NBA Free Agency: Pair of Former Pacers Should Be New York Knicks' Top Targets

Keith Schlosser@KnicksJournal Analyst IDecember 7, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 23: Jeff Foster #10 of the Indiana Pacers and Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls battle for position on a free-throw in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Conseco Fieldhouse on April 23, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers defeated the Bulls 89-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The New York Knicks will open training camp this coming Friday, surely prepared to continue their elevation into a legitimate contender.

Due to the NBA lockout, an official “offseason,” complete with free agency was pushed back, thus preventing teams from formally bringing back any existing free agents, as well as looking at different options to further improve their squad.

As a result, the free agency period will instead begin on Friday, the same day teams will begin to train for the upcoming season. This means teams like the Knicks will be left without a complete group going into camp, leaving questions about the roster unanswered.

Injuries to the likes of Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups seemingly prevented the Knicks from making a deep run in the playoffs, as one would like to believe that if the team were healthy, they could have provided more of a challenge for the Celtics.

In any event, an injury-free Knicks squad may simply be a few moves away from becoming a contender. With two superstars already in place like Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, helping the team get to the next level may simply be done with a few moves addressing pressing needs, rather than reeling in more star power.

For example, Ronny Turiaf provided the team with tremendous energy and an aggressive physical presence whenever he hit the hardwood. The only problem was that Turiaf didn’t hit the hardwood so often, experiencing various injuries that limited his time on and/or kept him off the court.  That, paired with Turiaf’s lack of production, perhaps implies that he’s better in spurts, giving the team a much-needed boost.

With Turiaf already in tow, and dominant scorers already occupying spots in the starting five, an All-Star big man is not as necessary. All that is needed is a big man (preferably one that can rebound and help anchor the Knicks’ weak defense) that will ultimately share time with Turiaf down low.

During his tenure as Knicks’ President, Donnie Walsh clearly cemented his legacy by luring Stoudemire to the Big Apple as well as orchestrating the trade that brought Brooklyn native Anthony home. When he wasn’t making flashy moves, however, Walsh further made his presence felt, acquiring former Pacers he previously had faith in while working for Indiana. The likes of Al Harrington, Jonathan Bender, and Shawne Williams all saw Walsh give them second chances by bringing them to New York.

Though he now simply assumes the role of consultant for the team, Walsh hasn’t let up, and is reportedly trying to lure yet another Pacer to play for the Knicks.

The New York Post is reporting that Walsh has reached out to Pacers center Jeff Foster, one of the dirtiest and most intimidating players in the league, about the prospect of filling a void in New York.

While he’s not the big name Knicks fans are used to seeing the team recruit, Foster is the type of player the team has lacked (and therefore craved) for years. Able to start or come off the bench, Foster’s overbearing physical nature could provide the current Knicks lineup, one that otherwise features all offensive firepower, with a nice balance.

Foster has expressed interest in staying with the Pacers, the team for which he has played all 12 seasons of his NBA career. That being said, Walsh’s recommendation to instead don orange and blue, along with the Knicks' ability and willingness to offer him their full mid-level exception, could be enough to lure him away.

Should he sign with New York, perhaps Foster will join his former teammate Shawne Williams, who spent last season with the Knicks and ended up having a career best campaign. A late addition to the roster, Williams was relegated to the end of the bench early on while he found his rhythm in Coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, eventually finishing strong with career high averages in almost every category, such as points (7.1), rebounds (3.7), three-point shooting percentage (.401) and minutes (20.7) through 64 games.

Further examining the Knicks’ need to fill certain voids, bringing Williams back into the fold seems like an imperative move. After the team’s depth was blown up and the bench was subsequently decimated following the trade for Anthony, Williams found himself somewhat anchoring the team’s bench. His uncanny ability to consistently hit the corner three-point shot when he received passes from teammates who drove into the lane proved to be an invaluable skill as well.

Still just 25 years old and having experienced off the court troubles, Williams has not been in the league for too long. With that said, perhaps a little consistency and a steady team to call his home base may help enhance Williams’ game enough for him to average double-figures off the pine. As a player that certainly will not demand a large salary this season, Williams seems like an ideal piece for the Knicks to re-sign, making sure he doesn’t venture off elsewhere.

Former Pacers teammates Jeff Foster and Shawne Williams are still not the type of names NBA fans will see shinning in bright lights. Having said that, every small group of NBA stars certainly needs a supporting cast to help propel their team to the next level. Foster and Williams are absolutely two low-risk, high-reward options that will provide the Knicks with a phenomenal balance to their lineup while addressing needs of the type of players necessary to surround STAT, ‘Melo and company with. This is why both former Pacers need to be at the top of the Knicks’ free agent wish list. 

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