Marc Berman stole my thunder for this post today, listing a few of the cheap point guard options that will be available this off-season. I planned on taking the story a step further by looking over the options at all positions this off-season to see where the Knicks can poach some talent on the cheap. As has been discussed a few times before on this site, the Knicks are pretty thoroughly capped out thanks to the Anthony-Stoudemire-Chandler troika and using their amnesty provision on Chauncey Billups. Because the Knicks will likely use their mid-level exception on Jeremy Lin (AC discussed the potentially astronomical price for Lin yesterday, but I think the Knicks will likely match any offer for marketing reasons alone), that means the remainder of the roster will have to be filled out by players on minimum contracts.
Of course, there are certain roster assumptions that I’m making in writing this article in mid-May, so let’s take a look at the parameters I’m dealing with. The following players are either under contract next year or likely to have their non-guaranteed contracts picked up: Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas, Jerome Jordan, and Josh Harrellson. As mentioned above, I think Lin is coming back and I expect Jared Jeffries, who has expressed an honest love of playing in New York, to be back on a minimum contract. The Knicks will also have the 48th pick in the upcoming draft, so they’ll be able to fill in some gaps with that pick, especially considering the team’s surprisingly good track record of getting decent production from second-round sleepers (see: Fields, Landry and Harrellson, Josh).
Baron Davis (horrifying injury), J.R. Smith (probably going to opt out despite recent grumblings), Landry Fields (probably too expensive to re-sign according our recent twitter conversation with cap guru Larry Coon), Steve Novak (earned himself a contract above the veterans’ minimum with his play this year), and Dan Gadzuric (who cares, really?) are odds-on favorites to be goners. I’d have Mike Bibby back on a minimum deal if he’s willing to be a break-in-case-of-emergency (no fire extinguisher jokes, please) point guard next season, but, as we’ll discuss below, there seem to be enough veteran point guards with something left in the tank that Bibby might get squeezed out.
With the skeleton of the roster sketched out, let’s take a quick look over the potential free agents available next year, using this list from hoopsworld, which might not be super official, but is good enough for our purposes (also remember, we are only looking for players who will play for the minimum next year…I’m fully aware that a lot of these guys suck).
Frankly, with Douglas, Lin, and (eventually) Shumpert coming back next season, I don’t think that point guard is as thin for the ‘Bockers as it appeared by Game 5 of the Heat series, but here are some potential candidates:
- Raymond Felton – Having spent much of the year looking like he was moonlighting as a Rerun impersonator on off days, Felton hurt his stock significantly this year in Portland. He meshed well with Stoudemire in his brief stint with the Knicks, but his borderline All-Star play might have been the result of the D’Antoni Bump (which made Chris Duhon look mildly competent) more than his actual skill set.
- Kirk Hinrich – Solid perimeter defender who can play both guard spots, which will help the yawning chasm at shooting guard next year with Earl and Landry leaving. He can probably do a halfway decent impression of Shumpert while he rehabs and would give the Knicks a player who can spread the floor (career 38% 3PT%) with Novak off to greener pastures. This is the guy I’d target if I were the Knicks.
- Andre Miller – He might be too rich for the Knicks’ blood, but with his advanced age (he’ll turn 37 next season), teams might be scared off of giving him anything more than the minimum. I’m also an unabashed lover of Andre Miller’s game, having watched him way too much when I lived in Philly. He’s got huge brass Sam Cassell balls and is strong with the rock and sports an old man below-the-rim game that is bafflingly hard to stop. He could give us 130% of what Mike Bibby brought to the table.
- Jason Kidd – Honestly, if this guy is playing for the minimum next year, it’ll probably be with the Heat or someone a little closer to a title.
- Steve Nash – Sorry. I had to. If he will play for the Mid-Level, I’d happily kiss Jeremy Lin goodbye. He probably only has 2-3 more good years in the tank, but that’s precisely the length of this core’s window, with Chandler/Stoudemire and Anthony signed through 2015.
ALSO WORTH A LOOK: Jonny Flynn (beloved in MSG), Manny Harris (killed our season in Cleveland by hitting that nail-coffin three that ultimately guaranteed the Knicks the 7th seed), and Patty Mills (might be too expensive).
This and small forward are where the Knicks will be thinnest next year. If Novak, Landry and J.R. all leave, Grunwald and company will have to rebuild this spot from scratch while Shump Shump recovers from injury. Unfortunately, it’s slim pickin’s. The Knicks might be wise to offer Landry about $3M and deal with the “apron” for this season, after looking at this list.
- Mickael Pietrus – A blah player to me. He’d be fine for depth purposes but he’s not a guy I’ve ever been horribly impressed with and might be a disaster as a starter.
- DeShawn Stevenson – A solid defensive presence who could free up ‘Melo from having to spend enormous amounts of energy guarding the opponents’ best swingmen, but probably doesn’t shoot well enough to give the Knicks what they need, which is a player to spread the floor and create space to let the three stars work in the paint.
- Jodie Meeks – Meeks might be a nice fit if someone doesn’t offer him a long term deal. Every time I watch him he strikes me as a player who knows his role, stays in his lane, and just knocks down threes.
- Willie Green – Another solid, but unspectacular, veteran presence. He had an aberrantly high shooting percentage this year and torched the Knicks in Atlanta, so I might be overrating him.
- Jason Kapono – I suspect he might be too slow now to passably play shooting guard in the NBA (it was questionable at his peak), but I thought the same about Novak and small forward. If they can hide him on defense, he can create the space the ‘Bockers need.
ALSO WORTH A LOOK: Michael Redd (if there’s anything in the tank) and Carlos Delfino (but he’s probably too expensive and might just play in Europe if he doesn’t get a deal he likes stateside).
Obviously, the starting spot is taken, so the Knicks just need to find some depth. As bad as the available shooting guards are, the small forwards are even worse. The Knicks would be wise to use the draft to try and nab a swingman with that 48th pick, which shouldn’t be too hard to do. Point guards and big guys get snatched up, but the late stages of the draft are often lousy with small forwards.
- Grant Hill – Maybe he and Nash could be a package deal? That said, I expect that Hill will either stay in Phoenix, where the medical team has done wonders to resuscitate his seemingly-dead career and keep him remarkably healthy, or chase a ring super hard by signing with Miami, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Chicago, etc.
- Rasual Butler – Maybe I put too high a premium on perimeter shooting, but I think the Knicks really need to try and find someone to fill the Novak role. Butler has looked washed up the past few years, so I don’t have high hopes for the guy.
ALSO WORTH A LOOK: I don’t know. Um. Hubert Davis? Fred Hoiberg? Glen Rice? Seriously. Look at that list. The cupboard is bare.
As we saw toward the end of the season, Carmelo Anthony is remarkably efficient as a power forward. Stoudemire clearly fills the role as well, and Jeffries and Jorts give the Knicks significant depth at the power forward spot. If Jeffries does resign, this is not a position of need, but there are some decent options if Jeffries is lured away from the Garden.
- Kenyon Martin – There was a moment when the Knicks were deciding between Kenyon and J.R. Smith after their stints in China. Martin might be interested in coming back to the metropolitan area to team up with Carmelo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is willing to give him more than the minimum.
- Troy Murphy – He has looked horrifyingly bad this year for the Lakers (seeing only 6 minutes of action in the Lakers’ first round series so far), ceding playing time to former Knicks lottery pick and scrunchy enthusiast Jordan Hill, but we’re doing bargain basement shopping at this point – big guys come at a premium and get snatched up quicker than free pancakes at fat camp. When he was right Murphy cleaned up the boards and sunk three pointers, two skills the ‘Bockers could use some help with next season.
- Reggie Evans – Despite being a noted ball puncher and easily the ugliest player this side of Tyrone Hill, I LOVE Reggie Evans. He has a preternatural ability to read shots as they careen off the rim and has a motor that won’t stop. Of course, the downside is you’re playing 4-on-5 offensively when he’s on the floor, but if you gave Evans second unit minutes with Amar’e at the 5, that might just work. Having said that, he’s been pretty solid for the Clippers in the playoffs and someone might offer him good money to come make their players feel better about their looks next year.
ALSO WORTH A LOOK: Jason Thompson and J.J. Hickson – I’m lumping these guys together because they are both big bodies who have shown flashes, but haven’t found a place to give them consistent minutes. Given that they are both relatively young, someone will probably throw WAY too much money at them (like Amir Johnson and Charlie Villanueva before them), but if one of them slips through the cracks, I’d be thrilled.
If Jerome Jordan can make steps this summer, he might be able to fill in as the backup for Tyson Chandler, but the glimpses we caught of him (the finale against the Bobcats notwithstanding) have not been encouraging. He seems lost on offense and defense and has hands of stone. He’s cheap and he’s big, but not much else. Certainly Jorts, Jeffries, and STAT can masquerade as centers, but I’d like to see the front office try and get a legitimate backup center.
- Marcus Camby – I’ve wanted him back since the moment he was traded, but I suspect he’s in full ring-chase mode and there are a ton of championship-caliber teams who would love to have him.
- Hasheem Thabeet – Stop laughing. Are you done? Catch your breath. Ok? Ok. You could throw him on the Bayhawks to get some burn early in the year, and for one year and a minimum salary, he’s probably worth a flier.
- Kyrylo Fesenko – No doubt this guy is a stiff, but he’s a HUGE stiff (insert phallic joke here) who can eat up fouls and minutes at the end of the bench, despite the fact that local townspeople like to harass him like he’s Frankenstein, apparently. There just aren’t that many actual seven-footers out there, and Fesenko is one of them.
ALSO WORTH A LOOK: DeSagana Diop (again, big men get PAID, so we’re dealing with the bottom of the barrel), Solomon Alibi (I wanted the Knicks to draft him instead of Landry Fields, which is why it’s REALLY good I’m not a GM), and Joel Przybilla (a little too injury prone for my taste and probably content to stay in Portland, where the fans love him).
What does everyone else think?