Who is this guy?
Despite the New York Knicks’ dire financial straits, there are still gobs of under-the-radar free agent bargains available cheap enough to fit and improve the roster. Which ones, though, will be worth their thimble of salt and help take the team into the Eastern finals?
The Knicks will only have either the mid-level tax exemption ($3.18 million) or veteran’s minimum (about $1.2 million) contracts to work with—even with Jason Kidd’s salary forfeiture. Kidd has agreed to give up the whole $6.18 million remaining on his final two years.
James White’s $1 million team option will (hopefully) be declined.
Still, the Knicks 2013-14 payroll is already at $71.7 million with only seven players signed: Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert.
That’s already over the $58.5 million salary cap and $71.6 million especially-punitive luxury tax threshold, and soon to be over the further-limiting $75.6 million luxury tax apron (threshold + $4 million).
Confirming @espnsteinline tweet -- league's projected cap/tax for 2013-14 is currently $58.5M & $71.6M. For 2014-15 it's $62.1M & $75.7M.— Larry Coon (@LarryCoon) June 3, 2013
A-bargain-hunting the Knicks will go.
Let’s start at home and possibly with two of the Knicks’ most likely free-agent signings.
Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland would be bargains if New York can bring both of them back under the single MLE, which appears to be Glen Grunwald’s plan.
Both players barely got the chance to flex their game in 2012-13, but when they did, they proved their contributory value.
With Jason Kidd empty down the regular-season stretch, Prigioni stepped into Mike Woodson’s dual-PG scheme. In Pablo’s 18 starts, the Knicks were 16-2.
The 29-year-old rookie Copeland showed some flashes this year, including his 13 points in that Game 5 win against Indiana.
He averaged 20 points and five rebounds per 36 minutes during the season. Copeland can score inside and out, and you bet New York could use those boards. All he needs is some more time and experience.
There might be a financial assumption here on Grunwald’s part, though. Is Copeland worth more than the max $2 million he’s going to get assuming Prigioni gets a third of the MLE? Even if it’s only by a little bit?
Maybe. It is possible another team will offer Copeland more. Not much more, but as you see, it might be enough to lock the Knicks out.
Detroit Pistons backup point guard Will Bynum is coming off his best season and would be the perfect uptick for the Knicks’ dual-PG offense. He could come in behind either Raymond Felton or Pablo Prigioni and has earned more than the occasional spot start.
Bynum is an “uptempo point guard who can score and lead the fast break just as efficiently as Felton. The Knicks were dead last in fast break points during the regular season” (via NJ.com).
He shot 47 percent from the floor last year and averaged nearly 19 points and seven assists per 36 minutes. Surely, that would shore up some of New York’s second-option scoring anemia (and the awful poor-shooting nights).
He’s on the MLE bubble, though, if you ask me. Bynum is already making $3.25 million, and after 2012-13, he’ll look for more. It’s going to be a question of offer sheets.
Bynum, Felton, Prigioni (if the Knicks go vet’s minimum), J.R. Smith (assuming he returns, as is the word), occasionally Shumpert and whomever the Knicks target in the draft or in veteran’s-minimum land would make a formidable backcourt.
Center (6’11”) Andray Blatche is an already-proven bargain. The Brooklyn Nets scraped him off the amnesty heap last September.
Blatche was making $6.4 million for the Washington Wizards in a career-killing 2011-12. The Nets paid him $1.14 million (veteran's minimum), and Blatche wound up with a career-saving 2012-13.
He was a more-than-capable backup to the ever-improving Brook Lopez in 74 games and started the other eight. Blatche wrapped up the season at 10 points and five rebounds a game and received some Most Improved Player votes.
He is a defensive liability, though, and for that reason the Knicks may shy away, given their need to improve paint presence and match up with teams like the Indiana Pacers.
Blatche is in line for a raise. It’s conceivable he’d bite on another veteran's minimum (or accept the CBA-allowed 20 percent raise if he stays in Brooklyn), but he’s worth closer to the MLE these days.
Samuel Dalembert makes a little more sense for the New York Knicks than Andray Blatche for one critical reason: defense.
The Dalembert-to-New York rumor mill has been grinding for years, and it may at last be time to pull the trigger. He’s coming off a two-year $13.7 million contract and an off-season that might find him willing to take a long-term (two- or three-year) MLE contract.
As long as two years ago, before Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler came to town, we were pitching Dalembert as an “ideal frontcourt mate to pair with Amar’e.” So was Marc Berman of the New York Post and others.
Dalembert’s numbers are down, and that has helped lower his value. He played the fewest minutes per game of his career (only 16) and came up with only about seven points and a pretty good six rebounds a game in those minimal ticks.
If the Knicks go this route, they’re not looking for offense anyway. The rebounds are significant, especially if Dalembert gets more time on the floor. He’s a blocking specialist, too, averaging 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes over an 11-year career.
Dalembert’s 6’11”, 250-pound frame would be a great complement to Chandler, giving the Knicks 48 minutes worth of considerable size in the paint.
He’s a problem-child of sorts, kicked from team to team—four in the last four years—and has been fined and suspended for an attitude problem.
Here is where Mike Woodson’s strength of managing veteran, temperamental players comes in. It could work.
Gary Neal has been tucked away on the San Antonio Spurs depth chart lately. The shooting guard sits behind Danny Green and Manu Ginobili.
Neal started the season working his way up to a consistent 30-35 minutes per game but fell out of favor with coach Gregg Popovich at the turn of the year. He hit the 30-minute mark just once in the last 45 games (and another 14 games in the postseason).
This might be a good thing for bargain hunters. Neal has settled nicely into his bench role, but his value is low. He’s a bit one-dimensional: not much going on with ball movement, but he can score.
The assist issue is admittedly a problem, but again the Knicks could use the points. Neal had two stretches where he flashed some serious potential.
He started 16 of 17 games in November/December and netted double-digits nine times (including marks of 29, 22, 20 twice and 19). He scored 27 the week before this run off the bench. This is big business.
Neal was for real in the important month of April as well, going for double-digits in seven of eight games (a 16 PPG average).
ESPN has this to say about Neal:
One of the most underrated role players in the NBA, Neal has been a consistent perimeter threat and also serves in spot duty as backup point guard with decent ballhandling skills and good decision-making. [He] would be an excellent fit as a backup guard for a contender with a need for shooting and playmaking off the bench.
Could Gary Neal be the second-line scoring option who would allow Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith to share the court?
It’s something to think about.