As a team paying the luxury tax, the New York Knicks are going to find it difficult to improve their roster when the 2013 offseason rolls around.
Under the new CBA, taxpayers face big disadvantages. They can't complete sign-and-trades anymore, and their mid-level exception drops from $5 million to $3 million.
For the Knicks, they will have this exception, a late first round draft pick and a bunch of veteran's minimum contracts to work with over the summer.
But it's not all doom and gloom for New York. It won't be easy, but they can still bring in some difference-makers with the few resources they have.
If they can pull it off, Mozgov would be the perfect player to bring in with the taxpayers' exception. He fills the need of a durable back-up center, and will be able to relieve Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire—both of whom are currently out with knee injuries.
Mozgov hasn't played much this season, with George Karl favouring JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos, but he's a player that plays tough defense and cleans the glass.
He is a restricted free agent, but considering how little he's played, it's hard to see the Denver Nuggets being too desperate to keep him.
Other teams could offer him a little more than the Knicks can, at which point they will have to look elsewhere for a center. Elton Brand, Jared Jeffries and Jason Maxiell could be realistic alternatives.
Once they fill that need, the Knicks can move on to putting together the rest of their roster. It's too early to go into much detail about this, but it will start with re-signing J.R. Smith.
The guard has a player option for $2.8 million which he would be wise to reject, allowing him to hit free agency. Smith can make a lot of money on the open market, and since the Knicks have his early-Bird rights, they can offer him a maximum of $5.15 million.
That isn't very much compared to what he could probably get elsewhere, but New York will have to hope for a hometown discount. If not, it will be just about impossible to replace him.
Beyond that, there's the draft. The Knicks are in need of a youthful, athletic back up point guard, so it would make sense to address that need their. A late first-rounder should be enough to get them what they need.
The Knicks currently have nine players signed for 2013-14, so the taxpayers' exception, re-signing Smith and using the draft pick brings the roster to 12.
That leaves the Knicks with veteran's minimum contracts to fill the last three spots. They could re-sign any three of Rasheed Wallace, Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin, Kurt Thomas and Chris Copeland, or just look elsewhere for younger upgrades.
It's not an ideal situation by any means, but if New York can bring in a player like Mozgov over the summer, there's still a chance for them to bolster the roster.
For now, though, the Knicks still have a chance to compete in the East this season, and that has to be the primary focus for the franchise.
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