NBA Free Agents 2011: 10 Targets the New York Knicks Need to Pursue This Summer
After making the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, the Knicks made great strides as a team this past season and finally climbed out of the cellar they were stuck in for so long.
That being said, the team showed glaring weaknesses at the point guard position and the center position when they matched up against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs and eventually succumb to the more experienced team losing the series 4-0.
Fast forwarding a bit, in Donnie Walsh's last major move as Knicks President of Basketball Operations Walsh selected Iman Shumpert with the 17th overall pick. Although the pick was certainly met with heavy criticism, it makes sense due to the Knicks' abhorrent effort this past season on the defensive end of the floor.
With players like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and several other notable stars available in the 2012 free agency class, the Knicks will look to preserve their cap this summer in hopes of landing one of the aforementioned big names to complete a big three to compete with the likes of the Miami Heat.
With Donnie Walsh all but gone, the Knicks will look towards the aforementioned free agency class of 2012 for hope. The following players will be the ones who will help to bridge the gap between the present and the next glorified flood of free agents in 2012.
10. Anthony Carter
While Anthony Carter is on the other side of his career at this point, he does absolutely everything the Knicks need.
He is a qualified defensive player and deft distributor and when D'Antoni did actually give him minutes (which wasn't often) he certainly outperformed the likes of fellow teammate Roger Mason.
With him and Mason being unrestricted free agents this summer, it makes sense to bring back Carter and let Mason walk since the last thing the Knicks need is another player to chuck three-pointers, with Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups already covering the offensive portion of the floor.
His ability to penetrate and get to the rim is also the perfect antithesis to the perimeter shooting of Toney Douglas and Chauncey Billups.
Teaming with fellow veteran Chauncey Billups, Carter can help further the development of Shumpert and Douglas as point guards on both ends of the floor and will come at a reasonable price as well.
9. Shawne Williams
When Donnie Walsh decided to bring in Shawne Williams, many fans had their doubts since his past has been mired with some questionable decisions and after the last decade the last thing the Knicks needed was another off-court distraction.
However, he exceeded all expectations and worked hard to become one of the top three-point shooters in the entire league finishing the season with a proficient 40 percent from three-point range.
His length and toughness will also prove to be useful on the defensive end as he was even able to play as a center at some points last season, with a freakish 7'3" wingspan similar to that of his acrobatic teammate Derrick Brown.
If he is able to keep himself out of trouble and continue to work hard, bringing him back should be an easy decision for the Knicks brass. His length and athleticism would also come in handy even more on the defensive end if the Knicks end up hiring a defensive minded assistant coach to complement D'Antoni's high octane offense.
8. Hamed Haddadi
While he is certainly not going to be the difference maker that his fellow teammate Marc Gasol would be for the Knicks, he's also not going to cost nearly as much as Gasol is either.
In the playoffs he played well in short stints for the hard-nosed Memphis Grizzlies behind burly big man Gasol.
At only 26 years old he dwarfs most centers standing at a sky scraping 7'2" and has the potential to get better on both ends of the floor since he is so young.
He would likely platoon at the center position beside the energetic Ronny Turiaf, since Turiaf's health issues usually limit his minutes and Haddadi is not ready for a full time role just yet.
However, if he's given more minutes he could provide the Knicks with a nice defensive complement to Amar'e Stoudemire.
If properly utilized, he would take the pressure off of Amar'e Stoudemire on the defensive end of the floor, allowing him to flourish on the offensive end where he is most effective.
Although Alexis Ajinca and Kyrlo Fesenko are a couple of foreign big men who will come at an affordable price this summer, I feel that Haddadi's performance in the playoffs this past season gives him the nod over the two aforementioned players who are also relatively unknown.
7. Kwame Brown
While this name will be met with a groan by many fans for understandable reasons, it has recently been reported by Marc Berman that he has been linked to the Knicks as a possible big man who could receive a one year deal.
Although he has certainly failed miserably to live up to expectations as a No. 1 pick, it is important to remember that the Knicks don't need him to perform like a No. 1 pick, they just need him to be a serviceable big man who can defend and rebound, which he can do.
While the Knicks would be the sixth NBA team he's played for in his career. We had Eddy Curry disgracing the Knicks uniform for a total of five agonizing seasons. Just as a comical side note, Curry was taken that in the same 2001 draft as Brown fourth overall! Not a good year for drafting big men for most teams, unless you were the team that walked away with Pau Gasol.
At just 29 years old, he has been in the league for 10 years already and is coming off of his most productive season in seven years. He averaged 7.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG in 26 minutes per game.
While those numbers are not incredible, they are exactly the type of production the Knicks need from an affordable center: someone who can step in to rebound and play some defense right away for only one year.
Especially since they will have question marks Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson helping to fill the void in the middle this year as well.
Since Isiah Thomas won't be the one deciding how much Brown will be paid and how long he will be around, we can breathe easy knowing that even if it's a risk to sign an underachiever like him, it will only be for a one-year deal.
6. Joel Przybilla
Nicknamed the Vanilla Gorilla for his colossal frame and strength, Przybilla would give the Knicks a legitimate seven-footer to prowl the paint and mask Amar'e's defensive deficiencies as well.
As he showed in Portland playing alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, he is the perfect complement to any offensive-minded big man.
Przybilla is a traditional garbageman in every sense of the word, rebounding the ball at a high rate while tossing in a blocked shot here and there as well.
If he is able to stay healthy, he would be a perfect complement to Stoudemire's offensive style by utilizing his large frame to box out his opponents, rebound the ball and get the Knicks scorers second chance opportunities on the offensive end.
5. Kenyon Martin
Although injuries have hampered Martin for most of his career and have held him back from becoming the juggernaut, many believed he could be as a New Jersey Net, he is one of the more intriguing options on this list.
At 33 years old, it is likely that Martin would like to take his chances this summer with a contender, and the Knicks are one of the teams that make the most sense for him.
He would be welcomed by former teammates Carmelo and Billups and would bring defensive intensity the Knicks have been lacking in the paint, since the days of Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason.
While he is undersized at 6'9" and the Knicks ideally want a center so Amar'e can play his natural position at power forward, he is a great complement to Amar'e with his defense and rebounding being his specialty.
He also has a nice mid-range jumper to take some pressure off of 'Melo and STAT on the offensive end, while also bringing to the team some playoff experience, which a team like the Knicks will surely need if they are looking to win an NBA Championship.
If he is able to stay healthy, he could fill a void in the middle that many seven-footers can't by making up for his lack of size, with his experience, energy and defensive prowess to pair with Amar'e in the paint.
4. Aaron Gray
Standing at 7'0" and weighing in at 270 pounds, Gray would give the Knicks a behemoth big in the middle to defend the larger players, while allowing Amar'e to play power forward, where he is most comfortable.
Gray's commendable defensive performance against the formidable front line duo of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, shows that Gray has potential to grow as he is still a fairly young player at only 26 years old.
After watching Monty Williams use Jason Smith against smaller centers and use Gray against the larger centers the league has to offer, the Knicks could follow a similar trend with a pairing of Turiaf and Gray.
While he is not as experienced as some of the other players on this list, he certainly deserves a look as he will be one of the more affordable bigger bodies this summer, who holds the potential to get better as well.
3. Jeff Foster
Foster has a very similar game to the aforementioned Przybilla: a blue collar player with tremendous rebounding ability and solid shot-blocking ability as well.
He has been with the Indiana Pacers for all 12 seasons of his career so it is unknown whether or not he is willing to leave his current team, but if he is expect the Knicks to be one of the teams to give him a long look as he should come at a reasonable price, while providing everything the Knicks are lacking in their current big men.
2. Jose Juan Barea
Due to his stellar play in the playoffs with the Mavericks he is gaining more attention from other contending teams like the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers and may turn out to be a reach for them, as well as for the Knicks with the uncertain terms of the still undecided collective bargaining agreement.
However, he has mentioned the Knicks, Lakers and Heat as his preferred destinations if he does not like what the Mavericks have to offer.
That being said the Knicks have Billups, Douglas, Shumpert, Fields, Walker and Carter if they decide to re-sign him so this is more of a possibility, simply because the Knicks land on his preferred destinations list and his game fits so well in D'Antoni's offensive system.
He is a crafty ball handler who plays with a ton of heart and energy, and can get into the lane almost at will, never allowing his small stature to stifle his determination. While he is a marginal defensive player, he remains an intriguing option if the Knicks look to sign a more experienced point guard as insurance for the injury prone Billups.
1. Kurt Thomas
One of the most recent players linked to the Knicks is the NBA's current oldest player and former Knick Kurt Thomas.
While he is on the other side of his career at this point, he stepped in admirably for the Bulls last season and started many times when Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer were out with injuries.
Look for the Knicks to consider Thomas as he would fill the void defensively, rebound well and provide the Knicks with a great locker room presence for their younger players to look up to and learn from.
Theo Ratliff is also an option for the Knicks and is also not far behind Thomas for being distinguished as the oldest active player in the NBA.
While the Knicks will likely only get to land one or two of the aforementioned players, each of them can make a difference in their own way as they all fill one of the gaping holes the Knicks have in their team.
The team's ultimate goal will be to sign a third superstar to pair with 'Melo and Amar'e in 2012 and signing promising young talent or experienced players to help them compete this season will give them a better chance of accomplishing that goal if the season is not lost to a lockout as is unfortunately expected.