Welcome to the Knickerblogger free agency roundtable! Whilst we wait for the Melo-choly Dane to make up his so-called mind, we’ll chat about where things stand. Our lovely and talented contestants are Angus Crawford, Robert Silverman, Dan Litvin, Chase Thomas and Taylor Armosino. Let’s delve!
The Knicks’ primary vehicle for adding talent to the roster in this free agency window is the Taxpayer Mid-Level exception, scheduled to carry a first-year salary of $3.28M in 2014-15, per Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ. Given that the market is flooded with teams hoarding cap space, who should be on the Knicks’ shortlist for the mini-MLE?
Angus Crawford: The starriest name of all to be tenuously linked to the Knicks is Pau Gasol, a former disciple of Phil who would have to be amenable to a discount in the range of $15M per year, in order to call Manhattan home. Patty Mills was a nice thought before his injury news broke, but that was never likely to eventuate. I’d take a long look at Hornets forward Josh McRoberts, who’d be receiving a slight raise on his 2014 salary with the taxpayer’s MLE. He functions as one of the league’s premier passing forwards, and could slot nicely into the triangle alongside any number of players. McRoberts canned a career-high 105 threes at an above-average rate this past season, too, adding versatility and a few extra lineup options.
Robert Silverman: Obviosuly, Gasol would be a great get, but he’s going to get better offers from teams that are closer to contending, like Oklahoma City, Miami, and Chicago. I’ve always been a big McBob fan, and it’s not just because he looks like a super-sized Charlie Day, and adding a shotblocker/interior defender with upside like Ekpe Udoh has some appeal. Then again, unless it’s a player of Pau’s caliber that’s willing to take a seriously below market value deal, I would prefer the Knicks hoarded their 2015 cap space, especially since they just took a Calderon-sized, 5 million dollar bite out of it (Jose’s contract minus what they would have spent on Felton) in the Chandler trade.
Dan Litvin: The Knicks aren’t taxpayers anymore. Moreover, I think they’re far enough under the apron that they can use the full MLE. While this would hard cap them, it would open up some options. I’m not sure exactly who the Knicks should target, but I think that while the Chandler trade may have improved the team overall, I do think they need some more defense up front. I kind of like the idea of Pau Gasol, although he’s not the player he once was, and I’m leery of handing out too much cash heading into next summer and the summer after that.
Chase Thomas: Steve Blake is the first name that comes to mind here. Yes, the Knicks traded for Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin, but the team could really use a point guard familiar with the Triangle, and Blake fits that bill. Pau Gasol would be taking a big pay cut, but he’s obviously another very intriguing target for the Knicks. Vince Carter, Francisco Garcia, Danny Granger, Thabo Sefolosha and Emeka Okafor round out my not-so-short list.
Taylor Armosino: As a team that needs to be adding cheap role players that can contribute for multiple seasons, it’d be smart for the Knicks to look towards younger free agents who might be willing to sign multi-year deals that include either team options or qualifying offers. Such free agents include Ekpe Udoh, Al-Farouq Aminu, Lavoy Allen, DaJuan Blair and Jimmer Fredette. Of that group, Aminu, Blair and Udoh intrigue me the most. I like Josh McRoberts as well.
Rank the following criteria for prospective additions to the roster, in order of importance: youth, fit for the triangle offense, positional need, cost, ability.
AC: Youth, ability, triangle fit, cost, need, in that order. The Knicks’ need to start fermenting young talent in-house has been long overdue, and is even more pressing with the grim outlook for the upcoming season. I expect that the autonomy brought in by operating an independent D-League franchise will help to cultivate this process. Heck, even a “nothing” move like purchasing the rights to the 57th pick in last week’s draft–French center Louis Labeyrie who, by all accounts, is likely to never appear in the NBA–is a positive development. You may as well utilize every available avenue to find potential contributors.
RS: This is a transition year, regardless of what happens with Melo. Like I said above, one year deals for borderline talent are going to weigh more heavily than a few WARP’s. Take risks on more Jeremy Tyler/Toure’ Murry types. Roll the dice on two year contracts (with the 2nd year a team option) and see if you can pick up a developing talent for cheap.
DL: Keeping in mind that while this year, the Knicks can make the playoffs (if they keep Melo), it’s still a transitional year–a bridge into the next two seasons–I’d rank it this way: cost, length of contract (had to add that in), followed by some balance of the rest.
CT: Cost, ability, youth, fit for the triangle, positional need.
TA: Obviously all are important, but I’d go: 1. Ability (especially defensive), 2a. Triangle fit, 2b. Youth, 4. Cost, 5. Positional need.
How do you assess the value of creating an extra roster spot via either A) negotiating a buyout with one of the Knicks players holding an expiring contract (Bargnani, Stoudemire, Dalembert, Ellington etc.), or B) utilizing the stretch provision for the remaining two years and $12,382,125 on J.R. Smith’s contract?
AC: I raised the idea of stretching Smith’s contract last week, a move that would pry open nearly $4M in additional wiggle room next summer, if kicked into gear before the start of 2014-15. Smith’s cap figure would be reduced to approximately $2,476,425 if the Knicks’ front office elected to go down that path, though the notion of paying for his services through to the end of 2019 isn’t particularly enticing. At very least, it’s worth considering, but I don’t anticipate it’ll happen. Instead, the Knicks currently have eight (!!!) guards attached to their roster–if you include Murry and Shannon Brown–so a small exodus on that front is more likely.
RS: I wouldn’t stretch anyone on the roster, including J.R. Look at the contracts that guys that can catch and shoot are getting. 19 million for Jodie Meeks from the Pistons? Orlando dumped 4.5 million in Ben Gordon’s lap because… I have no idea why. Given this kind of inflation, you can find a taker for Smith’s contract if need be. Or, hey, there’s even a chance that he might thrive in the Triangle. If you want to buyout Bargs and/or STAT, because the team’s in full rebuild mode, sure. Then again, if you’re tanking, giving heavy minutes to ‘Drea and Amar’e at PF/C would work quite nicely in that regard.
DL: On J.R., I wouldn’t stretch him. Salaries for wings appear to be engaged in an inflationary frenzy. Ben Gordon just got $4.5M. Jodie Meeks got 3 years/$21 million. I’m not the biggest J.R. fan, but if he was a free agent this season he’d be commanding at least what he’s being paid on his current deal and probably more. That’s significant because he has an opt-out after this year and I think he’s likely to use it to try to get a long term deal. With respect to the first part of your question, I think if the Knicks can identify someone they’d rather have, then sure, buyout or waive someone they don’t need (Bargs, I’m looking in your general direction.)
CT: Utilizing the stretch provision would probably be the better option of the two.
TA: If I wanted the Knicks to be good, I’d say they should work to buy out Bargnani, and probably Stoudemire as well. That said, if Carmelo Anthony walks, I want the Knicks in full tanking mode. Play Bargnani 47 minutes a game next to Stoudemire and give up 4000 points a game. It’s the smart thing to do.
Earlier this week, the Knicks declined to extend a qualifying offer to Toure’ Murry, making him an unrestricted free agent. Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported, however, that they are still interested in retaining the second year guard. Should the Knicks move to re-sign Murry?
AC: Murry had fleeting moments last season before being banished to Mike Woodson’s doghouse. I think he’s deserving of a bigger shot than the 373 minutes of (mostly) garbage time that he was dealt in his rookie campaign. He played double figure minutes on only four occasions after February 1, and two of those arrived at the very tail end of the season. The concern is that the salary cap juggling that led to the Knicks rescind the QO–and the expected interest from rival teams–might just price them out of the Murry market.
RS: Maybe. I could be wrong about this (HELP! LAWYER! LARRY COON!), but I think if the Knicks had extended the QO for Toure’, it would’ve come out of the funds they have to spend as part of the mid-level exemption. Is that right? I think it’s right.
(Checks math) Got it. Murry’s deal would have come out of the mid-level but only if they are playing in the match this afternoon, and then they would have had to move their clothes down onto the lower peg immediately after lunch, before the Knicks wrote their letter home, if Phil Jackson is not getting his hair cut, unless J.R. has got a younger brother who is going out this weekend as the guest of another boy, in which case, collect his note before lunch, put it in the Knicks’ letter after Phil’s had his hair cut, and make sure Steve Mills moves their clothes down onto the lower peg for them.
But I could be wrong about all that, especially the haircut. Yeah, I’d like them to re-up Toure’ on another non-guaranteed deal.
DL: Not sure. I know a lot of people really like Toure’. I do like his moxie and hustle, but his playmaking and shooting seem wanting (caveat: eye test here). The Knicks already have Calderon, Larkin and Prigs. I wouldn’t mind adding Toure’ back to the mix but he likely wouldn’t see a lot of action. Moving on may be best for him too.
CT: Murry was a surprising bright spot for the Knicks backcourt last season, but with Jose Calderon, Pablo Prigioni and Shane Larkin in the backcourt re-signing Murry probably isn’t necessary. The Knicks will probably sign one more rotational point guard, but it should probably be somebody familiar with the Triangle, like Steve Blake, who Phil spoke very highly of in LA.
TA: Murry showed some nice promise as a possible 3rd point guard that can play some defense. However, he struggled offensively and doesn’t look to have a ton of upside there. I don’t think he moves the needle much. I’m indifferent.
Pick one: re-signing Carmelo Anthony to the maximum available contract (five years, $129M), or pursuing a sign-and-trade scenario with one of Anthony’s suitors.
AC: Ugh, that fifth year. Carmelo Anthony would be 35 years old at the conclusion of said max contract, making the price tag all the more burdensome. There has been talk of a “bidding war” among his suitors, setting up a juicy S&T competition for the Knicks. One problem with that: Melo himself would have to be receptive to the idea of joining any two of those teams. A max contract is just too much and stretches over too many years, at this point. In this hypothetical, I’d gauge the availability of other teams’ assets, whether it be current players (i.e. Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Chandler Parsons), future picks, or stashed prospects.
RS: Bye Melo.
DL: I am NOT a big fan of resigning Carmelo to a max deal, that will pay him close to $30,000,000 as he approaches his 35th birthday. While the cap is projected to go up, his salary will escalate by an even higher percentage, and will likely consume the same proportion of the cap throughout the length of the deal. While it’s probably not impossible to build in this context, there’s no question that having one player consume so much of your available spend will create challenges.I don’t think it would be the end of the world, by any means, to retain a player of Carmelo’s caliber. But I can definitely see the appeal in bottoming out, landing a top pick, and restructuring from scratch.
CT: This is tough, but I’d probably re-sign Melo the max rather than take one of the sign-and-trade options that’s been thrown out there. Sure, the Harden for Melo possibility is intriguing but I don’t think that’s realistic because Morey has wanted three stars all along and Melo would be the final piece to the puzzle. In a perfect world, Melo re-signs for less than the max, but that’s probably not going to happen, so the next best thing is probably to just re-sign him at the max and try to make a splash next summer when Bargs and Amar’e come off the books.
TA: Literally every single other possible scenario is preferable to re-signing Anthony to a mega-max deal. Even something lousy like taking back Carlos Boozer’s expiring and a bunch of second round picks would be better than having Anthony make $29.2M at age 35. There will be better free agents available in 2015 and ’16. Anthony fits nicely in the triangle, but he’s just not worth a mega-max contract.