Breaking Down the New York Knicks' Biggest Needs and Best Options This Summer
After a disappointing second round exit, the New York Knicks are going to need to make some changes in the offseason, and Glen Grunwald has his work cut out.
The Knicks have only the taxpayers' exception of $3 million and veteran's minimum contracts to spend, along with the 24th overall pick in the draft.
With some smart moves, that should be enough to boost the team, but it will require quality negotiating and scouting.
Following a 54-win season, New York certainly has a solid squad, but here are the key needs they should be addressing to make it that much stronger ahead of next season.
Their Own Free Agents
If they are going to have repeat success in 2013-13, the first thing the Knicks need to do is bring back their own important free agents.
In particular, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni should all be priorities in free agency, as they all have key roles in New York's rotation.
Since he's been here for two seasons now, Smith can be signed with the Early Bird exception. That means the Knicks can offer him a maximum of four years, $20 million, which the New York Post has reported he is willing to accept.
That's great news for Knicks fans, because they can't afford for their second option—the reigning Sixth Man of the Year—to leave town.
Beyond Smith, the Knicks will be hoping not to have to use the taxpayers' exception on their own free agents, and the non-Bird exception may allow them to do so.
Using that exception, the Knicks can offer Martin a maximum of $1.7 million, and Copeland and Prigioni a maximum of just under $1 million without biting into their mid-level.
In his exit interview, Martin said he wanted to return to the Knicks, and sounded like he might give them a hometown discount as a thank you for allowing him to restart his career.
Copeland was similarly grateful to the Knicks in his own interview, and explicitly stated that money isn't a big deal for him.
The one player the Knicks could struggle to re-sign is Prigioni, and the Knicks may have to offer part of the mid-level to keep him in New York. It's frustrating, but considering his 16-2 record in the starting lineup last season, he may be worth the money.
Bringing back all four players will leave the Knicks' roster at 11, with room to sign a maximum of four new players.
Back-Up Point Guard
Even if Prigioni is re-signed, the Knicks are in the market for a back-up point guard. The Argentine is more likely to play off the ball alongside Raymond Felton, leaving a spot on the bench for the back-up role.
In particular, the Knicks need someone young, who can provide energy and penetration for the second unit. That was one of the major attributes the Knicks' bench lacked last season, and it will need to be fixed for the team to improve.
Hopefully, the Knicks will be able to find someone who is a good shooter and passer, but getting a truly well-rounded guard may be hard with only $3 million to spend.
The best-case scenario would be for Miami's Shane Larkin to fall to them in the draft. He's extremely fast and athletic, and has the basketball IQ to be successful in the NBA. Drafting him would also come with the benefit of not having to use the taxpayers' exception.
If the Knicks choose to address the need in free agency, Nate Robinson and Will Bynum could be options for the taxpayers' exception, and Sebastian Telfair and Josh Selby could be options with the veteran's minimum.
Draft Options: Shane Larkin, Dennis Schroeder, Nate Wolters
Taxpayers' Exception Options: Nate Robinson, Will Bynum, C.J. Watson
Vet's Minimum Options: Sebastian Telfair, D.J. Augustin, Delonte West
Defensive-Minded Wing Player
Looking at the teams who made it to the Conference Finals, a major similarity was their abundance of long, defensive-minded wing players.
Paul George, Lance Stephenson, Shane Battier, Kawhi Leonard and Tayshaun Prince all played major roles on their teams, and the Knicks should be looking for players like that.
New York will struggle to find anyone as good as these players with the resources they have, but there are players out there who can fill the role for a discount price.
Ideally, it will be someone who can handle himself on the offensive end of the floor. Ronnie Brewer played quality defense for the Knicks last season, but his complete lack of effectiveness on offense led them to trade him away for just a second round pick.
Matt Barnes would be perfect. He plays tough defense and welcomes the opportunity to guard the opposition's best player. He even contributes well offensively with solid three-point shooting and timely cuts to the basket.
Due to his relationship with Chris Paul, it may be hard to pry Barnes from the Clippers, but offering him a portion of the taxpayers' exception may do the trick. If not, Tony Snell would be a great draft pick, and there is a wealth of lesser players who can be signed for the veteran's minimum.
Draft Options: Tony Snell, Livio Jean-Charles, Allen Crabbe
Taxpayers' Exception Options: Matt Barnes, Corey Brewer, Dorell Wright
Vet's Minimum Options: DeShawn Stevenson, Keith Bogans, Mickael Pietrus
Throughout the regular season and playoffs, the Knicks struggled to handle injuries to their frontcourt.
Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace all missed significant time with injury, and the Knicks can't afford to have their frontcourt depleted again next season.
Instead, New York will be looking for younger and more durable additions to their frontcourt, especially with the release of Thomas and retirement of Wallace.
Since he does work on both ends of the floor, Andray Blatche would be a great pick-up. He was fantastic for the Brooklyn Nets last season, making strides after being amnestied by the Washington Wizards.
According to the NY Daily News, Blatche is willing to take less money this offseason, just to stick it to the Wizards. That puts the Knicks in the mix, and he may be interested in leaving Brooklyn to join New York's more successful team last season.
It may still be difficult to sign Blatche, and if that's the case, there are plenty of other options. Gorgui Dieng and Jeff Withey headline a decent group of bigs who will be available late in the first round of the draft, while Timofey Mozgov and DeJuan Blair could be had in free agency.
The Knicks would be wise to add at least two of these players to their roster, because if the injury situation repeats itself, they'll need all the frontcourt help they can get.
Draft Options: Gorgui Dieng, Jeff Withey, Lucas Nogueira
Taxpayers' Exception Options: Timofey Mozgov, DeJuan Blair, Zaza Pachulia
Vet's Minimum Options: Andray Blatche, Louis Amundson, Ryan Hollins