New York Knicks: Four Players Who Don't Deserve Roster Spots Next Season
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The calendar has finally flipped to July 1. What was forever an impending lockout is now in full effect, and NBA fans the world over are up in arms.
While there are many questions to be answered regarding a revised collective bargaining agreement, the New York Knicks should presently be less concerned with how much they will be allowed to spend on free agents this summer and more attention to which players can be discarded to free up cap space or traded for fresh alternatives.
There is a group of Knickerbockers who either have not lived up to expectations, have played their way right out of a job or simply would be a better fit for another franchise.
One of the players suggested in the next few slides fulfilled his contract obligation this past season, so management has the option to re-sign him or let him walk.
In contrast, the remaining handful are signed through the next season or two, in which case they’d have to be dealt via trade or offered buyouts.
Read on to discover who didn’t make the cut.
Most New York fans would agree that Jared Jeffries’ last game as a Knick should’ve been Game 2 of the playoffs vs. the Boston Celtics back in April.
It’s difficult to erase the crunch-time calamity from memory when Jeffries’ decision to pass on a wide-open layup cost the Knicks the victory and, presumably, the momentum in the series, which was heading back to MSG.
For the life of me I can’t tell you why, but Mike D’Antoni swears by Jeffries. Honestly, he could hardly contain himself when news broke of Jeffries rejoining the team after Donnie Walsh sent him to Houston in a package deal for Tracy McGrady and his expiring contract the previous season.
Having lost Yao Ming for the year and in desperate need of an experienced big man to complement Luis Scola, it seemed as though the Rockets could’ve utilized Jeffries’ 6’11” 230-pound frame. However, head coach Rick Adelman elected to employ 6’6” Chuck Hayes at center instead.
Meanwhile, Jeffries only shed his warm-ups for about eight minutes of garbage time when he was fortunate enough to hear his name called. His midseason buyout was no coincidence.
Considering D’Antoni doesn’t preach defense, he sure doesn’t play Jeffries 20 minutes a contest for his offensive aptitude. And if Jeffries is such a great rebounder and defender, how is it that he holds career averages of a meager 4.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks per game?
I’ll admit Jeffries does have his moments where his hustle leads to a crucial block or offensive rebound, but I’d still prefer to have Amar’e Stoudemire guard Dwight Howard over Jeffries any day. Although Stoudemire has exhibited growth defensively, that’s still not saying much.
Since Jeffries came aboard during the Isiah Thomas era, he’s inherently a James Dolan favorite. He’s also a standup guy on and off the court, but his personal qualities aren’t contributing in the win column.
Without a current contract in place, the Knicks need to follow in the Rockets’ footsteps and sever their relationship with Jeffries once and for all.
There’s a simple explanation why Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers never gave Bill Walker a chance; there’s no room for poor decision-making on a championship-caliber roster.
Walker came over as part of the Nate Robinson deal before the 2010 trade deadline to a depleted Knicks team already looking ahead to an epic summer of free agency.
Lacking any depth to work with, D’Antoni gave Walker his first opportunity to showcase his entire skill set after almost two years in the league—even starting him 13 of the 27 games he appeared in.
Including Toney Douglas, Walker was one of the lone bright spots as the season wound down. He averaged 11.9 points on 52 percent from the floor, 3.1 rebounds and close to one steal in approximately 27 minutes per game.
But, his 43 percent shooting from three-point range was most astonishing, especially in light of the fact Walker had failed to attempt a single shot from beyond the arc prior to his arrival in New York.
Apparently, Walker had solidified himself as a member of the 2010-11 rotation, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. As the season progressed, Walker saw his playing time continually diminish, and the emergence of Shawne Williams didn’t bode well.
Walker made an occasional impact, most notably with a 23-point outburst against the Utah Jazz in early January. He even was acknowledged for his improbable leaping ability with a monstrous dunk featured on SportsCenter’s top 10.
However, Walker often played erratically and became trigger-happy and overly reliant on the three-ball. Actually, he was a microcosm of the team in general when ball movement deteriorated and players were lackadaisical, as was habitually the case during the third and fourth quarters.
Walker’s irresponsible and haphazard style resulted in a career-low 44 percent field goal percentage and ultimately wore out his welcome.
The addition of Iman Shumpert has created a logjam at shooting guard. With Walker due to make $916,000 next season, the Knicks should toss him in as trade baggage or buy him out. Either way, it’s not a major loss.
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Normally a trustworthy judge of talent, Isiah Thomas had better odds of hitting the Mega Millions jackpot than Renaldo Balkman finding success in the NBA.
Thomas felt New York could be the beneficiary of a little known commodity in Balkman, who skipped out on his senior season with the South Carolina Gamecocks to enter the 2006 NBA Draft.
While his college numbers were not eye-popping, Balkman was an above-average defender who Thomas assumed could offer the Knicks versatility at either forward position with his 6’8” size and the agility of a guard.
Boy, was he wrong.
Besides Balkman running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you couldn’t count on him for much of anything. Following his rookie season, which is his most productive to date, Balkman’s output decreased in every category.
During his sophomore campaign, averages of 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds did not help Balkman’s cause. Even worse, his atrocious 43 percent free throw shooting stood out like a sore thumb.
Realizing Balkman is not the player Thomas thought he was getting with the 20th pick of the first round, the Knicks parted ways with Balkman after two seasons.
With an offensive repertoire comparable to Ben Wallace, Balkman mixes with Mike D’Antoni’s regime like oil and water. He and his dreads seldom left the bench, only appearing in three games for New York following the blockbuster trade.
It’s a shame Balkman is one of three Knicks under contract through the 2012-13 season, and it goes without saying who the other two players are. If I had to take a wild guess, Balkman is probably the only expendable player of the bunch.
Slated to earn $1.7 million each of the next two seasons, New York could possibly find a potential suitor looking to add a high-energy piece. Teams are always willing to acquire a player with Balkman’s attributes.
I’m just a tad surprised that team isn’t located somewhere overseas.
As a lifelong fan and an alumnus of Syracuse University, it pains me to recommend cutting ties with a former Orange. But, taking into account New York has drafted yet another shooting guard, it’s not in the cards for Andy Rautins to be a Knick.
At 6’4” and a thin 190 pounds, Rautins is undersized as far as NBA guards go. However, he’s extremely similar in stature to Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who stands 6’3” and 185 pounds.
Coming out of Davidson College, one of the knocks on Curry was that he’d be eaten alive at the professional level if he didn’t bulk up. After two seasons in which he only missed a total of 10 games and amassed a scoring average of 18 points per game, it’s safe to say Curry weathered the storm just fine.
Rautins doesn’t possess the playmaking ability of Curry, but like Curry, he can flat-out shoot. That’s reason to believe he could find a place somewhere in Mike D’Antoni’s lineup, but he was unable to break into the flow.
In fairness to Rautins, he did sit out the final month of the season after undergoing knee abridement surgery. But, it’s highly doubtful he would’ve assumed a regular role had he remained healthy anyway.
Under contract through next season, Rautins is set to be paid a microscopic—at least by professional basketball standards—$789,000. If he’s not in New York’s plans, certainly there’s a team out there in search of an accurate spot-up shooter with great court awareness.
Being buried at the end of the bench on a team with no intention of using him is hindering his growth. The Knicks should do right by Rautins and trade him or demote him to the NBDL where he can, you know, develop.