Free agency is around the corner for the Knicks, who’ll have plenty of work to do to re-haul the roster and incrementally augment the talent level of the team. Bryan Gibberman and Charlie Zegers go through some interesting names in play for New York.
Bryan: The NBA season is officially over with the Golden State Warriors earning their third championship in four years. The push forward to catch Golden State continues for the best, while the Knicks hope to build up towards something as simple as respectability.
Two tools for the Knicks to make that improvement are going to be the 2018 NBA Draft and free agency.
The Knicks most likely will only have their $8 million exception to use in free agency and they shouldn’t shy away from giving out a multi-year deal(s) in a suppressed market that will look like steals once the league is flushed with money again in the near future.
It’s never a bad idea to spend money on good players that represent solid value. A good player can always be moved to open up cap space if that becomes a necessity later on down the line.
Here’s a list of free agents I think the Knicks should show interest in this offseason:
Center: Jerami Grant, Kevon Looney, Nerlens Noel;
Wing: Joe Harris, Mario Hezonja, David Nwaba (RFA that I think ends up being a tad too pricey or would take up the entire $8 million);
Lead Ball Handler: Seth Curry
Charlie, what are your thoughts on the low-budget list, and are their any players out there that you would deem worth it to open up cap space for to make a big move?
I spent much of the last few weeks helping my kids prep for their final exams, so forgive the academic simile…but this feels like one of those multiple-choice questions where most of the answers feel like they could be the right one.
It would be a lot easier to predict Scott Perry’s free agent targets if not for two nagging facts:
- The Knicks need pretty much everything
- The Knicks’ roster is pretty much full
As things stand, the Knicks have the following players signed for next season:
Guards: Ron Baker, Trey Burke, Damyean Dotson, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina;
Forwards/Centers: Enes Kanter, Joakim Noah, Kyle O’Quinn, Kristaps Porzingis, Lance Thomas, Troy Williams
That’s 13 players for 15 roster spots, not counting this year’s draft picks and last year’s two two-way contract guys, Luke Kornet and Isaiah Hicks.
Unfortunately, the guys that would be easiest to clear from this list—Burke and Williams are on non-guaranteed contracts—are players Perry probably wants to keep, while the guys he’d most like to dump—Noah, in particular—have the contracts only slightly less cumbersome than the albatross from that famous poem/Iron Maiden song.
So where do any new additions fit? I’m guessing the Knicks trade Lee, that Kanter and/or O’Quinn will opt out (my money’s on O’Quinn), and that they part ways with Noah in September. I’m also guessing that they draft a wing player in the first round, bring back Kornet, and are forced to take back a shorter-term bad contract in any Lee deal.
In that scenario, Perry would have a roster looking like this:
Guards: Baker, Burke, Dotson, Hardaway Jr., Mudiay, Ntilikina, SECOND ROUND PICK, BAD CONTRACT;
Forwards: Kanter, Porzingis, Thomas, Williams, LOTTERY PICK
That would give Perry a little bit of flexibility to chase a low-cost veteran or two on short, inexpensive “make-good” contracts. Of the players you listed, Nerlens Noel really fits the profile of a Perry acquisition—impressive draft pedigree, not much to show for it as of yet. And in a perfect world he’d make some sense playing next to Porzingis.
My best case scenario has Perry taking a page from the Yankees’ Brian Cashman playbook: Wait, see how the market develops, then sneak in later in the process, when prices are dropping a bit, and pick up the NBA equivalent of a Neil Walker and a Brandon Drury. (It’d help if he also nabbed the equivalent of an Aaron Judge in the draft and a Didi Gregorius in a Lee trade, but I’ve been a Knicks fan too long to expect that sort of thing.)
A guy neither of us brought up is bringing back Michael Beasley. I’m a firm “no,” despite him playing well when put in the right context.
Out of the players I listed there are two that’d I’d put up above the rest.
Let’s start with Jerami Grant. His ability to defend guards and wings on the perimeter would allow you to keep Porzingis closer to the basket to defend the rim. Grant can work as the dive man in the pick-and-roll to create a vertical threat for the guards and his explosive leaping ability helps him be a solid finisher off dump offs at the rim. It also give the Knicks roster another and athlete on the roster.
No. 2 on the list is Mario Hezonja. Hezonja was drafted by Perry when the Knicks’ general manager was in the Magic’s front office, and Mario finally showed some offensive flashes when give the opportunity this season. The still-23-year-old averaged 14 points on 46 percent shooting, 37 percent from three with 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.7 turnovers in the 30 games he started. By all accounts his defense is still a mess but he’s flashed enough positive that’d he’d be a nice 3/4 hybrid to invest some time in.
I put Beasley in the same category as Lee: there’s a place for him in this league, but not on the Knicks. I’d only bring him back on another very short, very inexpensive deal, and I think he played well enough last season to merit a better deal than that.
(I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he landed on a contender next season.)
I’m a big fan of Grant—but I sort of suspect he has a lot of fans these days, and I worry that will inflate his price out of the Knicks’ range. I forgot about Perry’s connection to Hezonja—he does seem a likely option, as does Noel.