So, with the first chaotic week of Free Agency in the books, we’ve got a little bit better idea where the Knicks stand going into the ’12-’13 season. And, at the moment, the Bockers stand at 12-1 for an NBA title with the Vegas odds makers per a graphic ESPN made up. It feels great to be considered in that class of elite teams, but the front office’s work is not done for the offseason, so I wanted to take a quick look at what’s gone down and where the Knicks should be going next.
First, let’s address the big stuff. Both the Knicks and the Mavs had the dream of landing 2 out of the Nash/Kidd/Lin group of free agent PGs (after of course Dallas’ ill-fated temptation of Deron Williams). Miraculously, it looks like the Knicks, and not the 2011 Champion Mavs, are the ones to pull off the 2 PG haul, which just blows my mind, because that type of stuff never happens to the Knicks. Granted, Nash was a FAR superior option to Kidd at this point, but the mere thought of never seeing Zombie Mike Bibby taking the floor in a Knicks’ uni again just warms my heart… which is ironic, because his heart hasn’t been warm in years. While still a little uncertainty exists surrounding the specifics (whether Kidd’s deal is going to be for the Mini MLE or a sign & trade) it seems fairly safe to say that Lin and Kidd will be the PGs in Gotham for the next 3 years. Mark Stein was quoted as saying a source with knowledge of the Knicks thinking said the Knicks would match up to 1 billion dollars for Lin…. So I’m thinking $30 mil is right in their wheelhouse. We will have a point/counterpoint to the Kidd signing shortly so I won’t steal their thunder, but I will say I was in favor of the Kidd signing for a variety of reasons. As much as anything, he has morphed his game into being a spot up shooter (always a positive with the Bockers’ front court scoring), will have a ton of wisdom to impart on the 23 year old Lin, bring a bucket of intangibles to the table and is still one of the greatest passers on the planet. Take a look at his teams’ performance when he is surrounded on the floor by excellent shooters; it’s incredible. Place him on a second unit with Novak and JR (more on them in a second) and you’ll have a dangerous offensive second unit. Hopefully the deal is for the MLE, so Grunwald still has the ability to package those contracts in a sign a trade elsewhere for more help. If it is ultimately in a sign and trade, we may give him more money than first anticipated (or he deserves), although we would still have the mini MLE to use. Either way, we should be able to bring in at least one more impactful piece.
As far as Lin goes, bringing him back had to be done, for a bunch of reasons. We have no other choice and Daryl Morey has apparently fallen asleep at the wheel this offseason, because the construction of the offer sheet the Knicks need to match could have been SOOOO much worse. The details appear to be roughly $30mil over 4 years, with a TEAM option for the 4th (which is at about $10mil). So, the team’s 3 year window is firmly in place, and if it isn’t working at that point, there will be about a zillion dollars in expiring contracts to move and rebuild quickly. As much as everyone hated to miss out on Nash, for basically the same money in year 3 of that deal, I’d be willing to say that the difference between a 26 year old Lin and 41 year old Nash is probably going to be a lot closer than people are giving credit for at the moment. With Kidd to mentor him, Lin can grow into his contract, making the MSG cash registers ring all the while. Remember, he’s only 23, and has effectively played half a rookie season at the NBA level after playing Ivy League competition in college. The point (guard) is, anyone who looks at Lin as a finished product is out of their minds. Yes, the turnovers are a problem, but see the prior point; how many rookie PGs would struggle with turnovers trying to run a complicated offense with very little prep time and no training camp? The defense was a problem at times as well, but no one does more defensively with less physical talent (at this point in his career) than Kidd, so he should be able to teach Jeremy the finer points of defending with your head. With Lin’s outstanding athleticism, that should translate into a solid defender, above his already impressive ability to get in the passing lanes and create turnovers on the perimeter with his quick hands. As far as the only other significant flaw in his game, his shooting, that is something that takes time to develop (again, Kidd is a great example) and he will get there in time. We may look back at this Lin contract in 3 years and be doing back flips we can secure him for a 4th year at a salary right around $10 mil.
In terms of filling out the rest of the roster, there is still work to do. Novak has made no indication in his numerous interviews that he wants to be anything other than a Knick, and barring some huge change of heart or crazy offer, he’ll be back in NY. His perimeter shooting will be a big part of the 2nd unit again and a massive weapon at Kidd’s disposal. My man (typed with as much sarcasm as possible) JR Smith will likely be back as well. I couldn’t be more conflicted over this move. On the one hand, he was atrocious in the playoffs last year, and seems to have no ability to play within the confines of a team game. He’s good enough to win you games by himself, and bad enough to kill you on any given night. And, he’s the reigning world leader in long, ISO 2 pointers, the worst shot in basketball. But, for what would be a contract of roughly $3 mil, he is way too talented to not bring back, and the Knicks’ hole at 2 guard is way too glaring to not address. Part of that is because Fields is all but gone to Toronto with the absurd offer sheet Colangelo threw at him to try and eliminate the Knicks ability to sign and trade for Nash. Unfortunately for the Raptors, it didn’t work, Nash went to LA, and now Fields will be making huge money to clank jumpers for them long after Colangelo is fired. Although we are simply talking about Jimmy Dolan’s luxury tax money since we can go over the cap to match on Landry, I still think there is almost no way to fathom matching Fields’ offer sheet; it’s simply that excessive. So, thanks for the good times Landry; it’s been fun. Enjoy the 20 million Loonies.
It’s also expected that Jared Jeffries will be back for the vet minimum, a move I’m fine with, provided we can secure another big to allow JJ to come in and play balls to the wall defense for 15 minutes a night without being depended on to stay out of foul trouble and play a bigger role. Give Tyson a breather, take a ton of charges, and do the little things you do JJ, and we’ll be cool.
So, currently the Knicks roster projects as the following in my eyes:
|Starters||2nd unit||Deep Bench/Other Assets|
|SF||Melo||Novak||James White||Medium Fish|
Clearly, Shump is the starter at the 2, but we need another perimeter shooter who can play D in Shump’s place, lest JR take that starting role. Additionally, I’ve been screaming for it since the season ended, but we need another big that can bang. Yes, Melo can, will and should play a ton of 4… but Tyson and JJ need help. Probably why I nearly cried when Reggie Evans signed across the bridge in BK for a very manageable salary. We should have been all over that like Reggie Evans on some guy’s nuts during a loose ball. It was also why I was upset we didn’t move up to draft Bernard James, who could have filled that role immediately and effectively. If Kidd’s deal is for the MLE, Grunwald can still execute a Sign & Trade with our slew of unguaranteed deals (Gadzuric, Jerome Jordan, Jorts) and Toney’s expiring contract, up to roughly $6 mil or so. If his deal is ultimately a S&T, then hopefully Toney isn’t included so A) my boy is still on our roster and B) Kidd isn’t making more than say $10 mil over 3. Either way, we should be able to still target a SG and a PF, one with MLE type money, and another at the vet minimum.
For the guards, there are still a lot of things to be worked out, but Randy Foye’s name has been brought up as a possibility. Foye would be a nice fit since he is an excellent shooter and can handle in a pinch. Foye has been said to be very interested in the Knicks for the MLE, and with Billups and Crawford inking deals in Clipperland, he won’t be back there. He should be extremely high on our radar for guards. We have also been linked to OJ Mayo, who is a talent I would certainly gamble on if given the opportunity, but there is no way he signs for the MLE, so the only way that would get done would be a S&T. Still, he would be a good fit and capable of starting at the 2 while Shump rehabs. I’d also love DeShawn Stevenson if the Nets made him available, as he is basically the 2 guard equivalent of Reggie Evans… you know a guy is hard when he charges his boys $4.50 just to use the ATM in his kitchen… Just try and read that sentence again without laughing. We’ve also been connected with Sonny Weems (pass), and there has been support on our internal emails for Kirk Hinrich. For my money, I think Foye is the guy.
For bigs, I’ve been saying it since last year, but can we PLEASE get Kenyon Martin in here? Although he won’t lose his starter’s role, Amar’e belongs with that 2nd unit as the inside, offensive focal point with Kidd delivering the ball and JR and Novak spreading the floor. So, we need a big capable of playing bully between Melo and Tyson, who doesn’t need the ball to be effective. Enter Kmart, who can probably be had for something close to the veteran minimum. If not Kmart, I would love to see Marcus Camby back in a Knicks uni (partly so I can finally wear his jersey in public again without people thinking I’m still trying to hold on to the 90s). Camby will probably take more than the MLE, so if we sign Kidd for the MLE and deal for Camby in a sign and trade, that could work, especially with Daryl Morey going all Lord of the Rings on future cap space all the sudden. If not Kmart or Camby, maybe we look at a guy like the Vanilla Gorilla, Joel Przybilla, who might accept a vet minimum deal or something close to it. Just someone that can rebound, set hard screens and get physical is the key for this spot, as they should hopefully be the dirty work guy that gets STAT’s minutes with the first team as he leads the 2nd shift offense.
In an ideal world, we resign JR (I can’t believe I just typed that), Jeffries & Novak, look to land a guard like Foye and big or two like Kmart, and get ready to go to battle for the 2 seed for the next 3 years. At the very least, securing our PG position has been a great start… now time to see how far Kidd and The Kid can take us…