Under-the-Rader Players New York Knicks Should Target in NBA Free Agency
The New York Knicks will have their work cut out for them this offseason, but when you take a deeper look at this year's free-agent class, there are some bargains to be had.
With the team over both the salary cap and the luxury tax line, the Knicks' mid-level exception will be worth just $3 million this year, and there will be no bi-annual exception.
When it comes to re-signing their own free agents, New York may be able to bring them back without using that $3 million, as they are covered by both the early-Bird exception (for J.R. Smith) and the non-Bird exception (for everyone else). However, that will be contingent on the players taking a little less than they would get on the open market.
Once they've spent the taxpayers' exception, the Knicks will have to fill out the roster with minimum contracts. On the surface, that doesn't seem promising, but there are some decent players who may be willing to take less money for a chance to play in New York.
At this point, it's clear that the team needs to get younger, which is often hard to do with such limited cap flexibility. With that said, here are eight players who might go under the radar in free-agency discussions and may be available for a reasonable price.
The swingman was a major rotation piece in Toronto and posted averages of 10.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. His 38 percent shooting from the field wasn't particularly efficient, but on a team with more offensive weapons it would be likely to rise.
Anderson's best games of the season came against the Knicks. He scored 26 at MSG in February, and then went on to put up 35 back at the Air Canada Center in March. In total, he averaged 19.8 points on 48 percent shooting in his four games against New York.
If he joined the Knicks, Anderson could help out off the bench or as the starting small forward, where his tough perimeter defense would be a welcome addition. Another consistent scoring option would also be of help, especially considering the way New York's offense looked in the playoffs.
Last season, Anderson made $885,120 with the Raptors, but will be looking to cash in on his play as an unrestricted free agent. A portion of the taxpayers' mid-level could convince him to join the Knicks, who are certainly a lot closer to a title than his previous team.
It isn't the Knicks' biggest need, but a two-way wing player could have been a big help in the second round against the Indiana Pacers.
Considering the injuries they faced last season, the Knicks are going to need frontcourt depth more than anything else in free agency.
The Knicks will have to get creative with veteran's minimum contracts if they want to add multiple bigs (which they should), and a player like Ivan Johnson would be a perfect signing.
With two years in the league now under his belt, Johnson has proven himself to be a fearless defensive player, capable of matching up physically with anyone he faces.
Johnson's statistics aren't amazing, but he provides intensity and is always ready to do the dirty work.
This isn't necessarily a position the Knicks need a lot of scoring from—especially with Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and possibly Chris Copeland expected to spend time at the 4—so his offensive deficiencies can be overlooked.
After a few suspensions, Johnson's attitude is questionable, but this would be a low-risk move, as he's a player who can probably be had for the veteran's minimum. He's not the best frontcourt option out there, but is good value for the money and would be a worthwhile addition to the team.
Earl Clark emerged as a major piece on an otherwise mediocre Los Angeles Lakers bench last season, and may have earned himself a lot of interest in free agency.
The 6'10" forward averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds last season, and posted 11 double-doubles on the year. He proved he could be effective both on the wing and in the paint as a dynamic force for L.A.
Having such a versatile player on the bench would be a blessing for the Knicks, as he's the type of player that can cover multiple positions if injuries begin to emerge. His ability to shoot from mid-range will also help spread the floor, and fit in to the small-ball system Mike Woodson developed in 2012-13.
Clark made $1.2 million last season with the Lakers, but their cap situation is even worse than the Knicks', and their focus will be on trying to re-sign Dwight Howard.
If New York uses the taxpayers' exception on Clark (or a portion of it), that may be enough to get a deal done.
After making do with two aged veterans in Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni last season, the Knicks are going to be on the look out for a new, much younger backup point guard.
Prigioni may still return to play off the ball like he did on New York's win streak towards the end of the regular season, but the need for some energy and penetration at the point still remains.
Josh Selby would be a cheap option, and though his NBA career has been disappointing so far, there's a chance he could develop into a decent backup.
In high school, Selby was considered one of the best players in the country, but his emergence slowed in college, leading him to fall to the second round of the draft. Since then, he has played just 38 NBA games, but was productive during his stints in the D-League.
According to ESPN's Jared Zwerling, Selby is a friend of Carmelo Anthony's from Baltimore, and Melo even wanted the Knicks to draft him back in 2011.
At this point, New York could simply offer Selby an non-guaranteed contract, making it a low-risk, high-reward move if they use the taxpayers' exception on another need.
If the playoffs proved anything to us, it's that the Knicks need some extra help on the wing, especially when it comes to players who can contribute on both ends of the floor.
DeShawn Stevenson is just the kind of cheap option they should be looking for, as he's a tough defender, capable of guarding multiple positions well. His length makes him hard to beat on the perimeter, and he has the confidence to guard anyone he faces.
On top of that, Stevenson is a decent three-point shooter. His offensive game isn't amazing, but by shooting at a high percentage he can be a good alternative to J.R. Smith on the nights that he goes cold.
While Smith is clearly a player New York needs to re-sign, the Knicks need to have alternatives, as he's proven he can't always be relied on, and can hurt the team when he's at his worst.
Many will remember Stevenson from the 2011 finals, where he started for the Dallas Mavericks and played fantastic defense, also shooting 57 percent from beyond the arc.
Stevenson has a non-guaranteed contract with the Atlanta Hawks for next season, but if they choose to let him go in pursuit of bigger name free agents, the Knicks should jump on the opportunity to bring him to New York.
Former sixth-overall pick Martell Webster had a career year with the Washington Wizards last season, averaging 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds, primarily as a starter.
Webster's three-point shooting was particularly impressive, as he shot a career-high 42 percent from behind the line. Because of this, Webster would fit in seamlessly with the Knicks offense, especially considering his ability to work as a slasher.
Defensively, Webster is a particularly effective player, capable of guarding both wing positions at a high level. The Knicks' perimeter defense will need to be a lot better next season, and his presence would certainly help.
In 2012-13, Webster made $1.75 million, and there's a chance he could be willing to take a similar amount to play in New York. If not, the full taxpayers' exception would likely be enough, although this would hamper the Knicks' chances of filling their more pressing needs.
If they can get him for a reasonable price, Webster would definitely emerge as an important piece of the rotation, and would help the team to get younger and more energetic.
After all the injuries they faced last season, the Knicks need some youth in the frontcourt, but it can be hard to find that at a reasonable price.
Greg Smith is a player who has shown some promise in limited playing time, but is unlikely to get too much attention if he hits free agency.
As it stands, Smith has an non-guaranteed contract with the Houston Rockets, but there's a chance he could be cut if they sign Dwight Howard and Omer Asik becomes the backup center.
If that's the case, he's a player who could be easily signed for the veteran's minimum, and would be able to help out behind Tyson Chandler if and when Marcus Camby is injured.
On the chance that the Rockets do bring back Smith, the Knicks could potentially trade for him with the $855,000 trade exception they acquired by sending Ronnie Brewer to the OKC Thunder.
Such a trade would likely involve the Knicks letting go of a future second-round pick, but it would be worthwhile considering how badly they need young bigs right now.
Forward Josh McRoberts broke out once he joined the Charlotte Bobcats last season, proving to be effective on both ends of the floor.
McRoberts averaged 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 26 games with the Bobcats, and has likely opened himself up to interest from contending teams needing some help off the bench.
New York could definitely use a player like McRoberts, as he's young and rebounds at a high rate while also having the ability to spread the floor and work in the post on offense. He's also a particularly good passer for his position and is an improving defender.
The problem with acquiring McRoberts is that it would likely take the full taxpayers' exception, but that may not be such a bad thing if the Knicks can find a point guard in the draft. That way, they can also find a wing player with the veteran's minimum, which would ultimately fill all three of their biggest needs.
Based on what he showed late in the season, the 26-year-old also has the potential to develop into a decent starter in the future, so this is a move that could also help New York in the long-term.