Best Potential Free-Agent Targets for NY Knicks to Pursue
A trip to the hyped NBA free-agent marketplace finds the New York Knicks window shopping at every booth. They are supposedly targeting upwards of 20 players in their desperate search for a couple of cheap flyers.
That’s not including J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, who , as reported by Al Iannazzone of Newsday, both re-signed with the team on Thursday.
Smith “will get a four-year deal for roughly $25 million” thanks to his Early Bird rights and with no other grander offer being out there.
Prigioni “is getting a three-year deal for just under $6 million,” and he is taking a piece of the $3.2 million mid-level exception (MLE) with him—leaving just $1.75 million in the coffers.
Unfortunately, the reunion will not include Chris Copeland, though, who is all but officially gone. According to Josh Sanchez of FanSided.com, Copeland has received interest from at least seven other teams , and that means his price tag is likely going to be more than New York can afford.
Kenyon Martin has also been on the Knicks’ backburner. That is because, as first reported by Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York, the team is taking a look at free-agent power forward Elton Brand. Martin is on the radar of four other teams, though, per ESPN's Chris Broussard:
It’s a foregone conclusion that New York will only take Martin back on a veteran’s minimum contract.
So, with all of that in mind, which free agents are the Knicks now targeting and which one (or two, maybe) is the perfect fit?
Read on to find out.
Free Agents Not Coming to the NY Knicks
Before getting to the best candidates for a roster spot next season, what other rumored free agents are either not being pursued by the Knicks anymore or won’t come to New York anyway?
Chris Anderson and DeJuan Blair are two free agents that won’t be calling the Garden home next season, according to ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling. A league source said that Blair will simply be too expensive for the Knicks, and that Chris Andersen is another intriguing prospect, but he wants to return to Miami.
The Knicks looked at Monta Ellis for a nanosecond earlier this week after he opted out with the Milwaukee Bucks and left $11 million on the table. So the team can forget that idea with only about half an MLE available to offer. “That the Knicks were connected to Ellis is perhaps the most hilarious bit of news of all” said Sean Deveney of the Sporting News. Have truer words been spoken?
What about Knicks’ fan favorite, Nate Robinson? He would have sparked up New York’s dual-PG backcourt, but his epic postseason performance for the Chicago Bulls this year put him out of price range.
The same goes for the Dallas Mavericks’ Brandan Wright, who’s also in line for a pay raise after his best season ever as a professional.
Then there is Rip Hamilton. The Chicago Bulls just waived him, reclaiming $4 million of his $5 million salary, but he’ll likely still go for more than $2 million on the open market.
And finally, you have to believe that Jose Calderon, who averaged 11.3 PPG and 7.1 APG and is coming off of a $10.6 million salary, will also be way too expensive for the Knicks after another fine season. Even Will Bynum, sadly, may now just be out of reach.
Now let’s get realistic.
As previously mentioned, ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling reported on Tuesday that the Knicks are interested in free-agent power forward Elton Brand.
Brand would be a solid pickup for the Knicks, especially if they could get him at the veteran’s minimum. He could help his new team contend by leaving the remaining portion of the MLE for the Knicks to further improve the roster. After all, Brand went from making $16.1 million with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011-12 to just $2.1 million last season as a bench player with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Knicks were a poor rebounding team in 2012-13. Only Tyson Chandler did serious work on the glass. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith were actually second and third on the team, respectively, in terms of rebounds per game, believe it or not.
Also, Amar’e Stoudemire’s time will be limited next season in order to save him for the playoffs, and the Knicks sure don’t want him crashing the boards on those knees all that often.
Trading for power forward/center Andrea Bargnani will help a little in some areas, but the seven-footer’s specialty is scoring and spacing the floor (when he’s healthy). He is actually a rather poor rebounder, especially for a player of his size.
Brand, on the other hand, has rocked the boards to the tune of a career 9.1 RPG, and he could be a very nice interior presence next to Chandler in New York.
Backup—or starting?—small forward Matt Barnes could be had for the MLE, or perhaps even less.
He made $1.2 million with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2012-13 and hasn’t breached the $2 million mark in five years (nor in nine of his 10 seasons).
He’s due for a minimal bump, though, with a respectable stat line of 10.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 1.0 SPG that he posted in L.A last season.
ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling confirmed New York’s interest in Barnes:
The Knicks have targeted Barnes to fill their hole at small forward. In fact, Barnes could start for the Knicks at the 3, alongside Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert in the backcourt and Anthony and Tyson Chandler in the frontcourt.
That kind of roster versatility will come in handy for a team that can play both big and small, especially with the additions of Bargnani (and possibly Brand).
Even with Pablo Prigioni returning, the Knicks could still reach out to ex-Houston Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks.
He’s a reclamation project, but he would be would a serviceable backup on a team looking for backcourt depth.
Brooks had a down season in 2012-13, split between the Rockets and the Sacramento Kings, and earned pay cut from his $3.3 million.
In other words, he’ll come cheap, which is a charming quality to Glen Grunwald. And it appears that this deal is very doable, as noted by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
The Knicks have emerged as a leading candidate to sign point guard Aaron Brooks, who was released by the Houston Rockets on Sunday, The Daily News has learned. A person familiar with the Knicks’ thinking says there is "mutual interest" from both sides.
If New York is comfortable with its point guard situation, they may look at another ex-Houston backcourt player, Carlos Delfino, who can play double-duty as a shooting guard and small forward.
Delfino averaged over 10 PPG last season in Houston, and “with the chance to play along his fellow countryman, Pablo Prigioni, the New York Knicks have a real shot to sign[Delfino] for the veterans minimum,” postulates Peter A of KnickSwag.com.
Delfino is a poor-man’s Matt Barnes—or, in the Knicks case, a poor team’s—and so this could really happen.
Lamar Odom may have played his way from $8 million down to the veteran’s minimum.
Odom hasn’t regularly started in five years now. In fact, he started just two games last season for the Los Angeles Clippers and averaged 4.0 PPG and 5.9 RPG for the season.
If the Knicks can’t land Elton Brand or lose Kenyon Martin in the process, maybe they can try and lure Odom with the remaining MLE money.
Marc Berman of the New York Post linked Brand and Odom as either-or potential targets along with a re-signed Martin.
With half the MLE gone now, the best the Knicks will be able to do is land two of these guys, at most.