After trading for Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups last season, the New York Knicks looked to be a contender in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks were very inconsistent down the stretch, however, as they could look excellent or completely awful in any given game.
New York was ultimately ousted by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, but just making the postseason was considered progress. A core of Anthony, Billups and Amare Stoudemire is enough for the Knicks to compete, but it is quite clear that they are missing key components.
Depth was a major issue after the trade with the Denver Nuggets, as was perimeter defense and rebounding. Here are three unrestricted free agents that would cure the Knicks' ills and elevate them near the level of the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics.
While small forward Shane Battier may not be the more complete player he was in his earlier days, he is still one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA. The Knicks really struggled in that regard last season, and while some of it is head coach Mike D'Antoni's offense-first system, it was mostly a personnel problem.
The Knicks tried to address it by selecting Iman Shumpert in the draft, but it will take more than one player. Battier has tons of experience when it comes to guarding the opposition's best offensive player, and he would likely be invaluable due to that experience and his tenacity.
He would also be a nice fit for the Knicks because he isn't incapable of playing in a run-and-gun offense. He isn't going to get to the basket much or make highlight-reel plays, but he is capable of hitting mid-range and three-point jump shots. When you add that to his defensive capability, he would be a great role player for New York.
In all reality the Knicks need a true center to play alongside Stoudemire, but they aren't going to get a quality one in free agency unless they substantially overpay. Rebounding was a major problem for the Knicks, and while Ronny Turiaf did the best he could in that regard, he is simply too undersized to play center effectively.
One player who wouldn't cost much and would be a big help in the rebounding department is Toronto Raptors forward Reggie Evans. While Evans is much too small to realistically play center at 6'8", he is extremely tough and uses great body positioning to crash the boards.
While Stoudemire would be the center in name, Evans can do the dirty work usually associated with the center. He has little to no offensive ability, but Evans averaged an impressive 11.5 rebounds per game while averaging just over 26 minutes played. That is an incredible rebounding rate, and it would really help the Knicks on the defensive end if he could keep it up.
After nine years with the Detroit Pistons, it seems as though small forward Tayshaun Prince will finally move on. The Pistons are in a rebuild mode, so a veteran like Prince likely isn't in the plans. While the Knicks are more in need of interior players and bench players, Prince could be highly useful as a sixth man or starter in a smaller lineup.
Prince is a small forward by trade, so he could probably move Anthony over to shooting guard so Landry Fields could come off the bench. Not only would the Knicks not miss a step offensively, but their defense would be significantly better as Prince's long arms make him one of the league's best perimeter defenders.
He would also bring a great veteran presence and a knowledge of what it takes to win. Prince and Billups were mainstays with the Pistons and succeeded in winning a championship in Detroit. Prince isn't the flashiest player, but he produces on both ends of the floor and could be the piece the Knicks so desperately need.