Most Intriguing Free Agents for NY Knicks to Sign with the Mid-Level Exception
In my head, I’ve always pictured NBA free agency as a bunch of tall dudes sitting on a casting couch.
For the most part, that is exactly what it is.
In Hollywood, as tabloid articles scream Will Smith’s name as the hot lead actor in “The Pursuit of Happiness,” casting agents hurriedly audition dozens of similarly aged candidates for the role of “the quizzical executive who watches Will Smith’s character solve a Rubik’s Cube in the back of a cab.
Same goes for the NBA. This summer, there will be 100 or so positions listed on the NBA’s open jobs report. Most of these spaces will be filled by journeymen, castoffs, NCAA mid-major media darlings, and so forth. After all, Dwight Howard can only play basketball for one team.
The New York Knicks need to scoop up a couple of these couch potatoes.
Despite this writer’s dramatic attempts to sell this team like a Dot.com stock in the early aughts, many of the city’s same beloved heroes will trot out and attempt another run at the title.
But we saw this team in April. They need help. If the Knicks fail to grab the right supporting players this summer, we’ll just be watching these lambs dance to the slaughter.
Here’s the elephant in the room: because of their cap situation (shakes fist at Amare’s knees), the Knicks have to do more with less.
What can the Knicks do with their limited cap space? Is there anyone in free agency that can make this squad more than a decorative countertop set piece for the NBA? What the heck is the “mid-level exception” anyway?
Let’s find the Knicks some hope for next year.
What Is the Taypayer Mid-Level Exception?
As Luke Adams said best over at HoopsRumors.com, “the Mid-Level Exception is the most common way for over-the-cap NBA teams to sign other teams' free agents.”
Introduced after the 1999 lockout, the taypayer mid-level allows a team to sign a free agent to terms up to $3 million in the first year of his contract (for those contracts starting in 2013-14).
For the Knicks, it may not just be the common way, but the only way. Even with Jason Kidd’s $3 million off the books moving forward, New York sits at a guaranteed $70 million for the 2013-14 NBA season, well over the projected $58.5 million salary cap mark.
Add in the cap hold for their looming first round draft pick (please, Shane Larkin!), the need to add five players to get to the NBA roster minimum (12) and hard-hitting tax penalties for teams that break the tax mark, and all fingers point New York to that mid-level exception as their best free agency weapon.
Gee...who can the Knicks sign with $3 million dollars?
Player #1: Nate Robinson
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.1 points, 4.4 assists, 41% 3FG, 80% FT.
Hey look...it's our old friend Krypto-Nate!
For years, Nate Robinson was the only bright spot for an otherwise dull New York Knicks basketball team. Nate's dunk contest wins were consolation prizes to disguise the fact that the team was stacking losses like Moneymaker stacks chips at the World Series of Poker.
Suddenly, it looked like Nate was a sneeze away from forced retirement.
Then, Derrick Rose decided to shatter his right knee, forcing the Bulls into a mad scramble for a replacement point guard. Along with old man Kirk Hinrich, Chicago signed Robinson hoping to find a fleeting shred of magic in the diminutive point guard.
#Winning! Nate gave Chicago 13.1 points per game in the regular season, but upped his free agent bounty with 16.3 points per game in the playoffs.
Nate Robinson is going to be paid more than his sub-$1 million paycheck from last year, but how much is he worth?
$3 million on a taxpayer mid-level sounds about right. I mean, the dude outplayed Deron Williams in a virtual must-win for Chicago, on the big stage.
Player #2: Francisco Garcia
Francisco Garcia (and an excuse to play some Gus Johnson!)
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 6.4 points, 43% FG, 39% 3FG, 86% FT.
Bargain bin shopping for the Knicks continues here with Francisco Garcia.
Although Garcia was most recently Kevin Durant's latest victim, he is a serviceable player capable of playing both wing positions and grasping the 40 percent mark from three-point territory (38.6 percent last season with Kings and Rockets).
Don't fear his previous high salary of $6 million. Garcia's previous salary looks like a gift from the Sacramento Kings in hindsight, as evidenced by the swift termination of his team option by the Rockets.
Even though he's an avid Boston Red Sox fan, "Flaco" has the skills and the bill to make it in New York.
Player #3: Martell Webster
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 44% FG, 42% 3FG, 85% FT.
Where the heck did this Martell Webster season come from?
Who knows, but let's give credit to the former sixth overall draft pick. Martell finally showed us what he could do away from the American North, posting career bests in scoring and true shooting.
According to the good fellas over at Bullets Forever, Webster's surge in output was due in part to his spectacular corner three-point shooting. Among players who attempted over 50 such shots, Webster finished the season as the sixth best shooter from splash town.
Like J.R. Smith for New York, questions persist as to whether Webster can repeat his career-best performance. His three-point shooting fell off the deep end over his last 12 games, which is problematic for a team that just witnessed a future Hall of Famer (Jason Kidd) finish his career with 10 straight scoreless games.
Plus, his team is overtly coveting neighborhood wing Otto Porter from Georgetown to take his spot. That can't be good for your brand.
This makes $3 million the perfect number for Webster. A long summer of rest and training will do his body good, and he'll be ready just in time to give us some hilarious post game interviews.
Player #4: Mike James
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 3.1 assists, 38% 3FG, 79% FT.
Who? Mike James!
On paper, Mike James' name and game seem so very NBA ordinary.
I mean, look at how many teams this guy's played on!
Despite boasting a full NBA passport, Mike James has been a very dependable NBA player.
He's an effective spot starter, with last season's Dallas Mavericks team posting a 15-8 record with James in the starting lineup.
He can score, having averaged 20 points per game during his lone season starting for the Raptors. He has a steady stroke from three (38 percent career average).
He's incredibly durable despite his age (37 years old), a fact that he credits to Bikram Yoga, wind sprints and training drills led by historic NBA guard John Lucas.
He’s a solid fit, a legitimate rotation player, and can play in the two pronged point guard attack with Felton in the same way Kidd and Prigioni did this season.