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In case you missed the memo, the NBA is back! And if it hasn’t already, the feeling will be sure to kick in once free agency officially begins this Friday December 9, 2011.
The Knicks head into the 2011-2012 season with their best roster in a decade. That isn’t an exaggeration, that, to me, is as factual as any of my opinions are ever going to be. But despite having a roster headed by perennial All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire (not to mention wiley ol’ clutch veteran, “Mr. Big Shot,” Chauncey Billups as well), the Knicks lack depth as a team, which is something they will try to address prior to the regular season tipoff against the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, their dream aspirations of landing superstars Chris Paul or Dwight Howard (or even Steve Nash) through a trade are very unrealistic at the moment because there’s a lack of trade assets to tempt a potential trade partner, and a lack of salary cap flexibility. The Knicks’ only plausible roster amendments for this off-season are going to have to come via free agency – on what many would consider a weak free agent class.
The most glaring weakness the Knicks have is certainly their defense, having ranked 27th in opposing points per game in 2010-2011. The Knicks will have their eyes on an abundance of available centers out there on the market. In all likelihood, they’ll be looking to get anyone who can play defense, rebound, hustle, do dirty work in the post, and sign relatively inexpensive for a short-term deal.
Here are some available names that would fit that bill: Kwame Brown, Joel Pryzbilla, Kurt Thomas, Aaron Gray, Reggie Evans, Chuck Hayes and Jeff Foster.
On a separate note, are these two bigger names at center, that are also free agents, but are going to cost a whole lot more: Tyson Chandler, Nene, and Samuel Dalembert.
These three top the free agency class as defensive minded centers, and already figure to be pursued by handful of championship caliber teams. There is no question these three are a class above the rest of the remaining centers that would be of interest to the Knicks. The Knicks may very well go after these three big name centers, but, only if they are willing to give them more money for more years, which is something I’m not so sure they’re willing or be able to do, knowing the likes of Paul, Howard, Deron Williams and other stars are likely to all be free agents next summer.
There are a list of names that will be restricted-free agents, but truthfully, almost none of them are going anywhere, nor will they be anywhere near affordable for the Knicks.
Some of those names include DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, Brandon Roy, Wilson Chandler, Nick Young, J.R. Smith, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and Jeff Green.
These following players are a remaining group of available free agents that the Knicks may consider to fill out their roster with: Grant Hill, J.J. Barea, Anthony Parker, Kris Humphries, Shannon Brown, T.J. Ford, Troy Murphy, Mike Bibby, Michael Redd, Sebastian Telfair, James Jones, Chris Wilcox, Kenyon Martin, Josh McRoberts, Al Thornton and Mike Dunleavy. Out of these names, the Knicks could definitely take a few of these pieces and put them together to create a highly improved bench.
It’s very unlikely Caron Butler will be in the Knicks’ price range, as he is arguably the best available free agent. The same can be said for David West, who also isn’t exactly an ideal fit in New York, being a power forward and nothing more. Other notable free agents such as Andrei Kirilenko, Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Carl Landry, Shane Battier, Tayshaun Prince and DeShawn Stevenson also figure to seek a multi-year deal that would exceed the Knicks’ budget.
According to the NY Post, the Knicks already plan to re-sign Jared Jeffries. Jeffries has good defensive versatility, an asset the Knicks desperately lack.
The Knicks group of free agents are all unrestricted; Roger Mason, Jr., Shawne Williams, Anthony Carter, Sheldon Williams (aside from Derrick Brown, who is now restricted after the Knicks gave him a qualifying offer a few months ago). Of the group, the Knicks will be most interested in bringing back Shawne Williams, who played a significant role off the Knicks bench last season.
As we saw in the first-round playoff elimination to the Celtics, Toney Douglas, Landry Fields and Rony Turiaf aren’t going to cut it being the main three complimentary pieces to Melo, STAT and Big Shot. And don’t get me wrong, because all three are going to be vital pieces for the Knicks this year, but they can’t be asked to do more than they are capable of like they were. Other commodities can be had for those roles – the Knicks and their front office (led by new GM and President of Basketball Operations, Glen Grunwald) need to go do so, and then, maybe, they can start to worry about adding that third superstar in CP3 or Superman.