The New York Knicks had an eventful 2015 draft to kick off the next stage of their rebuilding process, headlined by their selection of Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4.
Along with selecting Porzingis, the Knicks were also active on the trade front, sending Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for No. 19 pick Jerian Grant and giving up two future second-round picks to the Philadelphia 76ers in order to draft Guillermo Hernangomez at No. 35.
With free agency ahead, the Knicks' work is far from over. There are still plenty of holes in the starting lineup and on the bench, but their moves in the draft offer some clarity on the direction they're going with this offseason.
At 7'1", Porzingis has the flexibility to play at power forward or center, giving the Knicks some freedom in how they decide to round out the frontcourt. With Carmelo Anthony also able to be deployed at either forward spot, New York could feasibly add a starter at any of the three frontcourt spots.
Being a relatively unknown European big, Porzingis hasn't had the best reception so far from Knicks fans, but drafting him was a smart move by Phil Jackson, who has already compared him to a young Pau Gasol.
His size, athleticism and shooting ability mean he could develop into one of the NBA's more difficult frontcourt matchups. But since he's only 19 years old, with a slim frame, his immediate impact will be limited.
In the backcourt, the addition of Jerian Grant gives the Knicks a perfect triangle prototype point guard. Grant stands at 6'5", and is known primarily for his court vision and basketball IQ. Along with Langston Galloway, he could also form a potent defensive pairing.
Giving up Hardaway, however, means the Knicks are now in need of at least a couple of extra wings. For now, both Galloway and Grant should be penciled in as the starters, but the Knicks should really be looking for an upgrade at the 2-spot in free agency.
Meanwhile, with Hernangomez, it appears the Knicks have themselves a stash-and-keep player. The 21-year-old center played with Porzingis in Spain for CB Sevilla last season, but there is currently no news on when he plans to make the move to the NBA.
Full contract details for Porzingis and Grant are not yet available, but based on the rookie scale they should be making roughly a combined $4.6 million. Along with Melo at $22.9 million, Jose Calderon at $7.4 million and Galloway and Cleanthony Early each at $850,000, that puts New York's payroll at $36.6 million.
With the salary cap projected to be $67.1 million, that leaves the Knicks with $27.5 million to spend in free agency once cap holds at $500,000 each for six empty roster spots are accounted for. The free-agency period officially begins on July 1, with a week-long moratorium period before deals can be completed.
The Knicks' first order of business is to decide what to do with Calderon. Having kept their pick and traded away Hardaway, the chances of getting rid of his contract via trade are slim.
Instead, they have the choice to either keep him around as a veteran presence and three-point shooter or waive him with the stretch provision to save an extra $4.4 million in cap space for this summer. The latter would involve the remaining $15 million on his contract being spread out evenly over five years, as opposed to the two years he's currently on the books for.
As overpaid as Calderon is, it may actually make the most sense to keep him for the time being. His experience will be useful to a young point guard like Grant, and despite being a rebuilding team, the Knicks still need veteran leaders. As a career 41 percent three-point shooter, his ability to spread the floor is also essential to have around now that Hardaway is gone.
Once free agency opens up, the Knicks should make a run at LaMarcus Aldridge, who according to Howie Kussoy of the New York Post has them among the teams he's interested in joining, along with the San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers. He would demand a max contract of $19 million, taking a hefty chunk of the Knicks' cap space.
In reality, the Knicks probably don't have enough to offer on the court right now to convince Aldridge to join over title-contenders like the Spurs and Hawks, but there are other options out there if it doesn't work out.
According to Frank Isola of the NY Daily News, Greg Monroe to the Knicks is already close to a done deal, and he could be that missing piece in the frontcourt. His post game, passing ability and girth make him a great fit in the triangle, and with Porzingis—who has the potential to be a legit three-point shooter and rim defender—on the roster, the Knicks could eventually pair Monroe and Melo without having too worry too much about defense or congestion in the paint.
In a career year with the Detroit Pistons in 2014-15, Monroe averaged 18.5 points and 11.9 points per 36 minutes, shooting 50 percent from the field. The extra space he'd find in the Knicks' frontcourt could be great for his development.
Monroe would demand a max contract with a starting salary of around $15 million, which is a steep price to pay but is ultimately par for the course when it comes to young, talented big men. Signing him would still leave $12.5 million to add help on the wing.
According to Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling, David West could be an alternative in Monroe's price range, with the power forward opting out of his contract with the Indiana Pacers. At age 34, he'd ideally only be a short-term addition to keep the Knicks competitive as they rebuild.
He has a similar post-heavy game to Monroe and would fit alongside Melo and Porzingis in much the same way. Defensively, however, West brings more to the table as a leader, which could be invaluable to New York given how much it has struggled on that end in the absence of Tyson Chandler.
On a two-year deal (or thereabouts), West would be less risky than Monroe, and by the time his contract expires Porzingis could be ready to take on a bigger role. As an expiring contract, he'd even make good fodder in a potential trade scenario.
With the remaining cap space, New York should look at Wesley Matthews and Danny Green. Both are high IQ players and solid shooters from outside, with experience on playoff teams.
Playing ahead of Galloway in the shooting guard rotation, either player would also offer a steadying presence alongside Grant, if he does end up starting at the 1 immediately. For either player, the Knicks will probably be looking at spending around $8-10 million.
The leftover cap space will then be enough to add a role player, and with the room mid-level exception of $2.8 million, a second could be added. That kind of money should be enough to re-sign Alexey Shved and Andrea Bargnani for the bench unit.
Beyond that, the Knicks could look to bring some of the other members of last year's squad back on the minimum salary for smaller parts. The likes of Lou Amundson, Quincy Acy, Cole Aldrich and Ricky Ledo could all make effective role players pushed further down in the rotation.
Fans may have booed the Porzingis selection, but with so much to spend and two high-level prospects already under wraps, the Knicks are set up for a successful offseason. They will finally have flexibility in free agency, with the opportunity to add a pair of starters and lay the foundation of a deep, well-rounded roster.