"Do the Knicks, right now, as they're constituted right now, have a great player with Carmelo? I'm not going to answer that. I'm just going to say that. I believe that he's good enough to win an NBA championship, but he needs another guy with him. Hopefully he'll get that opportunity with him some day."
Jim Boeheim, on Mike & Mike in the Morning, ESPN Radio.
Did Carmelo Anthony use his buddy and former college coach as his mouthpiece to the front office? Would Melo consider bolting for sunny Los Angeles skies if Knicks brass failed to provide him with championship-caliber pieces? Who knows.
I do know one thing: I've never refreshed HoopsHype.com's rumor page so much in my life.
At the start of free agency, B/R writer Morgan Chalfant drove you through the early Knicks decisions like a papa drives his family through Animal Kingdom at Six Flags. Now that the dust has settled, let's review all the free agent paper tigers, give them a grade, and make some bold statement before the start of this season.
*All statistical information courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Pros: J.R. Smith was the second-leading scorer for New York last season and carried the Knicks to the playoffs in his first fully calm and constructive season since his high school NBA draft day. Smith gives the glory to Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, but one has to nod to Smith for this stark improvement. J.R. Smith will do J.R. Smith things—half-court heaves that go “SWISH”, running jumpers, fadeaway 20-footers–but is an asset New York couldn’t afford to lose, given their tight contract situation and Carmelo’s insistence.
Cons: Speaking of stark, Smith carries an eerie resemblance to the New York Knicks legend. Like Smith, John Starks signed his second Knicks contract after a mini-basketball resurrection but quickly fell out of favor after winning his Sixth Man of the Year trophy in 1997. Eventually, Starks got his starting spot snatched by Allan Houston and a one-way ticket to the Bay Area.
J.R. Smith could have gotten O.J. Mayo money ($8 million) had he decided to test free agency, so that's reason enough to pop the bubbly in Glen Grunwald's office.
But getting phantom left knee surgery right after signing your deal does not smell at all like team spirit. Here’s hoping you’re back in time for regular season games as predicted, or this can be dire.
Pros: Let’s say you owned a time machine. Invite Kawhi Leonard over to your laboratory as your trial experiment. Now, give him an inflated ego, put words in his mouth and send him back to 2003…and you’d get Ron Artest in his prime!
The Artist Soon to be Formerly Known as Metta World Peace is still a force. Last year, World Peace played 75 strong games and had a scoring rise (12.4 points per game) for a weak Los Angeles Lakers team. If he can give New York half of those points along with his brand of defensive basketball, Knicks fans would be ecstatic.
Cons: Two wild and crazy guys!
Is it smart to put J.R. Smith and Metta World Peace (and even Kenyon Martin, for that matter) together on a big-market team with playoff aspirations and city pressure? Who knows! Gulp.
(The folks at Page Six just high-fived each other. Again.)
The first half of the taxpayer mid-level exception went to Pablo Prigioni, and the second half goes to Metta World Peace. Two guys, on opposite sides of the NBA spectrum. Perfect.
Pros: After spirited debate with his better half and coercion from international teammate Manu Ginobili, Pablo Prigioni took his half of the taxpayer mid-level exception to stay rooted in the Garden.
For a guy who balked at hoisting the rock at times, Prigioni shot a respectable 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from three, per Basketball-Reference. Pablo also was a wizard with the dish, boasting a per-36 assist rate of 6.7 that eclipsed guys like Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings, per Basketball-Reference.
Cons: Pablo is 35 years young and he isn't getting any younger. With a league flush with talented and speedy point guards, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni better call “FIRST!” for ice baths after every game next season.
A classic “bang-for-your-buck” move for New York: He knows the team and knows the system, so why let him walk? Let’s just hope his body holds up for another long NBA season.
Pros: Andrea Bargnani was once the No.1 overall pick in the draft, with experts and scouts comparing his inside-outside game to that of Dirk Nowitzki. While he’s never lived up to his Dirk title, Bargnani has the range (career 36 percent three-point shooter) and size to make defenses work to stick with him. Space the floor for Melo to work in the post
Cons: $11 million per year for the next two years is a steep price to pay for a more celebrated Steve Novak. Bargs is a below-average defender and rebounder who carries the “soft” tag with him from Toronto to New York.
The contract and loss of draft pick in a basketball market that favors the NBA Draft stings too much to allow this Bargnani trade to be a super win for the Knicks. Nonetheless, whenever you can trade two glorified bench guys (Novak, Marcus Camby) for one solid stretch four big, you’ve done well.
Pros: A wise man once argued not to make mountains out of mole hills, which applies to every draft dude every year at this time. All draft picks need time to marinate and experience the NBA in full, a fact that one reserves for Michigan shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. He’s a proven scorer on the college level and has made the NCAA championship game, but that’s all history fodder now.
Cons: Come on. It’s Tim Hardaway Junior, spawn of the short guy who canned pull-up three pointers for beyond half court like it was 1999! Tim Hardaway, he of the UTEP Two-Step! Knicks fans have some bad memories of the dude who cost them a shot at Michael Jordan, Inc. with a great team in 1997, and it’ll take many made threes from his son for me, er US, to get over that.
OK, some real analysis: According to Paul Chillsap and the guys over at Posting and Toasting (along with the naked eye), Tim Hardaway Jr. is unexceptional at any one position, but especially hasn’t proven an ability to really create off the dribble. His summer showing in Las Vegas was sweet, but it’s hard to make predictions based on how a guy plays against JV.
This is where Tim Hardaway Jr. will live until the season starts. If he keeps his three-point stroke around 40 percent for his rookie season, we’ll tip our cap to the man and pray for growth.
Pros: Here’s some revisionist history: If you were to base prospects solely on sheer athleticism, C.J. Leslie was projected by pundits and NBA people to go as early as the lottery.
Fast-forward to June 2013: Leslie’s pirouette down to the free agency pool was golden for New York, who was able to steal a lottery-level talent with a rookie minimum contract.
Cons: Leslie has power forward moves with a small forward’s body. He needs to put on some weight (currently listed at 6-foot-9 and 200 pounds) but that’ll come with gym time. Hey! At least the contract isn’t guaranteed!
He’s a tall man with gangly arms, obvious athleticism and hoop skills. And he’s playing angry. Perfect. Worst case scenario: Leslie lingers on the bench for a season and gets cut. No blood, no foul.
Pros: The New York Knicks were in an identity crisis before obtaining the services of one Kenyon Martin, Esq. While K-Mart isn’t the same All-Star monster masher whose highlight jams once terrorized the league, Martin’s tough mental attitude coupled with efficient defensive tendencies make him a “must have” for any playoff situation.
Cons: K-Mart may blow a gasket here or there due to perceived slights or bad calls. He’s the sensitive sort who needs to be managed by savvy veterans and a great coach. J-Kidd kept him in line last year but with Kidd taking the head job in Brooklyn, who’s going to keep Kenyon Martin in check.
Big men who can catch the ball in traffic, move swiftly and play stout along the back line are rare in today’s NBA, especially at the minimum salary number.
This shrewd signing of Kenyon Martin is the perfect way for New York to close summer spending.