Ranking New York Knicks' Best Free-Agency Options to Add Frontcourt Depth
Frontcourt health was a major issue for the New York Knicks last season, and they'll be looking to add durable depth when free agency arrives.
In particular, New York should be targeting younger players, as they had the oldest frontcourt in the NBA last year. That will ease the strain on Tyson Chandler and allow Amar'e Stoudemire to play on a minutes limit to preserve his health.
Rebounding and shot-blocking were weaknesses throughout the campaign, so Glen Grunwald should be targeting players who can clean the glass and defend the rim. A developed offensive game would also help, but it's not realistic for them to acquire a truly well-rounded big.
The Knicks have only the $3 million taxpayer exception and veteran's minimum contracts to spend, so they'll have to make smart decisions and target some under-the-radar players. Having the 24th pick in the draft makes things a little easier, but free agency will still be difficult on the whole.
In total, New York should be looking to acquire a minimum of two more frontcourt players, and the Knicks should also make it a priority to re-sign Chris Copeland and Kenyon Martin, who won't be featured on this list for that very reason.
These rankings will take into account the quality of the player, as well as his durability and ability to contribute in future years. It will also, however, have cost as an important factor, because the best-case scenario will leave the Knicks with money to spend on other needs, such as a backup point guard.
Honorable Mention: Jason Maxiell
Bulky forward Jason Maxiell has always been one of the league's most physical players, and that's exactly what the Knicks should be looking for in their frontcourt.
Maxiell doesn't have the height to defend the rim consistently, but he still cleans the glass well and is good for the occasional blocked shot.
He started for the Detroit Pistons last season but could slot in as the backup power forward in New York. He would provide the defensive intensity the team misses when Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are at the 4.
Cost may be an issue with Maxiell—who made $5 million last season—but the chance to play for a contender rather than a lottery team may be enough to convince him to take a pay cut.
Now the wrong side of 30, Maxiell should be looking for a championship after seeing the Pistons fall from grace dramatically over the last few seasons.
5. Timofey Mozgov
Former Knick Timofey Mozgov fell out of the Denver Nuggets rotation last year, but as a talented 7-footer, he could still help out a team like the Knicks.
Mozgov fits the bill as a young, durable player, and he has the potential to develop into a major rotation piece in the near future.
For his career, Mozgov has averaged 11.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, which shows he's capable of being productive with ample playing time. With the Knicks, he would back up Tyson Chandler, and his rebounding and defensive presence would let the team rest easy even when Chandler isn't on the floor.
Last season, Mozgov made $3.1 million, but this year he has a qualifying offer worth $3.9 million. Since he rarely played for them, it's unlikely that the Nuggets will extend that offer to Mozgov, but after the departure of George Karl, their new head coach may value the Russian a bit more.
If the offer is extended, the Knicks can forget about Mozgov, but if he hits unrestricted free agency, he could be a realistic addition with the taxpayer exception. They can offer him playing time, a decent salary and the chance to compete in the postseason for the next few years.
4. Zaza Pachulia
For eight years, Zaza Pachulia has been a fantastic role player and occasional starter for the Atlanta Hawks. He did an admirable job last season of backing up the center position.
Based on his production—he averaged 5.9 points and 6.5 rebounds in just 22 minutes per game last year—New York should want him in that exact same role.
At 29, Pachulia has plenty of experience, including 40 playoff games. He would be a good fit behind Tyson Chandler.
He's not a great shot-blocker, but he grabs rebounds at a high rate and has a decent offensive game. More importantly, he is a quality defender and plays with a lot of intensity.
Pachulia played under Mike Woodson in Atlanta and may be willing to join the Knicks for a discount price because of their history.
Instead, the $3 million the Knicks can offer may be enticing, especially considering the chance to play in New York under his old coach. After all, he does owe Woody for letting him skip practice for a hot date during his Atlanta days.
3. DeJuan Blair
Despite not having ACLs in his knees, DeJuan Blair has had a solid first four years in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs.
Blair is a rebounding machine despite his lack of height, and he has an underrated offensive game with the ability to use his strength around the rim. For his career, he has averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting an efficient 53 percent from the floor.
Unfortunately for Blair, the emergence of Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw has caused him to fall out of the Spurs rotation. He averaged a career-low 14 minutes per game this season.
In the Spurs' run to the finals, Blair has been playing just 6.6 minutes per game, and all signs point to him leaving in the summer if he values his playing time.
Blair made just over $1 million last season, and the Knicks can offer him anything up to $3 million for his services. He'll be looking for a big payday with four years of second-round pick money under his belt, and a portion of the taxpayer exception should be enough to satisfy him.
He won't provide the height that New York needs, but his presence will help significantly on the boards, and he has the talent to develop into an important player in the future.
2. Al-Farouq Aminu
It's a long shot, but there's a chance that the Knicks could make a run at talented New Orleans Pelicans forward Al-Farouq Aminu in free agency.
The Nigerian international was a lottery pick back in 2010, but he'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The chance to develop on a veteran team could be of interest to him.
Aminu's contract was worth just under $3 million this past season, and the Knicks can offer him around the same salary. Although he may be looking for a raise, New York is a good place for endorsement deals. In the long term, playing on an experienced team could be a good career move.
From the Knicks' perspective, Aminu would provide athleticism and energy, which they lacked in their aging frontcourt. He also improved his rebounding significantly last season, where his 26.2 percent defensive rebound rate was 26th amongst all forwards since 2000.
Aminu can play at both forward positions and could potentially back up or play alongside Carmelo Anthony, where his timely cuts would help out on the offensive end. His shooting could be a lot better, but he improved that over time.
Along with Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, having Aminu on the team would help the Knicks' fast-break offense, as he's one of the league's better forwards in terms of getting up and down the floor.
1. Andray Blatche
After being amnestied by the Washington Wizards, Andray Blatche developed into an important rotation piece for the Brooklyn Nets last season, where he finally started to make good on his sky-high talent.
Blatche would be perfect for the Knicks bench as someone who can score and rebound at a high level, which will be of major importance if Amar'e Stoudemire can't stay healthy for the entire season.
His improved defense will also keep him on the floor, as will his improved efficiency after posting a career-high 21.9 player efficiency rating (PER) last season.
Based on his potential, Blatche seems like the type of player who would be worth more than the taxpayer exception, but that won't necessarily be the case.
According to the NY Daily News, money isn't an issue for Blatche this summer, as he's still getting paid by the Wizards, and any extra salary he takes in free agency will reduce the financial strain on his former franchise.
Instead, Blatche is focused on finding the best situation possible, and New York could be just that. He'll get to play for a contender, where he'd be surrounded by veterans, and he won't have to move far after playing in Brooklyn last season.