Tony Allen should be a name the Knicks have atop their wish list this summer.
The New York Knicks are on the heels of their most successful regular season in more than a decade. Their 54 wins earned them the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and Carmelo Anthony's play had him in the MVP discussion through much of the season.
Through all this, the team failed to reach their goal of an Eastern Conference Finals bout with the Miami Heat. It became evident that there are a few glaring weaknesses on the roster—a severe lack of two-way players is one. Some aging role players that boosted the Knicks to an early 18-5 start likely won't be able to provide the same spark after yet another season of wear.
Glen Grunwald will have to dip into the free agency well this July, but with only the $3 million-per-year midlevel exception at his disposal, the exec will "need to be creative" in landing names.
Ideally, the team would be wise to add an athletic wing player who can rebound well, but those players are few and far between in this year's free agent class—especially in the Knicks' price range.
The team has players of their own with undecided futures, including Pablo Prigioni who may return overseas at 36, Jason Kidd whose retirement is a hot topic after an ice-cold postseason, Chris Copeland who is a restricted free agent, and J.R. Smith who is likely to enter unrestricted free agency in six weeks.
These Knicks' fates have much to do with how the offseason will shake out for Grunwald and Co. Without significant dollars to shell out, it'll take more to sway free agents to Madison Square Garden than dollar signs alone.
The Knicks will be one of many teams knocking on Tony Allen's door this summer. The veteran swingman has established himself as a top-two perimeter defender in basketball—possibly only to LeBron James—and is hitting the open market for the first time as such.
Allen is 31 and will be entering his 10th NBA season, fitting Mike Woodson's veteran mold. He's currently playing with the Memphis Grizzlies for $3.3 million, slightly more than what the Knicks can offer with the MLE.
It will be interesting to see how Allen's market value unfolds, as his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired. He shot a grotesque 12.5 percent from three-point range this season, which contradicts the Knicks' three-ball-reliant offense. He was a 45-percent shooter overall in 2013 and scored nine points on average, with most of those coming at the rim.
As a Knick, there would be a few different scenarios for Allen.
He could start at the shooting guard, his natural spot, which would bump Iman Shumpert up to the small forward. Allen and Shump together pack more defensive talent than some teams do in the entire starting five, so this lineup would be a dream for Mike Woodson.
Allen could also play as a reserve, backing up Shumpert, ensuring that lockdown defense would be on the court for Woodson at all times.
Allen isn't necessarily filling a need directly, but adding a top-notch defender can't be a wrong move—especially on a team that struggled on that end as badly as the Knicks did.
This is all contingent on Allen accepting New York's three-year, $10 million MLE, which will likely be on the skimpy end of offers for the 31-year-old. The return of J.R. Smith would also make this deal slightly less unlikely. Shumpert, Smith and Allen would essentially be battling for burn at the 2 and 3 spots, all while Woodson could be attempting to run two point guards out as well.
It would be nice for the Knicks to add on Allen, but there seem to be a few hurdles in getting this one done.
If the Knicks continue playing Carmelo Anthony at the power forward, and Iman Shumpert in the starting backcourt, they have a need for a traditional small forward who fits the offense. Matt Barnes could be an inexpensive, quick fix at the 3 spot.
He likely wouldn't need to play an abundance of minutes—if Mike Woodson sticks to 2013's script—thanks to the Knicks' penchant to run dual-point-guard sets. This would bump Shumpert to the small forward, with Anthony at the 4 in their small-ball offense.
In 2013 with the Los Angeles Clippers, Barnes averaged 26 minutes per contest. He shot the three-ball well at 34 percent, and made 46 percent of his shots overall.
The Knicks suffered from a condemning lack of two-way players in '13—that is, players that can hold their own on both ends of the floor. Barnes has never been credited as a top-defender in his career, but he's far from a liability on defense—something the team had far too many of last season.
Barnes will be 33 next season, and shouldn't command much more than a couple million dollars and a year or two. While the Knicks search for a winning combination in the short-term, Barnes could be a positive stopgap until New York ushers in a new era when most contracts come off the books in 2015.
The Knicks elderly 2013 frontcourt was unable to withstand a full season of wear. The team needs to shore up its reserve big-man group this summer, and youthfully. They could turn to an old friend to help them out.
Timofey Mozgov has been rotting on the Denver Nuggets' sideline since he was dealt from New York in 2011. His 7'1", 250-pound frame would instantly improve the team's size up front, aided by a hopefully-recovered Marcus Camby. In his third NBA season, Mozgov averaged a career-low nine minutes per game while putting up 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds.
With Javale McGee and Kosta Koufos having leapt over him on the depth chart, Mozgov is almost certainly a lock to leave the Mile High City this summer. He'll be 27 come opening night, and the center has noted that playing time is more important than any other factor when it comes to relocating.
"I am not going to sit on the bench even for a champion’s ring. To me, playing time is more important right now than any team results," Mozgov said to Rush'n Hoops, a Russian basketball blog, last winter.
The Knicks would theoretically be able to offer Mozgov significant playing time—Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, and Steve Novak are the only locks for next year's frontcourt, and only Chandler's defense makes an impact—and their full $10 million MLE.
The New York Post has previously reported that the Knicks will chase the Russian center this July. Saving a portion of the exception to add other offseason additions would behoove management, but Mozgov may garner larger offers elsewhere.
With the Knicks point guard situation two-thirds uncertain heading into free agency, Glen Grunwald may turn to the open market to fill a potential 2014 void—possibly to a nemesis that played a part in damning their 2013 run.
D.J. Augustin will be an unrestricted free agent following the Indiana Pacers' playoff run. He disappointed Indy fans in 2013 by averaging a career-low five points and two assists in 16 minutes per game. He shot just 35 percent from the field, and slightly better from beyond the arc.
Coming off a rather terrible season in Indy, Augustin should come on the cheap, and the Knicks have a need. Despite his struggles, he hit the three-pointer with some regularity, and can quickly drive to the hoop. His small frame makes finishing and defending difficult, however.
Augustin has tasted success before. He managed to nail three-pointers at a 44-percent clip in his rookie year, and averaged over 14 points and six assists on the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010-11.
With one or both of Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni possibly leaving the team before the start of next season, the Knicks will undoubtedly be searching for a point guard to spell—and play beside—Raymond Felton. On the cheapest of deals, Augustin would be a low-risk, high-reward gamble for a point man.
Continuing with the cheap-but-high-reward-point-guard theme, Sebastian Telfair will likely be an affordable option to toss into the backcourt mix next season.
The Brooklyn native began the season with a solid four-month stretch with the Phoenix Suns. In a limited role, he averaged 12.5 points and five assists per 36 minutes in the desert, while knocking down 38 percent of his three-pointers.
His numbers declined after being dealt to the Toronto Raptors at the trade deadline, though. He logged just over 14 minutes per contest north of the border, and shot just 27 percent from the arc as a Rap.
Here's a comparison of Telfair's stats compared to the Knicks' point trio just prior to the deadline deal. He provides an ability to knock down the outside shot, but suffers through stretches of turnover-prone basketball. His small size doesn't play to his advantage on attempts at the rim, but he has above average quickness on both ends of the floor.
Telfair made just over $1.5 million this past season, and probably isn't due for a raise thanks to his limited burn and unfortunate collapse in Toronto. On a small salary in New York, and under the tutelage of Mike Woodson and Jason Kidd, Telfair could blossom into the serviceable second-team guard the Knicks need.
With just their midlevel exception and veterans' minimum contracts to deal out this offseason, it's unlikely that New York will devote tons of salary to one player. Expect smaller, crafty signings this offseason from the Knicks.
They've capped themselves out by tossing top-dollar deals to Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, now they're restricted to the small-market methods of business under the newly-implemented CBA.
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