cheapen one’s living experience.

    The same goes for many of the NBA’s basketball franchises: Almost all will turn a profit, most have one or two blue-chip hoop prospects, and 16 of 30 hum yearly to the tune of playoff appearances.

    The New York Knicks are one of these 16 hummingbirds. New York isn’t a bad team by any measure, having collected an Atlantic Division crown and a playoff series victory for the first time since Pink Floyd’s final world tour before initial breakup (1994).

    Still, if the Knicks are to improve and truly contend in 2013-14, much self-efficacy is required. Team brass must start with an honest admission of team flaws, an aggressive end put to unlikeable proclivities (too much 'Melo ISO!) and a realistic assessment of players inside and outside team borders.

    Today, let’s look most closely at the latter. Where are the holes in this Knicks team? And what NBA players can fill these voids at a good pay rate?

    Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Target No. 1: J.R. Smith, SG

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    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 42% FG, 36% 3FG, 6.7 win shares.

    The Knicks better get their house in order before shopping for dudes in the global marketplace.

    After all, J.R.’s already homegrown and city fed, raised in the less-than-tropic counties of nearby Northern New Jersey. J.R.’s the only Knick who played over 80 games this season.

    J.R.’s the primary reason why the Knicks ranked among the NBA’s per-game leaders in team bench points (38.6), three-point field goals made (5.0), minutes (19.6) and efficiency (40.5), per HoopsStats.com.

    J.R. has a kinship with makeshift Dad-coach Mike Woodson, J.R. likes to party with Rihanna in his spare time, and J.R.’s really young!

    Simply put, J.R. needs to be kept.

Target No. 2: Brandon Jennings, PG

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    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 6.5 assists, 38% 3FG, 5.8 win shares.

    The offseason youth movement continues with the tactical embrace of wily guard Brandon Jennings. Jennings shoots a strong percentage from three-point territory, has a mean streak and plays well to strong crowds, and is best served as a side dish rather than a team’s main course.

    Here lies the problem for the Knicks: Jennings is one of the better point guards swimming in the free-agent pool, while some of his point guard draft classmates relax beach side with their big contracts.

    • Stephen Curry: 22.9 points, 6.9 assists (4 years, $44 million)
    • Ty Lawson: 16.7 points, 6.9 assists (4 years, $48 million)
    • Jrue Holiday: 17.7 points, 8.0 assists (4 years, $41 million)

    Given the comparative stats, Jennings will probably opt out and snag a contract earning him roughly $11 million per year. Brandon Jennings is also a restricted free agent of the Milwaukee Bucks, who can pony up and copy a New York proposed salary with one of their own.

    So, the Knicks are trapped in a potential sign-and-trade scenario. Would Milwaukee bite on Raymond Felton and a 2015 first-round draft pick? Or Felton and Marcus Camby for Jennings and a pile of trail mix?

    I’d bet cash money the Knicks would redo the 2009 NBA draft in a heartbeat. (JORDAN HILL!)

Target No. 3: Jose Calderon, PG

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    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.3 points, 7.1 assists, 46.1% 3FG, 7.4 win shares.

    As evidenced by zero points over his last seven playoff games, Jason Kidd is now afraid to shoot. This wouldn’t be a problem if he were still on the Dallas Mavericks, who are currently debating O.J. Mayo’s future. But Kidd’s reluctance is a big deal for the New York Knicks, who may see Kidd’s veteran leadership as a luxury now that his hot shooting start has subsided.

    Enter Jose Calderon. As one of the lone 50-40-90 guys in NBA history (52% FG, 43% 3FG, 91% FT in 2007-08) and riding a career 7.2 assists per game average, Calderon has proven his ability to shoot and dish even when playing with less-than-stellar talent in Toronto and Detroit.

    At 31 years old with a ton of international game mileage, Calderon is a shell of his $10 million persona. Nonetheless, he can offer the veteran leadership and stellar shooting (his 46 percent from three-point land was the highest mark of his career) that Kidd has lacked over the last few months.  

Target No. 4: Matt Barnes, SF

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    Age: 33

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 46.2% FG, 6.3 win shares.

    The Knicks are as good a bet as any team to scoop up Matt Barnes this summer, as long as Matt Barnes is still comfortable playing for less than he’s worth.

    Did you know that Matt Barnes, one of the NBA’s devastating 3D players (three-point shooter and defensive specialist) has played for the biannual exception for the past two years? CHEAP!

    Did you know that Matt Barnes dropped 30 points in the Game 6 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that boasts three players on the 2012-13 NBA All-Defense teams?

    Did you know that Matt Barnes’ wife has the more interesting stories at their dinner table?

    Matt Barnes could probably make upward of $7 million on the open market, based on the yearly salaries of similar 3D guys like Trevor Ariza and Metta World Peace. And Matt Barnes knows this.

    Perhaps the Knicks can coax Barnes into a role that he’s played before: inexpensive energy man on a contender.

    Or sweeten his pot with a new role: lead husband on Basketball Wives: New York! (with show veteran Gloria Govan alongside La La Anthony, Joumana Kidd and, possibly, Rhianna!)

Target No. 5: Carl Landry, PF/C

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    Age: 29

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 23.2 minutes, 10.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 54% FG, 6.2 win shares.

    Pick-and-roll is one of the most commonly run offenses in the NBA. To be executed perfectly, the play requires exquisite timing, a ball-handler who can create and shoot off the dribble and a big man who can run cleanly to the basket and knock down the mid-range jumper.

    Carl Landry can do all that, plus he’s proven to be a great backup big man in lieu of David Lee’s hip injury. Per NBA.com, Landry's per-36-minute stats are off the charts and comparable to David Lee’s, the Warriors' lone All-Star in an incredibly successful team season.

    Landry has bounced around the league and made his presence known as a young, effective big man. With Tyson Chandler nursing injury much of last season and the old guard looking at the clock, Landry represents the present and future of the Knicks frontcourt.