Recapping the Frustrations of the New York Knicks' Offseason
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Heading into this summer, the New York Knicks were banking on offseason moves to revamp their 2012-13 squad that failed to reach its goal of making the Eastern Conference Finals.
Several holes were scattered across the roster from the frontcourt to the backcourt, and limited resources were available to the capped-out Knicks. It had all the makings of a disappointing and infuriating July for Knicks fans.
It lived up to the hype.
The team still hasn't upgraded defensively on the low block or added a body to ease its rebounding woes. Management has shipped out all the draft picks they're allowed to trade for the next three years, and one Knick has already required surgery this month...
Spoiler alert: It's not even Amar'e Stoudemire.
Ahead, we outline the most maddening aspects of the team's summer to this point.
Donating 3 Draft Picks to Toronto for Andrea Bargnani
When news first got out that the Knicks were sending out Steve Novak and Marcus Camby to the Toronto Raptors and receiving troubled big man Andrea Bargnani in return, the deal made some sense from New York's side.
It appears that the team is doing everything in its power to create cap space for the 2015 offseason, and Novak and Camby were slated to be on the books through that summer, clogging precious cap room.
Shopping a Camby/Novak package was a reasonable concept—one that I myself have explored several times in 2K—and netting Bargnani, in and of itself, wasn't outrageously laughable. It cleared some cap for 2015, and—in a perfect world—"Bargs" could act as another secondary scorer to surround Carmelo Anthony with.
But there was much more involved. So much more. And the notoriously shortsighted Knicks regime refused to look past their immediate needs and apply common sense before pulling the trigger.
Toronto has been attempting to shed Bargnani's deal for a while now, but the Raptors' new general manager, Masai Uriji—whose first-ever NBA trade sent Anthony to the Knicks in exchange for four starters and three picks—clearly made it a priority this summer.
Generally, when teams are looking for trade partners to help take on a great deal of salary, they often offer future draft picks as well to help sweeten the pot.
Uriji ridded himself of Bargnani's deal without doing that. In fact, he did the opposite: Convince the Knicks to send him the picks. Three of them.
New York sent Toronto two second-rounders and a future first-rounder, plus Novak, Camby and Quentin Richardson (to make the money match) for Bargnani.
The deal leaves the Knicks with two total draft picks over the next four years, in the midst of a CBA that places unprecedented value on young, inexpensive talent. When the team's books are essentially wiped clean after 2015, they'll have one first-rounder that year to help alleviate their short-handedness.
From the Knicks' end, it's extremely frustrating to think that Glen Grunwald presumed that the picks were absolutely necessary to land Bargnani in New York. Better yet, who else could the Knicks have obtained for the players-plus-picks package, besides Bargs? Presumably a much more desirable player.
Missing out on Almost Every Wing Option
It's easy to forget now, after the amnesty and subsequent homecoming of ex-Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace. But for much of July, the Knicks had a gaping hole in their lineup, as they watched each and every candidate sign elsewhere.
But as the days passed and negotiations ceased, the team watched helplessly as their wing targets quickly vanished.
Francisco Garcia returned with the Houston Rockets. Dorrell Wright inked a new deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. Matt Barnes was offered $11.5 million from the Los Angeles Clippers, which the Knicks had no interest in or ability to match. Carlos Delfino re-joined the Milwaukee Bucks on a three-year deal, and just like that, the well was dry. (All links here.)
The Knicks desperately needed a floor-spacer to give Anthony room to work with in isolation. Without it, as the team found in the postseason, is a whole lot of this:
They also needed help on the other end from the small forward spot, which World Peace will likely bring. The table below, courtesy of 82games, shows just how weak the team's defense was against opposing 3s.
Opponent Production by Position
Bringing on World Peace eased a lot of the frustrations that stemmed from missing out on every other viable candidate for the job, but his curious price tag raised some eyebrows shortly after it was reported.
The team signed MWP for the remainder of their mid-level exception, leaving them with no other means of attracting free agents besides the minimum salary.
It was strange in that the Knicks could've saved the MLE by giving World Peace a minimum deal, which would've been only about a quarter-million dollars less than the $1.75 MLE portion. All while the Lakers are still paying him his owed $7.7 million, as per the amnesty clause.
The signing was a good one, but complicated with a minor blemish that makes it all the more Knicksy.
J.R. Smith's Ambiguous Contract and Subsequent Injury
The Knicks re-signed reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith to a contract for some amount of years and U.S. dollars. That's really all we can know for sure.
It was first reported, and all but confirmed by Grunwald, that the new deal spanned the next four seasons and would pay Smith roughly $24 million. That was until it was reported on July 15 that Smith would need knee surgery and miss three-to-four months, putting the first few weeks of his season in jeopardy.
Shortly after the injury was revealed, Howard Beck of The New York Times dug deeper and revealed that Smith's contract was, in fact, only three years in length—the third being a player option.
Updating re JR Smith's contract: Agent Leon Rose says JR did initially agree to 4-yr deal. Later opted for 3 yrs, to become FA again sooner— Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT) July 17, 2013
If Smith declines 3rd-year option, he's a free agent in 2015, with full Bird rights. So it makes some sense to go w/shorter contract.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT) July 17, 2013
The revelation sparked a Twitter rant from New York Daily News beat writer Frank Isola, who surmises there was more to the false reports than false reporting.
Grunwald claims J.R.'s knee did not get worse over the last 2 months despite Knicks saying in press relese the knee "gradually worsened"— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 16, 2013
Funny, J.R.'s deal was 3 years with an option. All sides leaked that. Even the paper of record reported it. Now suddenly it's 2 with option.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 17, 2013
In other words, the Knicks continue to spin their nonsense.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) July 17, 2013
A Knick needing surgery is frustrating. Nothing new, unfortunately, but unfortunate still. Add in the reports that the organization has known of the knee issue since May, put off surgery until July and signed Smith to a multi-year deal despite all the red flags.
It's a lot for Knicks fans to handle.
And on top of the injury and how it was handled comes more of the endless ambiguity from the front office. The punches kept rolling in, and now the Knicks are paying a player whose wellness they may have tried to conceal, and whose deal may or may not have been re-worked following the news of the injury.
We're talking about the Knicks, so the chances are we'll never truly know.
Still Haven't Signed a Third Point Guard
An integral part of the Knicks' small-ball success in 2012-13 was their dual point guard starting lineups. It was a fairly simple equation: Starting backcourts of Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, and later Felton and Pablo Prigioni, made Mike Woodson look like a genius. The team racked up 38 of their 54 wins with two maestros in the starting five.
The Knicks did well in returning Prigioni on a multi-year, low-dollar deal, but Kidd is out of the picture for 2014 after darting back to Brooklyn—leaving the 'Bockers without a bonafide third point guard to relieve Felton and Prigioni as needed.
The team has been in the market for a third PG through all of July, yet no external options have come to the forefront.
Summer league standout Toure Murry's name has been thrown into the mix after turning heads in Vegas, and it looks like he'll be invited to camp this fall. So there's one option.
Besides Murry, the Knicks have been in contact with marginal free agent Bobby Brown, and Sebastian Telfair has been rumored to be a Knicks' target nearly all summer long. Beno Udrih and Mo Williams are other available names that may or may not fall under the Knicks' minuscule price range.
No Cap Room or Exceptions Left to Use
New York's roster, including C.J. Leslie, is currently at 11 players. They're permitted to bring at least 20 to training camp and can break camp with 15.
This leaves four potential free-agent signings for Grunwald, who has zero dollars of cap space and no cap exceptions at his disposal. After signing Prigioni and World Peace with the mini-MLE, only veteran's minimums can be offered.
The roster is still shy of a big man who can defend and rebound off the bench. Kenyon Martin and the Knicks have been in negotiations all summer, but they're presumably dull talks since the team can offer one and only one salary to Martin (or any player).
Jeremy Tyler impressed in his summer stint with the Knicks, and he'll likely compete for one of the last spots this fall.
Some signings will likely occur before camp, however, unless the Knicks choose to leave four roster spots up to training camp battles—which would be strange, even for the Knicks.
Last year, they had one roster spot up for grabs by the time camp rolled around, and Chris Copeland snagged it with a great preseason showing. He's now on the Indiana Pacers' payroll for $6 million over the next two seasons.
New York still has a couple holes to patch up before the season starts and solely next-to-nothing resources available to them.
It's not a favorable spot to be in, but one that you corner yourself into when you create your own "Big Three"—and it's never helpful when the team's highest paid player may be restricted to 20 minutes per game forever, at age 30.
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.
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