New York Knicks: If Chauncey Billups Leaves, Which 2011 FA Do They Pursue?
First, the Knicks were so high on Chauncey that they were not only going to pick up the option, but were considering an extension past 2012.
Hold on. Just a few days later, the extension talk evaporated and was replaced at least with a verbal guarantee that the team would pick up Billups' option for 2011-12.
Before you know it, that dissipated along with Knicks' victories. On March 27th, at the tail end of New York's recent 1-9 streak, James Dolan, Donnie Walsh & Co. ran in another direction. Now, it looked like the Knicks would buy the point guard out for $3 million at the end of the season and put the money towards getting a desperately-needed big man.
Hold on again. The Knicks have won five in a row now, barely escaping Philadelphia last night as New York saw a late double-digit lead dwindle to a deficit after Billups left the game with a bruise.
What to do? What to do?
The 34-year-old Billups is still good enough to wonder if anyone available is good enough to replace him next year. Only thing is, it will cost over $14 million to keep him. Hopefully, that salary will be "grandfathered" in to any new CBA-trimmed salary cap.
Billups is important and will show his worth in the playoffs, so if the Knicks pan the option, it will be for one reason only: save money and sign a center. They wouldn't be looking to upgrade the point guard position because there really aren't any point guards of Chauncey's caliber available in 2011 (barring another big trade).
Not so in 2012 when the point guard free agent market goes from famine to feast (Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, D.J. Augustin, Raymond Felton, Jameer Nelson and more). The timing would be perfect if the Knicks keep Chauncey one more year, then shed him along with his cap-restraining contract. But, oh, that salary.
Still, I think the Knicks need to hang on to him, but if they do decide to use the money to go big and take their chances on this summer's free agent market for a point guard, here's the best of what they'd be looking at. Slim pickings indeed.
Earl Watson (Utah Jazz)
Career: 10 years. Per 36: 11 P, 7.1 A, 3.6 R, 1.6 S
2010-11: Per 36: 8 P, 6.6 A, 4.2 R, 1.4 S
Pros: Cheap ($600K-$1M). Will leave at least $12 million in the Knicks coffers. Brings veteran experience.
Cons: Essentially will be a sacrifice of the point guard position for a premium center. Watson is no longer a consistent starter and is in the waning minutes of his career. May do more harm than good.
Mike Bibby (Miami Heat)
Career: 13 years. Per 36: 15.8 P, 5.9 A, 3.3 R, 1.2 S
2010-11: Per 36: 11 P, 4.3 A, 3.1 R, 0.8 S
Pros: Practically free ($300K-$500K). Will leave almost the whole of Billups' salary to play with. Brings veteran and considerable playoff experience. Still able to run a floor and play 30 minutes if not expected to be big contributor. Durable enough. Can occasionally score in double figures.
Cons: While a better option than the more expensive Watson, Bibby is a substantial downgrade from Billups. Bibby is younger than Billups, but seems and plays older. His poor assists average will hurt the Knicks.
Sebastian Telfair (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Career: 7 years. Per 36: 12.1 P, 5.9 A, 2.5 R, 1.2 S
2010-11: Per 36: 13.5 P, 5.6 A, 2.7 R, 1.3 S
Pros: Fairly cheap ($2.7M-$3.5M). Good defender. Smart player. Can score. Could be signed for multiple years.
Cons: Inexperienced. Plays relatively fewer few minutes. Career bench player for the most part. Will take time to transition to and be able to lead D'Antoni offense.
Mario Chalmers (Miami Heat)
Career: 3 years. Per 36: 10.8 P, 4.9 A, 3.1 R, 2 S
2010-11: Per 36: 10.4 P, 3.7 A, 3.4 R, 1.8 S
Pros: Fairly cheap ($1M-$3M). Very good defender, which the Knicks could use. Promising, though as yet unrealized, potential. Could be a long-term project/investment.
Cons: He's the enemy. Immature. Numbers have consistently slid the last three years. Needs work on running a floor and needs to pass more. Miami turned to Bibby to bail them out, not a good sign.
Shannon Brown (Los Angeles Lakers)
Career: 5 years. Per 36: 15.2 P, 2.3 A, 3.7 R, 1.4 S
2010-11: Per 36: 16.5 P, 2.1 A, 3.6 R, 1.6 S
Pros: Relatively cheap ($4M-$6M). Excellent scorer. Not bad from three and can take it to the hoop, too. More like a shooting guard than a point, but can still manage the floor. He's big and plays defense. Doesn't turn the ball over. Would be welcome long-term project/investment. Knows how to play with superstars and on winning teams. Comfortable in a major market.
Cons: Would cost more than market value to lure him from Hollywood and the possibility of more rings with Kobe (he's already got two and holds the option). He'd rather shoot than pass.
Rodney Stuckey (Detroit Pistons)
Career: 4 years. Per 36: 16.3 P, 5.4 A, 3.9 R, 1.3 S
2010-11: Per 36: 17.3 P, 5.7 A, 3.6 R, 1.3 S
Pros: Relatively cheap ($4M-$6M). Fierce competitor. Sharp and quick. Does it all from top to bottom: manages floor, scores, assists, defends and rebounds.
Cons: Drama. Signs are there he is a malcontent. Will cost more than market value to pry him from the Pistons who have right of first refusal.
Jose Juan Barea (Dallas Mavericks)
Career: 5 years. Per 36: 14.8 P, 6 A, 3.7 R, 0.8 S
2010-11: Per 36: 16.5 P, 6.6 A, 3.5 R, 0.7 S
Pros: Pretty cheap ($2M-$4M). Solid all-around career which is on the upswing. Superb floor manager who can get the big men the ball. Excellent ball-handling helps him evade defenders. Can score for sure.
Cons: Defense is an afterthought and his diminutive stature doesn't help. Gets loose with the ball sometimes.
Aaron Brooks (Phoenix Suns)
(Lookin' good, Dirk.)
Career: 4 years. Per 36: 18 P, 5.2 A, 2.7 R, 0.8 S
2010-11: Per 36: 18.1 P, 6.4 A, 2.2 R, 1 S
Pros: Pretty cheap ($3M-$5M). Very strong and consistent scorer. Unselfish. Three-point expert who led the league last year in treys made. Would fit right in with D'Antoni's scheme.
Cons: Weak on the defensive side of the ball. The Knicks will need to get past restricted status, always a challenge.