Best Bargain-Bin NBA 2014 Free-Agency Options for NY Knicks
The New York Knicks' work in free agency so far has unsurprisingly centered on Carmelo Anthony, but there's also work to be done elsewhere on the roster.
With 10 players making guaranteed money in 2013-14 and a handful of players invited to summer league and training camp, there aren't many roster spots left, but the Knicks need to hit on all of them to build a deep team.
Many of the players on the Knicks right now are either inexperienced or have serious injury concerns—especially in the frontcourt—so it's of the utmost importance to find a couple of additional contributors in free agency.
Unless New York finds a way to move both Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani to create cap space, the team doesn't have the money for a major free agent, so it will need to scour the bargain bin once again as it has done for the past few offseasons.
Let's take a look at some of the best options available within the Knicks' price range based on their current cap situation.
While the Knicks added some youth at small forward with the selections of Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo in the draft, they still could use a more reliable rotation player at the position.
Marvin Williams never lived up to his billing as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft, but he's proved to be a productive forward who is capable of at least providing 20 minutes per night for a team with strengths elsewhere on the floor.
Offensively, Williams has averaged 10.8 points per game for his career, and though no element of his game on that end of the floor stands out, he can hit open shots and knows how to work off the ball.
It's on the defensive end that Williams really has value for the Knicks, though. He's a physical player who can guard both forward positions. He would essentially fill the role they hoped Metta World Peace would fill last season.
New York will have to act quickly if it wants Williams. According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo, members of the Miami Heat have already flown out to North Carolina to recruit him, potentially adding to their already impressive crop of cheap free-agent signings.
Williams won't be a featured player in this system, but he could potentially start alongside Carmelo Anthony at forward (if he's re-signed) or at least back him up if Early were to prove worthy of a big role in his rookie season.
During his time with the Phoenix Suns and most recently the Golden State Warriors, O'Neal has averaged 15.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per 36 minutes and has quietly provided some fantastic defense too.
The problem with O'Neal—which will put him in the Knicks' price range—is health. He's played only 99 games over the past two seasons, and at this point it would be a surprise if he ever plays more than 60 games in a season again (something he last achieved in 2009).
Still, the Knicks aren't going to find a much better player with the veteran's minimum or a portion of the mid-level exception. With some smart rotation planning, Derek Fisher can minimize the health risk of his frontcourt by splitting the center minutes between O'Neal, Samuel Dalembert and Andrea Bargnani.
O'Neal will no doubt be hungry for a title at this stage in his career, so a pitch from Phil Jackson, a man with 11 of his own championship rings, will hopefully be enough to convince him New York is the place to finish his career.
Drew Gooden played only 22 games for the Washington Wizards last season after joining the team in February, but he played well enough to revive his dwindling NBA career.
The Knicks could use a player with Gooden's skill set at center. He pulls down rebounds at a high rate and can handle himself offensively, spreading the floor with his mid-range jump shot.
At 6'10", 250 pounds, Gooden can match physically with any big in the NBA, and it would be interesting to see how he would work in the triangle offense. In 2011-12, he averaged 3.5 assists per 36 minutes, which are pretty good numbers for a center and comparable to the likes of Marc Gasol and Joakim Noah. Channelling that passing ability would make him ideal for this system.
Having Gooden on their roster would allow the Knicks to preserve Amar'e Stoudemire during the regular season, and it's possible Gooden could even start at center over Samuel Dalembert.
He was amnestied by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013 and is still being paid by them, so money isn't an issue for him. The veteran's minimum will be enough to sign him; the problem is convincing him to move from Washington (the team that helped get his career back on track) to New York.
With the peak of his career now well behind him, Richard Jefferson is known primarily for being one of the San Antonio Spurs' rare bad investments, but his production with the Utah Jazz last season should land him a place on a contender as a role player.
As far as backup small forwards go, there aren't many better than Jefferson on the offensive end. He can still score at a high rate and averaged 41 percent from three-point range last season, also using his length to get to the rim.
On the whole, Jefferson's recent career has been fairly consistent. There was once a time when he could provide a team with 20 points per night, and his numbers have barely wavered at all since 2009. He has averaged 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per 36 minutes for the last five years.
Jefferson is, however, a liability on the defensive end. He showed flashes of turning that around with the Spurs, but at age 34 he's essentially a lost cause there.
Surprisingly, he has never actually been an unrestricted free agent, but with career earnings of more than $100 million (including $11 million last year), it's unlikely he'll be expecting too much this summer. If anything, he'll be looking for the title he came so close to winning with the New Jersey Nets.
Stretch forward Anthony Tolliver was a solid role player for the improved Charlotte Bobcats last season, putting in work on the boards, spreading the floor and playing his part in the collective defensive effort that took them to the playoffs.
Tolliver isn't as good an overall player as Jermaine O'Neal and Drew Gooden and is only capable of playing at power forward, but health and age aren't issues for him. This makes him a better fit for a team that needs insurance as much as anything.
Having Tolliver—who averaged 41 percent from beyond the arc in 2013-14—would afford the Knicks the opportunity to occasionally go with a bigger lineup without sacrificing spacing for Carmelo Anthony. This is something they wanted to do last season with Andrea Bargnani, but that plan failed with the forward averaging a career-low 28 percent from three.
Most teams in the NBA could use a player like Tolliver somewhere on the roster, but as someone who's not particularly exciting, he may fly under the radar and into the Knicks' lap for the minimum.
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