The San Antonio Spurs' DeJuan Blair would fit in nicely on the New York Knicks
Finishing 54-28 and grabbing the No. 2 seed are nice and all, but it comes down to the playoffs, where the New York Knicks petered out too soon. To the free-agent market they will go, forced to find affordable, under-the-radar free agents for that extra lift.
Glen Grunwald’s main duty this offseason will be to put together a roster that will maintain New York’s regular-season standing (hopefully again winning the Atlantic Division and securing at least a No. 3 seed) and can reach the Eastern Conference Finals at a minimum.
That's not easy, given the improvement we’re guaranteed to see in the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls (with the return of Derrick Rose) and perhaps even the Brooklyn Nets (with a healthy Deron Williams, an ever-improving Brook Lopez and a new coach).
Also, the Knicks are hamstrung by some bloated contracts, leaving just the taxpayer’s mid-level exception (a little over $3 millions) and the veteran’s minimum (about $1.2 million) to work with.
Still, a bunch of free agents are out there, like these for a start.
Getting past the Miami Heat was once New York’s biggest postseason concern.
Now, the Knicks need to figure out how to get past the Indiana Pacers, too.
The Knicks’ semifinals failure exposed some serious flaws on their roster—flaws they got through the season with thanks to a patchwork of pickups (Rasheed Wallace, Kenyon Martin) and different players (Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler) peaking at different times.
But the flaws were always there and inevitably took New York down.
Chandler needs some spry help in the paint. The Knicks need more rebounds. They need some additional physical play.
New York needs youth and energy so that its small-ball lineup can keep up a quick pace.
Even if Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni stay on, the Knicks would do well to shore up the backcourt with a No. 2 who has some point-guard play in him.
Of course, this team can never have enough defense either, especially in the postseason.
Timofey Mozgov seemed to be coming on for the Knicks just before being traded to the Denver Nuggets.
In 2012-13, Mozgov mostly languished on the Nuggets’ bench (8.9 minutes per game), even though his per-36 numbers were good and just what New York needed.
Mozgov has been vocal about his lack of playing time and will be on the move this offseason.
Assuming Mozgov can get in 15-20 minutes a game, he is capable of protecting the glass (six to eight rebounds), is an average to above-average defender, can block and will even throw in some ugly points (five to eight points per game).
Mozgov is only 26 and should be affordable. He might even be forced to take a pay cut off his $3 million-plus salary.
Point guard Josh Selby spent the last part of 2012-13 in the D-League after not finding a spot on the Memphis Grizzlies’ crowded backcourt. His poor shooting percentage was his greatest weakness (27 percent this season, 33 percent lifetime).
The 22-year-old out of Kansas has 38 pro games under his belt over two seasons. He’s an OK defender on the dribble but not against shooters. Selby is an above-average rebounder for his position.
Some improvement in accuracy will help his scoring output, which is sufficient already. Selby is capable of adding up to 10 points to the Knicks’ bottom line, given the playing time.
He is a capable ball-handler (four to five assists per 36 minutes) and quick, too.
Selby finished 2013 on the Maine Red Claws. He finished the D-League season averaging 14 points, four assists, five rebounds and one steal.
Can this translate to the NBA? Jason Kidd might be good mentor here.
DeJuan Blair doesn’t get enough playing time with the San Antonio Spurs.
When the 6’7” forward does play, though, he looks good.
After starting most of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, Blair hit the bench this season and is currently the third center on the Spurs’ depth chart.
He’d be a versatile backup for New York.
The Knicks could use Blair’s versatility in the frontcourt. He’s a little small for a center in the East but can play the position. Power forward is his natural spot.
Blair is a good enough shooter (53 percent career) to cover some jump shots too. When Carmelo Anthony rests, J.R. Smith and Blair could combine for that missing second-line output.
At his best and given about 20 minutes a game, Blair can poke at the double-digit mark in points and contribute six to seven rebounds.
He’s an above-average frontcourt on-the-ball defender for a player his size.
If you can’t beat them, join them or steal one of their players. The Indiana Pacers’ D.J. Augustin needs a new lease on life, and New York might be the place.
There is one big fact about Augustin: He needs the minutes to show how good he is. Fewer minutes bring less per-minute production.
Augustin had two respectable seasons in Charlotte (2010-11, 2011-12) when he averaged about 30 minutes and put in more than 10 points and six assists a game.
If he starts (and why not?) alongside Raymond Felton—assuming Smith continues as the sixth man—and can clock 25 minutes, the Knicks might have something special.
Augustin can pass and score and is a quick penetrator, which would keep defenses off balance and open up the essential perimeter.
His defense could use some work.
How is 6’10” Henry Sims out of Georgetown not getting a shot at the NBA?
The Knicks should give him one (or another one).
Sims has played all of two games (literally five minutes) in the pros—for the dysfunctional New Orleans Hornets, now Pelicans.
But he was a D-League superstar, pouring in 16 points and nine rebounds a game for the Erie BayHawks in 2012-13.
With a little development, Sims could become the anti-Hibbert that New York needs. He’s a physical player who can clog the paint and work the boards. He blocks, disrupts play and even steals.
He’s an above-average offensive rebounder and has a good basketball head, which should give the Knicks additional second-opportunity chances.
On a team built around shooters looking for a cheap defensive big man, what more could the Knicks ask for?