After making a splash in late June with the acquisition of Derrick Rose, the Knicks still have some work to do. Let’s take a look at what the Knicks top priorities should be heading into free agency.
Find a starting shooting guard: Arron Afflalo chose to opt out of his contract this summer making him an unrestricted free agent. Afflalo didn’t see eye to eye with then interim head coach Kurt Rambis (who is still on the staff by the way) and ended up coming off the bench a lot toward the end of the season. That didn’t sit well with Afflalo and was one of the factors that lead to him making the decision to opt out. Some have speculated that the Knicks purposely benched him to give him a nudge toward the door of sorts. Now the Knicks must shift their focus to replacing Afflalo. The Knicks can’t settle for player who “could start.” They need a legitimate off guard who can defend and space the floor for Rose, ‘Melo, and Porzingis. Some players available at that spot include Nic Batum, Courtney Lee, Evan Turner, and Bradley Beal to name a few. Batum would probably be the best fit. He has spent most of his career playing the small forward position but is more than capable of playing the two. Batum is an above average shooter and defender and is also a willing passer and aggressive rebounder. He would fit nicely on this team.
Sure up the front court: After trading Robin Lopez as part of the Derrick Rose deal, the Knicks now need a center. Porzingis projects to be their center in the long run but he’s not there yet and having a guy come in for 3 or 4 years to bridge the gap is a necessity for the Knicks this summer. There has been a lot of talk about Rose’s former teammate and New York native Joakim Noah coming to the Garden. Noah would be a fan favorite without question due to his intensity and passion on the floor. He’s an excellent defender and rebounder and is one of the best passing big men in the entire NBA. The two issues with Noah are the fact that he hasn’t been healthy, much like his former teammate Rose, and it’s been rumored that the Washington Wizards are prepared to offer Noah a max contract. The Knicks can’t afford to do the same. If the Knicks offered Noah the max, that would eat up $26 million of the available $30 million that the Knicks have in cap space. With so many other holes to fill on this roster, offering a max contract to Noah just doesn’t seem logical. Hopefully Noah will be willing to join the Knicks on a bit of a discount but if not, the Knicks will have to look elsewhere. Other options could be Zaza Pachulia, who played very well for Dallas last year, Pau Gasol, another former teammate of Rose, and maybe Al Horford, although Horford would also command a max salary.
Find a legitimate backup point guard: Everyone knows the injury history of Derrick Rose. While he was relatively healthy last season, appearing in 66 games, the Knicks can’t afford to rely on him to stay healthy all year. Finding a backup point guard who has experience as a starter is a must for the Knicks this offseason. There are plenty of options when it comes to that description and some of them could be had for a cheap price. Mario Chalmers started for Miami and won two championships while playing alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. His experience in the playoffs and playing alongside All-Star talent could make him extremely valuable to the Knicks. Other options the Knicks could look at could be Aaron Brooks, whom the Knicks have had interest in in the past, Jerryd Bayless, D.J. Augustin, Ty Lawson, and even, dare I say, Jeremy Lin. Brooks and Augustin have played backup point guard to Rose in Chicago and both filled in admirably in his absence. The Knicks flirted with the idea of bringing Lawson to New York just this past year when he was released by Houston. Jeremy Lin, believe it or not, would probably be the best option aside from maybe Chalmers. However, after having a very good year with Charlotte in 2015-16, Lin could come at too steep a price for the Knicks. There are a lot of options out there but the Knicks can’t afford to go into next season with Langston Galloway as their only backup point guard.
Get consistent bench players: This is an area where the Knicks have struggled recently. Last year was a step in the right direction with guys like Lance Thomas and Derrick Williams providing some solid bench play for the Knicks. They would like to re-sign both Thomas and Williams but that may not be a foregone conclusion. It would be in the Knicks best interest to go out and get one or two guys who have experience and a track record of coming off the bench. Players like Jamaal Crawford, who’s still effective at the ripe old age of 36, Brandon Bass, Mike Miller, and Gerald Henderson are all guys who have made a nice living as bench players on good teams. The Knicks might want to take a look at some of these guys so they can put to rest the fear of their bench losing games for them.
The shopping list is long for Phil Jackson and while the Knicks do have cap space, it won’t be easy to fill all their needs through free agency alone. The Knicks president will have to get creative if the Knicks really want to make a splash in the offseason and a push for the playoffs. Get your popcorn ready because this summer is going to be a very interesting one in the NBA.
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