Breaking Down What NY Knicks Offseason Moves Mean for Carmelo Anthony
With only the mini mid-level and veteran's minimum contracts to spend, the front office had their work cut out, but for the second year in a row they've done a great job in catering to Melo's needs.
Last year it was all about bringing in a set of point guards capable of running an offense, and this year it's been about adding depth and building around the idea of playing Anthony in the post surrounded by Tyson Chandler and three players with three-point range.
Melo also wanted the team to add more scoring, but they simply didn't have the money to get him a bona fide second option. Instead, they added two offensive-minded role players who should contribute a fair amount and hopefully light a fire under J.R. Smith.
Let's break down each move in terms of how they fit with Melo and the team overall.
The Andrea Bargnani Trade
When the Knicks traded for Andrea Bargnani, they were met with laughter and ridicule from around the NBA. They had just acquired one of the biggest draft busts of the last decade and did so while also letting go of three future draft picks.
Now that he's in New York, however, Bargnani isn't playing under the weight of No. 1 overall pick expectations. He's simply a role player, who happens to fill the exact needs his new team has at the forward position.
Bargnani was hated in Toronto because he isn't a traditional center or power forward, and instead is at his best when playing on the perimeter. What has to be understood, though, is those are the exact traits that make him such a good fit with the Knicks.
Carmelo Anthony was truly dominant when playing at power forward last year. Having Melo at the four was arguably New York's biggest strength, but when he went into the postseason with a shoulder injury, it quickly became their biggest weakness.
With Bargnani on the team, the Knicks can have the best of both worlds. Bargnani spreads the floor like a small forward would, but because he's seven feet tall, the opposition power forward will have to guard him. That gives Melo the freedom to work in the post against a weaker small forward, without having to worry about clogging the paint.
In terms of the package the Knicks gave away, it seems like a lot, but in reality very little of value was given up. Steve Novak and Marcus Camby were expendable, while second-round picks can often be acquired for cash considerations.
The only valuable piece the Knicks gave away was their 2016 first round pick, which will likely end up being somewhere in the 20's anyway. Bargnani may have been a bust when he was taken with the first pick, but no-one would be complaining had he been taken in the 20's.
There was also a financial element to the trade. Bargnani is overpaid, but the Knicks would much rather be giving $11 million to him than $9 million to Novak and Camby. More importantly, the deal saves them $4 million in the 2015 offseason—the summer in which most expect New York will try to rebuild through free agency.
Lament all you want over the first-round pick and Bargnani's salary, but keep this in mind. The Knicks only care about fielding the best team they possibly can next season and maintaining as much financial flexibility as possible in 2015. This trade helped them do both and gave them a perfect forward partner for Melo on offense.
Drafting Tim Hardaway Jr. and Bringing Back J.R. Smith
On the surface, using their only first-round pick over the last two years on a shooting guard didn't make a lot of sense for a team that already had Iman Shumpert at the position and was planning to bring back J.R. Smith in free agency.
Though Tim Hardaway Jr. is certainly worthy of the No. 24 overall pick in terms of talent, the big issue with the selection is that he's unlikely to play a major part in the rotation when everyone's healthy.
As of right now, though, not everyone is healthy. Smith is out for 3-4 months following knee surgery and might not be available on opening day. New York will miss his scoring when he's out, but Hardaway is a good shooter who can help make up for his absence.
Of course, the Knicks didn't just draft Hardaway to cover for Smith if he misses a few games at the start of the year. That would be a waste of a pick.
The main reason New York drafted Hardaway is simply to give themselves options when J.R. inevitably goes cold and shoots the team out of games.
New York had no real choice but to re-sign Smith in the summer. Despite his troubles with consistency, they couldn't have spent the money on anyone else and would have struggled to make up his 18.1 points per game if he left.
With that said, the Knicks clearly understand that Smith isn't the most reliable player around, and hasn't proven he can be a consistent second option for Carmelo Anthony. That's why they brought in a quality backup that can cover for him when needed.
At this point in his career, Hardaway is nowhere near as good as Smith, but he is certainly better than the Smith we saw in the playoffs. Had the Knicks had him as an option off the bench when J.R. was shooting 29 percent from the field against Indiana, it would have been a completely different series.
All the team needed was someone other than Melo to take some of the scoring load. That would have gotten the offense flowing again and might just have been enough to take them to the conference finals.
Smith was great last year, but now that there's more competition for him at shooting guard, he will be forced to perform for his minutes, which will hopefully make him a better player.
In an ideal world, J.R. will become more reliable down the line, but the front office understands that they can't bank on that. For the asking price, bringing him back was a no-brainer, but they couldn't go into November with Smith having the power to make or break the team's season. They needed a contingency plan for the nights when he doesn't show up and Hardaway is exactly that.
Splitting the Mini Mid-Level Between Pablo Prigioni and Metta World Peace
Though it was short-lived, the forward partnership between Carmelo Anthony and Chris Copeland looked like it could do a lot of damage in the Eastern Conference.
In order to re-sign Copeland, however, the Knicks would have had to use their full mini mid-level exception on him, making it impossible for them to also re-sign Pablo Prigioni and add Metta World Peace.
While Copeland is certainly worth the money, the asking price was too high once you factor in Prigioni and World Peace.
The Knicks couldn't afford to let go of Prigioni after going 16-2 with him in the starting lineup and World Peace is arguably an upgrade on Copeland, at least on the defensive end.
With the Andrea Bargnani trade, New York acquired a player capable of pairing up with Melo in the frontcourt, providing the same spacing that Copeland would have. The only difference is that Bargnani is tall enough to force power forwards to guard him, leaving Anthony with the freedom to go to work in the post on a small forward with the same space he had when he was at power forward.
It was tough to see a talented player like Copeland go, especially considering how little we got to see of him, but it had to be done. Admittedly, things wouldn't be so great had World Peace not been amnestied, but the Knicks got lucky and are now in a much better situation for it.
Just like Bargnani, World Peace is another player who can put Melo in position to dominate. He isn't a major offensive threat, but he can guard the opposition's best forward, making sure that Anthony avoids injury against the likes of David West and reserves his energy for the other end of the floor.
Re-Signing Kenyon Martin
Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony have been teammates for eight seasons now, and reuniting them once again was a no-brainer for the front office.
Though he's not the player he once was, K-Mart is a fantastic piece off the bench, and was largely responsible for saving New York's season when he arrived in February. The Knicks were going through a period riddled with frontcourt injuries, but he stepped up and gave the team the defensive presence they needed.
After acquiring Andrea Bargnani, there is a slight worry that Mike Woodson will struggle to find minutes for Martin, but it shouldn't be a major issue.
With Amar'e Stoudemire playing on a tight minutes limit and Andrea Bargnani being more of a tall small forward, there will be plenty of minutes available for Martin. Bearing in mind that he can also play at center and that the two aforementioned players are extremely injury-prone, he should get 15-20 minutes a night on average.
As far as his fit with Melo, it all comes down to defense and chemistry. Martin is capable of guarding three positions, which will help to make sure Anthony doesn't have too difficult a match-up on that end of the floor.
Offensively, Martin is not a particularly good player, but he and Melo know each other inside-out, and played off each other well when they were frontcourt partners last season.
Beyond that, there isn't much else to say about the signing. There's no real way to spin signing a player like Martin for the minimum as anything other than a great move.
After making their major offseason moves, the Knicks are left with four spaces on their roster, which conveniently is just enough room for their standout players in summer league.
What New York really lacked on the end of the bench last season was young legs, but there were a few players on the summer league squad who can help remedy that.
C.J. Leslie and Jeremy Tyler have both been invited to training camp and their combination of athleticism, energy and positional flexibility is exactly what the Knicks need. Tyler can help out as Tyson Chandler's back-up, while Leslie will add depth at both forward positions.
Getting good young players in free agency with the cap limitations New York had was always going to be difficult, but they got creative here in bringing in an undrafted free agent and a player who was plying his trade in the D-League last season.
Both players could end up being absolute steals for the Knicks, and it feels like Glen Grunwald has done this every year he's been here. Bringing in under-the-radar players like Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak and Chris Copeland has been essential for New York over the last couple of years, and these two figure to be the next in line.
Just like the other offseason moves, bringing in Leslie and Tyler helps to keep Melo comfortable at power forward. There'll be no need for him to line up at center ever again with a durable player like Tyler backing up Chandler, and Leslie is another stretch 4 who can give him space in the post.
Assuming C.J. Leslie and Jeremy Tyler both make the final roster, the Knicks' opening day rotation will be set. With that said, there will still be room for another two free agents, giving them the chance to add more depth to a bench unit that already looks like one of the best in the NBA.
Considering their success with dual-point guard lineups and Raymond Felton's struggles with injury last season, adding a third string point guard is essential. Toure Murry—who has great height for the position at 6'5"—looked solid in summer league, but as it stands he hasn't yet been invited to camp.
Murry isn't a good shooter, but he penetrates well and has a knack for finding the open man. All things considered, he'd be perfect for the job, but New York could also target the likes of Sebastian Telfair and Bobby Brown if they want someone with a little more professional experience.
Beyond that, the focus should be frontcourt depth. The Knicks struggled tremendously with injuries last season, and at one point had Carmelo Anthony as their starting center. They've managed to get some younger guys in there, but Andrea Bargnani, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are still injury-prone and need plenty of depth behind them.
Adding one more center should do the trick, but right now there's no word on who that might be. Preferably, it would be someone young and/or durable, so there's a good chance Earl Barron or Terrence Jennings could be in the mix.
We should expect New York to keep quiet for the next month or two, keeping an eye on any bargains that arise near training camp.