Now that the lockout is nearly over, the insanity is about to begin. December 9th is the date that we should circle on our calendars, as that is when free-agency will begin.
Like the rest of the league, the New York Knicks are going to look to retain key players and make necessary upgrades in order to compete at a high level.
There are an array of athletes who can help the Knicks continue to grow, but the team is restricted in the moves that it can make. Any additions/retentions must not squash the Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams aspirations that are running rampant throughout the newly renovated Garden.
That being said, New York's restrictions are not nearly enough to keep them out of play, and we can expect them to be extremely active in the free-agency market.
Deemed a lost cause before last season even began, Shawne Williams really stepped up his game with the Knicks.
The 6'9" Williams showed some incredible range, knocking down over 40 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. He was a defensive bright spot on a roster filled with sore ones, and while he is listed as a small forward, he is able to play time at both the power forward and shooting guard positions as well.
Williams is an unrestricted free agent whom the Knicks need to ensure they retain. He is consistent in his production and an immensely valuable player should one of their stars fall victim to injury.
Williams wants to come back, and the feeling within the Knicks organization should be mutual. He's cheap, effective and keeps New York's hope of a legitimate big three formation alive.
The Knicks need a backup point guard. Hell, with Chauncey Billups' bill of health, they could use a starting one as well, and Ford satisfies both.
After a lackluster couple of seasons with the Indiana Pacers, the 28-year-old Ford will be looking to resurrect his career. He was on the verge of being bought out, and Mike Wells of Indianapolis Star tweeted that Knicks would be among interested teams if it got that far.
It was only two seasons ago that the wily point guard averaged 14.9 points and 5.3 assists per game, so it would not be unjustifiable of Knicks to take a chance on him.
New York was looking for a point guard prior to last season's trade deadline, and with the uncertainty surrounding Billups' health, and Douglas' development, they will still be in the market for one. Ford is quick and fits into Mike D'Antoni's offensive system quite nicely.
Is he going to come cheap? That all depends on how desperate he is to revive his currently stagnant career.
Thomas is not as durable as he used to be, but he can still rebound and defend centers when he is on the court. That baby-jumper of his can still go down, too.
The 39-year-old is clearly not New York's long-term answer in the low-post, but he at the very least takes some of the immediate burden off of Amar'e Stoudemire's beaten-down knees. He is one of the tougher players in the league, and would inject a sense of defensive advocacy into the rotation.
Thomas wants to keep playing, and being that he will prove to be an affordable veteran who doesn't damage the Knicks' future plans, a reunion between he and the team will not be out of the question.
The Knicks seem to boast an array of perimeter players already, but we must keep in mind that the likes of Chauncey Billups, Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields may all have to be dangled as trade bait to obtain a third superstar.
Since this could be the case, the Knicks need an insurance policy, perhaps in the form of James Jones. The eight-year veteran is a lights out three-point shooter, and plays strong defense as well—something New York can use, especially on the perimeter.
Jones is not incredibly talented off the dribble but is a great spot-up shooter, something the Knicks' run-and-gun offense calls for. Additionally, it has been noted that his playoff experience would prove invaluable to this young team.
The small-forward should prove to be very affordable and is versatile enough to spend some time at the shooting guard position if needed. His name is one that should definitely be on New York's radar.
The Knicks need size, and while Kurt Thomas would provide some relief in the low-post, adding Aaron Gray as well would open up the floor even more for New York.
The 26-year-old showed some promise last season when on the floor, exhibiting a nice touch around the basket in terms of both rebounding and scoring. He is going to be a hot commodity for teams strapped for cap space, and the Knicks shouldn't make themselves the exception.
While New York has been linked to Samuel Dalembert, the fact is that he is both overpriced and overrated. The Knicks aren't going to get 20 points and 10 rebounds per game out of Gray, but the seven-footer adds some much needed size.
Additionally, the Knicks are only prepared to offer one-year deals, and as Marc Berman of NY Post reports, Gray is bound to show up on their radar.
And better yet, he should prove to be very affordable, and thus keep the team's vision of a big three alive.
The Knicks already seem to have their hand in New Orleans' cookie jar as Chris Paul remains a primary target, so why not stay consistent and also target one of their big men?
Wilson Chandler may be playing in China, but it was believed he would be released once the lockout ended. Prior to that, he was rumored to be interested in returning to the Knicks, a feeling New York reciprocated.
While the 24-year-old Chandler is yet another small forward on this list, he is versatile enough to play the shooting guard and power forward positions as well. He is the perfect combination of quick and strong, and is effective on both ends of the floor.
With the Knicks slated to have over $60 million in pay roll next season, and the cap expected to remain at $58 million, Chandler seems like a long shot. Under the proposed CBA, teams that are over the salary cap can only use $2.5 million for the mid-level exception. Chandler may be inclined to give the Knicks a discount, but not one that steep.
That being said, if the Knicks decide to amnesty Renaldo Balkman and play around with Derrick Brown's contract, they could find themselves under the cap with the ability to use the full $5 million in mid-level exception.
Is it a long shot? Yes, but Chandler is coming into his own and the Knicks owe it to themselves—and to him—to at least attempt and reunite.
As a restricted free agent, the Denver Nuggets can match any offer New York puts on the table. At that point, sign-and-trade possibilities will once again have to be explored.
Could this prove to be a headache? Definitely, but if anyone is worth it, Chandler is.
You can follow Dan Favale on Twitter here @Dan_Favale.