Projecting NY Knicks' 2014 Free Agency Big Board

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIMarch 28, 2014

Projecting NY Knicks' 2014 Free Agency Big Board

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    The New York Knicks have shaken up their front office with the hiring of Phil Jackson, but he'll have his work cut out in his first offseason as president.

    Bringing back Carmelo Anthony will undoubtedly be the Knicks' priority, but regardless, improving the roster will be difficult given their lack of cap flexibility.

    As it stands, New York will have only the mini mid-level exception and the veteran's minimum to spend, unless either Amar'e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani decide to opt out of their contracts.

    The Knicks' glaring need this summer is a new point guard, but as always they could be in the market for frontcourt depth, given the injuries they've faced this season.

    Looking only at realistic options that address their needs, let's go through what the Knicks' free-agency big board should look like this summer.

8. Emeka Okafor

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    The Knicks' primary need this summer is a point guard, but it can't hurt to bring in some frontcourt depth with the veteran's minimum.

    Emeka Okafor was a starter for the Washington Wizards not long ago, but has missed the entire season with injury after being traded to the Phoenix Suns, so he could be available for cheap in free agency.

    There's no guarantee that the Knicks will get a productive player, but for the minimum it's a worthy risk to take, as he does still have the potential to be a quality back-up for Tyson Chandler.

    Given how New York performed when Chandler was out and Andrea Bargnani was given starting center duties, the Knicks need to bring in at least one more big this summer; and Okafor makes as much sense as anyone for the minimum.

7. Jermaine O'Neal

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    Jermaine O'Neal has had a comeback season in 2013-14, proving he still has a place in the NBA as a backup center.

    In 35 games with the Golden State Warriors, O'Neal has been averaging 13.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes, while shooting 50 percent from the floor.

    Even beyond his on-court production, O'Neal brings intangibles to the table, including leadership and experience, two things that New York has missed without Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace.

    While injuries are still a concern with O'Neal, he can be productive for up to 20 minutes a night, and for the veteran's minimum would be a fantastic addition.

6. Kirk Hinrich

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    When Derrick Rose returns to action next season, Kirk Hinrich will likely find himself on the bench, so he may be open to leaving this offseason if he can find a starting role elsewhere.

    In New York, Kirk Hinrich wouldn't fix everything, but if Raymond Felton does end up in jail, he can come in and provide comparable production for a fair price.

    Hinrich isn't the player he once was during his first stint in Chicago, but he can hit an open three and has the intelligence to run a coherent offense and would be a good fit in the triangle as a player who doesn't need to dominate the ball.

    If the Knicks take a slight pay cut (he's making $4 million in 2013-14) it would be money well spent, but ideally they should look for someone younger if they intend on making a long-term acquisition.

5. Shaun Livingston

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    After a horrific injury in 2007 and several years as a journeyman, Shaun Livingston has bounced back with the Brooklyn Nets this season, impressing at point guard with Deron Williams in and out of the lineup.

    Livingston isn't perfect and the injury still has a visible affect on his athleticism, but he's proven this season that he has the type of heart that New York has been missing at the point.

    This isn't a guy who's going to come in and completely change the franchise's fortunes, but he can compete for a starting job while providing solid defense and efficient offense.

    It will be interesting to see how Livingston is valued this offseason, as he's proven he can be a useful backup and potentially a starter for teams like the Knicks with limited options.

    With Deron Williams likely to be back at 100 percent next season, Brooklyn may be unwilling to pay Livingston, so the Knicks will be in contention to sign him if they want him.

4. Nate Robinson

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    The Knicks considered making a move for former point guard Nate Robinson last summer, but eventually opted to spend their mini mid-level exception on Pablo Prigioni and Metta World Peace.

    A year later, Robinson will be a free agent yet again, after impressing off of the bench with the Denver Nuggets before his season was cut short by injury.

    Robinson has a player option worth $2.1 million for next season, but the Knicks could still be in the mix, offering him a chance to compete for a starting role and more money, if they give away the full $3.3 million mini mid-level exception.

    While he wouldn't be a perfect fit, New York lacked energy and explosiveness this season, and that's something Robinson always brings to the table.

    If nothing else, he's good enough to fill a much-needed role off of the bench and step up for the occasional spot start when injuries call for it.

3. Darren Collison

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    Back in February, the Knicks were reportedly on the verge of trading Iman Shumpert for Darren Collison, which would have been a questionable trade knowing that Collison is set for free agency this summer.

    Bringing in Collison as a free agent, however, makes a lot of sense for New York. He brings speed, defense and starting experience, which is realistically all the Knicks can ask for with so little to spend.

    Collison is still young at 26 and is someone who can contribute for years down the line if he inks a long-term deal.

    The Knicks can offer Collison a slight pay raise from $2 million to $3.3 million which, along with the chance to start, could be enough to convince him this is the place he needs to be.

    All things considered, this is a move that will help New York now and in the future, and getting a player like this for such a fair price would mark a successful free-agency period, given the circumstances.

2. Andray Blatche

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    While the Knicks aren't exactly in need of a power forward with $54 million going towards Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, but Andray Blatche of the Brooklyn Nets would make a nice piece for the future.

    In a disappointing year for Brooklyn, Blatche has been uncharacteristically consistent, a sign that he's really turned the corner after a frustrating start to his career.

    Signing Blatche would be an indication that the Knicks' eyes are firmly set on rebuilding in 2015, rather than improving for next year, and that's a fair mindset to be, in considering their struggles this season.

    With Blatche, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. under contract (hopefully with Carmelo Anthony), the Knicks would have a nice, balanced and affordable core to build around when their cap situation eases up.

    For now, Blatche has a player option worth $1.4 million for next season. But 2014 marks the last year he's still receiving money from the Washington Wizards, so there's a chance he'll opt out in favor of a bigger contract this summer.

1. Mario Chalmers

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    In a league full of explosive superstar point guards, players like Mario Chalmers are undervalued.

    While he won't blow you away with his offensive output, Chalmers is quietly one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, which is exactly what the Knicks need at the position.

    If you've been watching New York at all over the past two seasons, you'll know that their inability to stop anyone at the point of attack is their biggest issue, but it can be fixed with Chalmers running the point.

    Chalmers is also a reliable three-point shooter and has steadily improved as a passer, which doesn't translate so well statistically because he shares duties with LeBron James.

    The problem here is that it will be difficult to convince Chalmers to leave the Miami Heat, where he starts alongside three All-Stars and has a shot at the title every season.

    Offering Chalmers the mini mid-level exception and the chance to have more control of an offense could be enough to give New York the edge, but the Heat do have his Bird rights, so it's still an unlikely outcome.