As the NBA begins its lockout era, the last thing on some of our minds may be free agency rumors.
While it may difficult to focus on free agency with the lockout looming over our heads, the reality of it is potential additions and improvements still need to be a focus.
The Knicks may be forbidden to address current players and potential players, but you better believe the entire organization is focusing, albeit secretly, on how to fill some gaping holes.
New York, for years, has been looking to fill a hole in the low post, and entering into the offseason, finding a capable big man was high on their to-do list. However, given their goal of having enough cap space to sign either Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard in 2012, limits their options in that department.
A name that has been thrown around quite a bit recently is former Knick Kurt Thomas.
Thomas spent this past season with the Bulls and is a free agent, should this lockout ever end, and has indicated he would like to play at least one more year.
Is Thomas the answer for the Knicks at center?
Let's find out.
Should there be an NBA season this year, it will be Kurt Thomas' 19th, and such extensive experience would be highly valued by the Knicks.
The Knicks are a young team. Sure both Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony are veterans, but they are young veterans. Chauncey Billups is the true pillar of veteran leadership on the team, given all his experience.
Thomas would add to the Knicks shallow well of veteran leadership, having been around the league for the better part of two decades. He knows how to guard certain players having been around for so long, and his presence in the locker room, would be a great asset to the Knicks' younger players, whom he could serve as a mentor too.
Veterans are often undervalued in the league that values statistics. Jaw dropping statistics are not everything.
In fact, Thomas' mere presence could prove to be just as jaw dropping as Carmelo's offense.
Well, maybe not,, but definitely as valuable.
While Kurt Thomas would bring some much needed veteran leadership to New York, it must be noted that he will be 39 by the time next season starts.
At 39, one has to wonder how much of an actual contribution Thomas can still make.
As the last slide highlights, stats are not everything, but the ability to stay healthy and at least be out there on the floor is.
Last season with Chicago, Thomas appeared in only 52 games at 22.7 minutes per game.
The minutes are decent, but one has to wonder if Thomas can hold up to the rigors of an 82 game season. Additionally some may believe that with a shortened season, Thomas would be perfect then, but this is not the case.
Thomas has publicly stated that he is still working out and ready to play, but when there is a shortened season, there are a ton of back to back to back games, and Thomas' health could easily deteriorate.
So it comes down to whether or not the Knicks think he is healthy enough to withstand an entire season's worth of activity, in a high octane system like Mike D'Antoni's.
The last thing the Knicks need is another hot again, injured again, Chauncey Billups type situation on their hands.
New York is searching for, well unofficially of course being the NBA is in a lockout, for a defensive assistant coach to improve the Knicks' performance in that department.
Kurt Thomas is a defensive specialist, as many fans will remember from his seven seasons spent in New York.
Thomas plays a complete defensive game, allowing him to guard centers that are much taller, and stronger than himself. He is not afraid to crash the boards and get his hands dirty on that end of the ball.
Many players around the league possess a tremendous amount of respect for Thomas' defense. As previously noted, he has been around long enough to know how certain guys play, especially Kevin Garnett, whom he has defended with success, over the years.
Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, though more than capable, are not known for their defensive efforts. Thomas' expertise is defense, which would make him extremely compatible, playing in the post with Stoudemire, and being to help out with the defensive burden.
Thomas stands at only 6'9", and is listed as a forward, but he plays like he is over 7-foot. Unlike Stoudemire, whose primary focus is and has to be offense, he is free to play as aggressive as he needs to on each defensive possession.
Additionally he is versatile enough to cover guards and forwards, as well as centers.
And this would be refreshing to watch after multiple years of seeing the Knicks get basically walked all over on that side of the ball.
Kurt Thomas is undeniably a versatile defender, as he is pictured here defending the elusive Joe Johnson.
However, due largely to his age, he may not be able to defend as well as he as been able to over the years.
Thomas is not as quick as he used to be, and sometimes has tough times making the sharp lateral movements needed to keep his man in front of him. Also, the tough and aggressive style of defense that he plays, makes him susceptible to injury, which at his age, he will have a difficult time recovering from.
Thomas' vertical leaping ability is also not what it once was, putting him at a disadvantage when it comes to blocking shots and grabbing rebounds.
Rebounding is a weakness of the Knicks, which means they need that to be a strength of their center.
And it is unknown as to whether or not Thomas can fit that bill.
Yes, the last pro highlighted Thomas' defensive ability, but it has to be further stressed about just how versatile he is.
With the Bulls, Thomas put up stellar numbers for a player of his age. Last season, he averaged 4.1 points, 5,8 rebounds and nearly one block per game, proving he can still be effective.
While Thomas is known for his defensive prowess, he is an asset on the offensive end as well.
Unlike a lot of other centers in the league, Thomas can consistently hit the mid range jumper. Thomas' corner jumper is something he feasted upon during his time with the Knicks, and is a big reason why he was able to put up double-digit point averages almost every year in New York.
Also, while the previous slide how Thomas' rebounding ability can be questioned as he gets older, he grabbed nearly six boards in under 23 minutes per game last year. This is a stat that cannot go unnoticed. That is over 12 rebounds per 48 minutes, which is very impressive.
The Knicks could use a reliable player on both ends of the floor.
And over the course of his career, Thomas has proved to be just that.
All the cons come back to Kurt Thomas' age, which is frustrating, yet a valid consideration given the circumstances.
Thomas has proved to be an extremely versatile player on both ends of the floor over his career, but this very versatility that has helped him build his commendable reputation is no longer guaranteed.
Last season, it was evident that Thomas' jump shot was not what it used to be, mainly because his legs do not have the same pop in them that they used to.
Additionally, Thomas' time in Chicago involved him playing more of a half court game. Mike D'Antoni's system calls for pushing the ball on every possession and Thomas may not be able to keep up with this tempo of play.
At 39, he will find it hard pressed to run the floor constantly on offense and then have to muster up the energy to get back on defense too.
If he has the ability to play under such conditions than he is a perfect fit.
However, there are 18 seasons worth of previous mileage indicate he may not be.
One of Kurt Thomas' greatest attributes is that he fits into the Knicks pursuit of Chris Paul.
The Knicks have made it clear they are prepared to only offer one year contracts to free agents this summer, if it ever gets to that point obviously.
And as luck would have it, Thomas is though to only be looking for a one year deal because he is unsure whether he would want to play beyond next season.
This is perfect for New York.
They do not have to convince Thomas to only sign a one year deal in order to conserve cap space because he is not looking for a multiple year contract.
This allows the Knicks more freedom in their pursuit of Paul, whom they have the best chance at acquiring via free agency.
Additionally, Thomas will come cheap. New York may offer him more than the veteran's minimum because of the respect they have for him, and because they will be thrilled to have found someone interested in only a one year contract, yet he still will remain cheaper than other options out there.
Samuel Dalembert, a potential target of the Knicks will not only command more money, but more years, virtually killing the Knicks dream of signing Paul.
With Thomas, the Knicks' dream of adding Paul to their roster lives on.
And that is reason for the New York to get excited.
While the Knicks are though to be only looking to sign free agents for a year, they still remain open to the option of find a more long-term solution to their center issues.
And Thomas does not provide that.
Even if he is to play for two more years, the Knicks need someone who can be their center for years to come. Thomas, at most, will play two more seasons, forcing the Knicks to start their search all over once again in another year or two.
It has became quite a frustration to the Knicks and their fans to not have a constant center. They constant changing of faces and bodies at the five position has been difficult to watch over the past decade.
Not since Patrick Ewing, have the Knicks known who their starting center was going to be from year to year, and both fans and the organization would like that to change.
While Thomas allows the Chris Paul dream to stay within reach, he also is a symbol of the never ending search that the Knicks have been embarking on over the past decade.
And needless to say that counts against him.
After all is said and considered, the Knicks would be hard pressed to find a better fit than Kurt Thomas at center.
Thomas is familiar with the city and knows what it takes to win and New York, and provides invaluable veteran leadership and experience to a very young team.
Additionally, he can make contributions to on both ends of the floor. He can still hit the mid-range jumper and remains one of the most aggressive defenders in the game.
Most importantly though, Thomas keeps the hope of bringing Chris Paul to New York alive. He will come very cheap and is only seeking a one year deal, which is perfect for the Knicks.
At this point in time, the Knicks top priority has to be Paul. New York's pursuit of a "big three" has cost them assets such as Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton, as well as presidential genius Donnie Walsh. There is no turning back now.
Yes, finding a more permanent center would be great, but it almost certainly kills the Knicks chances at signing Paul.
Additionally, the most realistic signing would be Samuel Dalembert, whose price tag will be fairly high, and even more bolstered by the fact that the league is desperate for capable big men. And in reality, he is not the answer.
Thomas may only be a one year solution, and the Knicks may be taking a risk by signing him, but the return far outweighs the initial risk.
All the Knicks need Thomas to do his stay healthy and play his game, and he has proved to be quite durable over his career, meaning it is not absurd to think he could be up to the challenge of another year in New York.
When or if the free agency hold is lifted, the Knicks need to go after Thomas, and go after him hard.
He is valued in Chicago, but will be way more valued in New York.
For along with Thomas, comes the hope of Chris Paul, the Knicks top priority.
Anything else Thomas does is a bonus.