Will the New York Knicks throw their MLE at Nate Robinson?
The Knicks have two primary targets in the free-agent market this offseason: They need a young, athletic big man to help out in the paint and at least one additional point guard—preferably one that can play the 2 effectively.
The reason for the extra power forward/center is simple. The Knicks were 25th in rebounding last season and could use more than just Tyson Chandler on the glass.
New York’s backcourt needs are a little more complicated, and at this point, missing some information.
With Jason Kidd heading over to coach the rival Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks have only one point guard right now: Raymond Felton.
Pablo Prigioni’s return is up in the air. Will J.R. Smith return (probably)—but will he continue to come off the bench or start at the 2? Or, will Iman Shumpert start at the 2, his natural position?
Will they alternate the start depending on what the game plan calls for: offensive or defensive focus?
Assuming Mike Woodson continues to employ his successful dual-PG schemes—a nice fit on a perimeter-scoring, pick-and-roll roster—Prigioni might start, if he comes back.
Meanwhile, who’s backing up Felton? Prigioni will need some spelling, too. He’s 36 and only averaged 16 minutes per game.
One free-agent point guard is not going to cover all this. The Knicks really have go for two and use the veteran's minimum on one.
More than half of NBA teams had at least six players in their backcourts in 2012-13. New York will join them in 2013-14.
The free-agent rumor mill has been pretty quiet, waiting to grind away once the NBA Finals end. There hasn’t been a peep about D.J. Augustin to New York.
There should be.
This would be the second dance between the two. Back in 2009, the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola reported the following:
Augustin [is] a player of interest for the Knicks, who, according to a team source, had extensive talks last season with the Bobcats regarding a deal for the second-year guard out of Texas. "He was part of a bigger deal," the source said. "But I know the Knicks like him very much."
Those were the Donnie Walsh days, but it still makes sense for the Knicks and Augustin to make something happen.
New York could have D.J. for the mini mid-level tax exception (approx. $3.2 million). He made $3.5 million in a down year last season.
Augustin is capable of averaging double-figures in points and more than six assists a game.
He has proven this in his short career—but only when he averages 25 minutes or more a game. He’s only done that when he is a regular starter.
Less than 25 MPG yields a distinctly contrasting four-to-six points and two-to-three assists a game.
So if Augustin is going to work in New York, Mike Woodson is going to have to find him the time.
Can he start alongside Raymond Felton? Augustin’s poor shooting percentage makes that challenging.
Darren Collison flashed some serious potential his first couple years.
Collison rode the Mavs pine his last 23 games in 2012-13 and is ripe for the free-agent picking at maybe less than the mini MLE (he made $2.3 million last season).
Collison's career numbers are very solid: 12.1 PPG on 46 percent shooting, 5.2 APG and 1.2 SPG.
With a shooting accuracy and ball distribution numbers like that, Collison could easily start at the two—and he wants to start.
ESPN reported that Collison:
has made it clear he considers himself a starting point guard. “We’ll see,” Collison said. “I’m not going to say no because I definitely experienced it and I’m capable of playing off the bench. At the same time, I just know who I am as a person and as a player. I know I’m capable of playing for any team as a starter.”
The Knicks might be able to grant his wish, just at a different position.
If Collison buys into New York’s postseason chances over Dallas’, he might even be willing to back up Raymond Felton.
Will Bynum may be more willing than Darren Collison to accept a backup role. He’s only started 26 games in six seasons and is looking like a career role-player.
He’d work for the Knicks if they could get him 20 minutes. There he breaks the 10-point and four assists per game barrier.
Those numbers would be satisfactory behind Raymond Felton. Together, they’d give New York 18-to-20 points and nine-to-10 assists per game. The Knicks have been looking for totals like that from the 1 for years.
But for the Knicks, wasting the whole MLE on a backup is questionable. Bynum made $3.25 million each of the past two years and started zero games—maybe he can come cheaper, depending on offers. Could it be enough to squeeze in Pablo Prigioni?
Bynum shoots 45 percent from the field, and if the Knicks pony up they might look to leverage that at starting shooting guard more than occasionally.
There’s been some breaking news on Bynum to the Knicks, per Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
Now we’re getting rich. Nate Robinson only made the veteran’s minimum in 2012-13 ($1.14 million). He had an above-average regular season that put him past that number.
But it was Robinson’s postseason that may have put him beyond MLE reach. He was unbelievably tenacious, and put himself on everyone’s free-agent radar.
The 5’9” Robinson averaged 16.3 PPG on 44 percent shooting, 4.4 APG and about three RPG. He scored 17 or more in seven playoff games, including a high of 34. Way better than anyone on the Knicks not named Carmelo Anthony.
And Robinson has upped his D.
Sounds kind of expensive.
Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent come July 1, would be open to returning to the Knicks, according to his agent, Aaron Goodwin. "Nate's first thought would be to remain with the Bulls, but if the Knicks' opportunity presented itself, I am sure he would appreciate an opportunity to play in New York again," (Jared Zwerling, ESPN)
The Knicks would be quite tiny in the backcourt. Would that work?
Native Brooklynite Sebastian Telfair would be a capable backup for Raymond Felton.
Looking for a home—five teams in the last three seasons; eight teams in a nine-year career—and a chance at a ring, would Telfair be willing to take the veteran’s minimum to come play in New York? He made $1.6 million last year.
That would fill an important position for the Knicks and open up other MLE possibilities.
Telfair’s numbers are meek enough to merit a salary cut. He was under six points and three assists per game last year (7.4 PPG and 3.5 APG for his career).
These are backup numbers. Telfair’s percentages are too low to merit the start in either backcourt slot.
Telfair can run an offense, though, and hardly turns the ball over (never averaged two or more per game and 1.5 for his career).
That last part will be a refreshing change of pace from Felton who had 28 games with three or more and at his worst was tripping over the ball.