5 Most Realistic Free-Agent Fits for New York Knicks
When the New York Knicks look to bolster their roster in free agency, their list of potential targets has to be limited to who they can afford.
There's a glut of guards and wings currently on New York's roster, so shoring up the frontcourt will be a high priority. Since bigs are worth their height in gold, that means the Knicks are going to have to target specific skills on the open market rather than full packages.
Those cheap forwards won't turn the Knicks into immediate contenders, but after a dysfunctional 37-45 season in 2013-14, rounding out the corps will be a significant step in the right direction.
Let's address the major condition of the Knicks' approach to free agency: They'll have so little to spend because Melo is most likely returning to New York.
As Frank Isola reports in the New York Daily News, after Anthony met with the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, he is expected to stay in New York rather than chase rings elsewhere.
Anthony, however, appears committed to returning to New York, which has been his public intention since last October when he announced he would opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Anthony enjoys playing at the Garden and living in Manhattan. He recently was quoted as saying it would be difficult for him to make his young school-aged son move to another city.
The Knicks have Bird rights on Anthony and can therefore go above the salary cap to re-sign him. They lack the financial flexibility to go after another star free agent this summer on the open market. If they wanted to sign-and-trade, they would have to finish the deal under the cap and wouldn't be able to take back as much talent.
Bringing Melo back is the best and only real solution for New York to begin building the on-court product of Phil Jackson's Knicks around a long-term cornerstone.
Let's stick with the guys on last season's Knicks. Cole Aldrich will likely be lumbering through the paint wearing blue and orange in 2014-15.
Though there haven't been any reports to the effect of the Knicks agreeing to a deal with Aldrich, there is one pretty clear indication that they are looking to bring him back.
When New York announced its summer league roster, he was one of four 2013-14 Knicks named to the team—though he is the only one of them not currently under contract with New York.
Even if it's inevitable, Aldrich's signing will be important to watch for in terms of how it will affect any other pickups the Knicks can make.
He was finishing up his rookie deal as a former lottery pick when he played in New York last season, but with career averages of 2.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, he's due for a pay cut. The minimum is very much in play for him.
That said, he's effective on the boards and as a physical man defender in his small doses of run. He'll still sign cheap regardless, but if interest in Aldrich's blue-collar play drives his price above the minimum, New York won't have the full mini-mid-level exception to spend on someone else.
One exception to the focus on forwards: New York could go after another three-and-D point guard as it transitions into a triangle offense.
The Knicks point guards leave a ton to be desired defensively.
Jose Calderon can shoot and distribute at a high level, but he's a major liability on the other end. Pablo Prigioni has the instincts and wiles for the job, but the 37-year-old lacks the athleticism to keep up with his man, especially over extended stretches. Newly acquired Shane Larkin has the athleticism and skill, but at 5'11", he's inches shorter than the prototypical triangle point guard.
An old friend could help the Knicks out with that.
Toney Douglas is 6'2", a persistent on-ball defender and a solid spot-up three-point shooter. In his original stint in New York, he struggled as a facilitator, but the triangle does not require the point guard to be a big assist generator. He would fit in much more naturally now.
Crucially, he doesn't fit in as a point guard for the majority of other teams in the league. That would allow New York to sign him for well below the mini-mid-level exception, if not the minimum, should Jackson and company decide to go that route.
Though Mike Scott is a restricted free agent coming off a second-rounder's contract, if the Knicks were to offer him the entire mini-mid-level exception, the Atlanta Hawks, who just drafted a stretch forward in Adreian Payne in the first round, would likely not match.
At 6'8", 237 pounds, Scott doesn't have great size for a power forward and won't be an asset on the defensive end, but he's nifty as a scoring option on the second unit. He can finish around the rim and beat defenders from the post despite his size, and he can pull his man out to the arc with his long-range ability.
He will only help in spurts, though. When he's on from three-point territory, he can be a legitimate threat, but he's just a 31 percent shooter from there. If he joined Derek Fisher's roster, the new coach would need to use a quick hook on him.
A streaky, undersized forward leaves a lot to be desired, but bigs who can shoot run pricey. To be able to land one on New York's slim budget would be a coup, limitations and all.
He might not have a three-point stroke—he is just 1-of-15 from beyond the arc over the past four seasons—but Jason Smith is a true 7-footer with some mid-range utility.
Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that the Knicks have looked into signing Smith, whose value will remain in the team's price range due to his injury issues over his six-year career.
Smith has appeared in 60 or more games in just two prior seasons, and he has played only 122 of 243 possible regular-season games since 2011-2012. His maladies have been varied, from a torn ACL during his early days with the Philadelphia 76ers, to a severe concussion and a torn labrum, among other pains, with the New Orleans Pelicans.
When healthy, he's a nice energy guy off the bench who can body up down low—though he's not a strong rim protector even considering his height—and offer some capable scoring around the rim and a bit with 15-footers as well.
If he can stay on the court for the first time in years, Smith could be a steal for the Knicks. And with their free-agency situation, they have to go after any bargain they can find.