If I Were The Knicks GM, I’d…

With one day of the NBA’s 2010 free agency in the books, some developments have occured that might alter New York’s plans. What would I do with how the chips current lie?

Plan A – This is still LeBron James. A lot of speculation was that New York needed to sign James along with a second superstar to make a championship caliber team. Of course signing another top tier free agent would be ideal, it’s not necessary. First, New York has Eddy Curry’s contract that they can use in a sign and trade anywhere between now & the trading deadline. At worst they can let it expire & use that money to sign another player.

Second, I’d say that James, along with re-signing David Lee would make New York one of the best teams in the league next year. Why? New York theoretically could surround James (60.4% TS%) and Lee (58.4%) with Gallinari (57.5%), Walker (65.1%), and Toney Douglas (57.1%). That would be an incredibly efficient lineup. Although they might be lacking on the interior especially with rebounding at the 4, that would be one heck of a difficult team to shut down defensively. They could easily lead the league in offense with enough room to cover an average defense, much like D’Antoni’s 60 win Phoenix teams. Additionally Lee would give them some extra cap room to sign a few players for depth.

Plan B – See above, but substitute Dwayne Wade for LeBron James.

Plan C – Here’s where things from day 1 make it interesting. In the likely event that James and Wade go elsewhere, supposedly the Knicks were high on pairing Joe Johnson with another big man (Bosh? Amare?). But it appears that Atlanta has put the kibosh on that plan by throwing a max-ish offer at Johnson. (At this time the rumor is unclear if the offer is for the full 6 years, or just 5). New York’s backup option was likely Rudy Gay, but that option has been taken off the table by Memphis’ deal worth $86M over 5 years.

So let’s assume that LeBron, Wade, Johnson, and Gay are all off the table. What are the Knicks to do? The obvious option would be to bring back David Lee along with one of the top big men Amare Stoudemire or Chris Bosh. Bringing Lee back would be key, considering that he would likely cost less than Bosh or Amare, giving the Knicks the ability to sign another mid-tier free agent. Perhaps a player like Mike Miller or Josh Childress would come to New York for a discount. If not they should be able to land someone decent, if not one or more of the bargain bin players that Ted Nelson brought up earlier in the week.

A lineup of Stoudemire/Bosh, Lee, Gallinari, Miller/Childress, and Douglas with the bench of Chandler, Walker, Fields, Rautins, and James should easily make the playoffs. Depth would be a concern (especially at center & point guard), but the team would still have Curry’s contract to use for an upgrade at those spots.

Plan D – If Bosh and Stoudemire go elsewhere, the Knicks aren’t likely to have a good 2010. Their best option would be to make a trade for a superstar. Of course this is where Walsh’s mid-season trades hurt them, because they lost some assets they could have used in a deal. Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony could be possibilities, but the team inevitably would have to send their prized youngster (Gallo) along with a few other players. Depending on how this plays out, they could still have Lee (or not) and cap space (or not). The idea would be to grab a superstar now and hope to eventually surround him with talent. Paul or Anthony surrounded by marginal talent would be an upgrade for New York, but depending on the cast might struggle to win half their games.

Plan E – Hope New Jersey gets some free agents and wait for them to move to Brooklyn. Sell all my Knicks related stuff on eBay.

OK so it’s probably an overstatement, as the team would be best served by going lean for another year & hold onto their cap space. The worst part about this scenario is that Walsh’s past year would have been one big mistake. Not resigning Lee to a moderate contract, and trading some future draft picks (plus Hill) to get rid of Jeffries’ contract will have hurt the team tremendously. For another year they would be a losing team without the benefit of having their own first round draft pick. On the other hand, the team wouldn’t be hamstrung by a handful of overpaid players for the first time in what seems like a generation.

2010 Report Card: Bill Walker

When the Knicks traded Nate Robinson in February, Eddie House was supposed to be the centerpiece while Walker and J.R. Giddens were throw-ins. However D’Antoni seemed to sour on House, and Walker found himself in the rotation. He ended up with more minutes (739) than House and Giddens combined.

Walker doesn’t average a lot of points (15.4 pts/36 in 2010), but his efficiency (64.9% ts%, 62.5% efg%) is through the roof for a small forward. Only 10 players 6-6 or shorter had a true shooting percentage of 60% or better last year, and no one other than Walker was north of 62%. According to HoopData, Walker attempts the bulk of his shots from behind the arc (50%) or at the rim (33.2%); he doesn’t take a lot of shots in between those areas. So far his career NBA three point shooting percentage is a sizzling 42.7%. Walker relies on his hops to take the action to the cup, including converting a fair share of alley-oops. He moves better without the ball, and doesn’t cough it up much (his turnovers per 36 minutes were a minuscule 1.3).

Unfortunately that’s where the superlatives concerning Walker end. Despite his physical ability, he a sub par rebounder and a poor defender. The former was somewhat surprising considering his strong glasswork in the D-League. The latter makes it understandable why a defensive-minded team like Boston let him go so easily. Walker struggled with keeping guys in front of him, but considering his quick first step on offense the lack of athleticism isn’t the problem. Perhaps he’s not accustomed to the speed at the highest level.

Ultimately, Bill Walker is exactly what the Knicks need. A cheap player that won’t cost them much in 2011 ($850k) while providing efficient scoring. He has some flaws that make him more suited to come off the bench. Yet he’s still young enough (22) to improve, and even if not, is worth more than he’s being paid. And that’s something I haven’t been able to say often about the Knicks.

Report Card (5 point scale):
Offense: 4
Defense: 1
Teamwork: 3
Rootability: 4
Performance/Expectations: 5

Final Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

.000 Bill Walker 2010 TOT 14.6 64.9 62.5 15.4 0.7 4.1 1.9 1.1 0.1 1.3
.183 Josh Childress 2006 ATL 15.8 62.6 58.3 11.9 2.1 6.2 2.1 1.4 0.6 1.6
.190 Kevin Martin 2006 SAC 14.8 60.4 54.0 14.6 1.1 4.9 1.8 1.0 0.2 1.5
.297 Derek Smith 1984 SDC 14.0 59.1 54.7 16.7 1.5 4.7 2.3 0.9 0.6 2.2
.299 Michael Redd 2002 MIL 20.0 58.1 55.5 19.5 2.0 5.7 2.3 1.1 0.2 1.4
.348 Jeremy Richardson 2007 TOT 13.8 66.7 66.7 14.4 1.8 3.6 0.0 1.8 0.0 1.8
.361 Hassan Adams 2007 NJN 13.0 57.7 55.6 12.7 2.5 5.6 0.9 1.2 0.3 1.6
.369 Reggie Miller 1988 IND 14.0 58.0 53.7 16.1 1.9 3.7 2.6 1.0 0.4 2.0
.379 Andre Iguodala 2006 PHI 14.8 59.8 54.1 11.7 1.4 5.6 3.0 1.6 0.2 1.8
.387 Ronnie Brewer 2008 UTA 18.4 61.2 56.7 15.8 1.7 3.8 2.3 2.2 0.3 1.2
.396 Wally Szczerbiak 2000 MIN 15.4 57.1 53.2 14.0 1.5 4.5 3.3 1.0 0.4 1.4

For a guy that appeared to be a throw in to a trade, what an impressive list of comparables! It’s quicker to name the guys on his list that didn’t have good careers (Smith, Adams, Richardson) than to go through the positive ones. There is one big caveat however, none of these players are very comparable with Walker. The closest is about 3 standard deviations away. Considering how unique Walker is with regards to his scoring, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The question is whether he can keep up the same level of play. I’m dubious of his three point percentage remaining over 42%, but he shot 39.3% in the D-League so it should remain robust. Of course his defense and lack of non-scoring contribution will factor into his NBA future as well.