The New York Knicks have their work cut out in free agency with very little to spend, but they still have the resources to build a solid, contending roster.
After drafting Tim Hardaway Jr. at No. 24 and trading for Andrea Bargnani, the front office has already started to make moves, and these two new additions will shape their activity in free agency.
With a few needs still left to fill and plenty of important decisions to be made, here is the blueprint for the Knicks to succeed in free agency.
With Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani set to play the majority of the minutes at power forward, the Knicks have a distinct lack of rebounding and defense in their frontcourt.
That makes re-signing Kenyon Martin an absolute no-brainer, as he fills a need and already has great chemistry with this team.
Martin will play significant minutes by spending time at center, and with injuries to Stoudemire and Bargnani likely to take place at some point, the Knicks need to have a third-string power forward who's capable of starting.
By using the Non-Bird exception, the Knicks can offer Martin 120 percent of the veteran's minimum without going in to the mini mid-level, which adds up to $1.7 million for a player who has been in the league for over 10 years.
That should be enough to get a deal done, especially if Martin values competing for a championship and feels loyal to the team that gave him a chance to restart his career.
Though he played only one game for the Knicks last season, Earl Barron would be a perfect fit as the third-string center.
New York will still be looking out for a full-time backup to Tyson Chandler (more on that later), but the injury situation last season proved that having a third alternative is also important.
Barron is by no means a great player, but he rebounds well and can spread the floor with his mid-range jump shot. He deserves a chance to make the team, and might surprise people given the chance to show what he's got.
For the minimum salary, re-signing Barron won't hurt, and will give the Knicks depth at their least durable position.
After earning the Sixth Man of the Year award, J.R. Smith is the best Knick hitting free agency this summer, but it may be smart to just let him walk.
Smith averaged 18.1 points off the bench for the Knicks last season, and it's unlikely that they will be able to find a replacement that will give them that same scoring punch.
However, what the Knicks will be able to do is replace Smith by committee, which will allow them to get those points much more efficiently, and with better ball movement.
After all, while Smith's numbers are flashy, he only shot 42 percent from the floor, and there were plenty of games (especially in the playoffs) where his inconsistent play hurt the team.
If New York lets Smith go, they will be able to get the same production out of a combination of Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and whoever they sign to be Raymond Felton's backup point guard.
None of them will put up amazing scoring numbers on their own, but the Knicks will no longer be reliant on an erratic player. If Shumpert, Hardaway or the backup point guard has a bad game, it won't hurt the entire team the same way a bad game for Smith did.
This one hurts. Chris Copeland can be a great offensive weapon for the Knicks if he comes back, but unfortunately he may be too expensive for them to justify re-signing.
Copeland will likely cost the Knicks the full taxpayers' exception if they want him back, but with Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani already under contract, it doesn't make sense to spend their only major free agency contract on another offensive-minded forward.
The Knicks definitely need more forward depth, but they can't spend $3 million on a forward unless it's someone who plays great defense. Instead, they should spend the money on a backup for Raymond Felton, which will fill a need and help to take on the scoring load that Copeland will leave behind.
It will be sad to see Copeland go, and he will likely have success elsewhere, but unless he's willing to take less money, the Knicks should keep the taxpayers' exception to fill a bigger need.
Having Pablo Prigioni start in the backcourt with Raymond Felton worked fantastically for the Knicks last season, and if they can, they'll be looking to bring that partnership back next season.
With the non-Bird exception, the Knicks can offer Prigioni 120 percent of the minimum salary, but because he's only been in the league for one season, that adds up to just under $1 million for him.
Prigioni will likely be looking for a bit more in free agency, but the Knicks would be wise not to offer him part of the taxpayers' exception of $3 million. They need to keep that intact to sign a back-up point guard who can penetrate, which remains their biggest need at the moment.
By all means, the Knicks should bring Prigioni back if he's willing to accept the $1 million they can offer, but if he wants any more than that, it may be time to let him go.
Arguably the biggest need of the Knicks' offseason is finding a backup for Raymond Felton. They need someone explosive who can penetrate the lane off the bench, and it's something they missed sorely last season.
If they let go of Chris Copeland, the Knicks will be able to spend the full taxpayers' exception of $3 million on filling the need, which opens them up to a range of options.
Will Bynum would be a great fit, and according to the Detroit Free Press, the Knicks have already expressed interest in bringing him to New York. He's fast, and is perfectly capable of collapsing defenses and finishing in traffic.
If not Bynum, the Knicks can also look at Nate Robinson and Aaron Brooks. Both are in the same price range, and according to ESPN, Robinson has already told the Knicks that he's interested in a return to Madison Square Garden.
These are all players who can help to replace J.R. Smith by committee with their scoring, but who are also capable of creating good looks for shooters by collapsing defenses.
Best Option: Will Bynum
Realistic Alternatives: Nate Robinson, Aaron Brooks
After signing a back-up for Raymond Felton, the next step for the Knicks would be to add a third string point guard. In an ideal world, this would be Pablo Prigioni, but due to financial constraints, they will likely be looking at lesser players to fill this role.
The Knicks don't need to sign a major contributor here, and should look at just about anyone who is capable of playing 15-20 minutes if injuries start to hit the team.
As a friend of Carmelo Anthony's, Josh Selby would be a decent option, and he's still a very talented player despite not yet making an impact in the NBA.
Beyond Selby, there are plenty of other point guards who'll be available in this price range, headlined by Sebastian Telfair and Keyon Dooling.
Best Option: Josh Selby
Realistic Alternatives: Sebastian Telfair, Keyon Dooling
By this point, the Knicks will already have the majority of their bigs set, but even after bringing back Kenyon Martin and Earl Barron, they'll need a physical player capable of grabbing boards and playing tough defense.
According to ESPN, the Knicks and Elton Brand have "mutual interest" in joining forces, as he's a New York native who wants to play for a winning team.
Brand is 34, but he still cleans the glass at a high rate, and is capable of both scoring and defending in the post. He also managed to play in 72 games last year, and has proven to be a durable player since his shoulder injury in 2009.
If he's willing to sign for the veteran's minimum, the Knicks should make signing Brand a priority, but if not they will have to look elsewhere. Jermaine O'Neal and Ronny Turiaf are lesser players at this point, but they would be good alternatives considering the asking price.
Best Option: Elton Brand
Realistic Alternatives: Jermaine O'Neal, Ronny Turiaf
Last year, one of the major issues for the Knicks all season long was their perimeter defense.
Iman Shumpert is a great defender, but he can't do it all on his own. Adding Tim Hardaway Jr. to the mix certainly helps, although there is still room for two more defensive players on the wing.
As someone who can guard three positions, Tony Allen would be great, but realistically it's hard to see him leaving the Memphis Grizzlies, especially if the Knicks can only offer him the veteran's minimum.
With that said, the Knicks may have a shot at landing Matt Barnes with the minimum, as according to ESPN, he's already expressed an interest in joining the team.
Barnes is clearly worth more, but he took the minimum salary last season, and may be willing to do the same again for a chance to play for a contending team in New York.
If Barnes instead decides to cash in on his value, the Knicks' options are limited. They should be able to sign Marquis Daniels as a third-string shooting guard, and could bring back Ronnie Brewer if Barnes isn't an option.
Best Option: Matt Barnes
Realistic Alternatives: Marquis Daniels, Ronnie Brewer
If the Knicks make these moves, the final roster should look something like this:
- PG: Raymond Felton / Will Bynum / Josh Selby
- SG: Iman Shumpert / Tim Hardaway Jr. / Marquis Daniels
- SF: Carmelo Anthony / Matt Barnes / C.J. Leslie
- PF: Andrea Bargnani / Amar'e Stoudemire / Kenyon Martin
- C: Tyson Chandler / Elton Brand / Earl Barron
This is a squad that goes two-deep with quality players at every position, with the versatility to field an elite offensive unit or an elite defensive unit.
It might be wishful thinking to predict the Knicks signing Matt Barnes and Elton Brand with the minimum salary, but there are alternatives, as shown on their respective slides.
All in all, making these moves allows New York to get younger and deeper, filling all of their needs ahead of the new season.