Free Agent Bargain Bin

The attention is rightly focused on the big gun free agents, but it’s also fun to think about potential cheap free agency steals. The Knicks could use some bargains to fill out the rotation no matter how they fair with the bigger name free agents.

It’s not easy to know what offers various free agents will receive, but here are my (mostly subjective) rankings of the top players I assume may be had at relative bargain prices:

(Honorary mention #1 LeBron James… even at the max  LeBron is the biggest bargain in the entire league.)

#2 Craig Smith

Should be among the most underrated free agents: he’s both productive and in his prime. Doesn’t have tons of upside, but is a relatively sure thing. Most other bargains are young with no history of production or old without much left. Smith has consistently produced on bad teams for both the Timberwolves and Clippers. He scores efficiently and is a fairly stout defender, though his rebounding is mediocre and he turns it over a bit too much. Craig is among the most productive undersized 4s out there and should be a solid 4th or 3rd bigman. Lack of a jump-shot probably turns D’Antoni off.

It’s hard to imagine Smith getting more than the $4 million Brandon Bass got last offseason. He’s only about 6’6.5” in shoes, so teams are likely to have their reservations. Additionally he only averaged 16 mpg, leading to an unimpressive per game line of 8 and 4. Guys without impressive per game numbers often get overlooked by conventional GMs.

Similar Player Comparison

#3 Ian Mahinmi

There’s very little track record, but Mahinmi comes in 3rd (2nd really) because it’s unlikely he costs much (Spurs declined a $1 mill+ option for next season), his very limited track record is impressive, and he’s still got big upside.

For some reason Gregg Popovich just would not play Mahinmi. The conventional wisdom is that the Spurs have a loaded frontcourt, but until they added McDyess and Blair last offseason that really wasn’t the case. So I assume there is some sort of b-ball IQ/work ethic/attitude/injury issue. A red flag since the Spurs are smart and Pops usually gets the most from good players. However the Frenchman is crazy athletic, only 23 years old, and stands 6’11.

In the 165 minutes he earned in 2010, he managed 22 pts, 11.3 reb, and 1.7 blk per 36 minutes, with a very healthy TS% of .667. Of course some of that occurred in garbage time, but it’s very intriguing nonetheless. In 07-08 he put up similar numbers in the D-League. He’s got the feeling of a Jermaine O’Neal level hidden gem.

If Mahinmi can get it together enough to get on the court, he might be a good fit at C for D’Antoni: basically, he’s an athletic freak who finishes strong at the hoop. Has the potential to be the interior presence the Knicks have been desperate for. Even if other teams bid up his services to, say, the $4-7 mill per year range, I would consider spending short-term dollars on Mahinmi before I spent long-term dollars on Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson, and some of the other big name FAs.

Similar Player ComparisonBrad Miller’s 22 year old rookie season is another one.

#4 Shaun Livingston

Plenty of question marks, but might have put it all together last season. The biggest question with Livingston is whether he can stay healthy. Once thought to have HOF potential, Livingston’s upside is now closer to solid rotation player. He’s not a good jump shooter, so D’Antoni may not love him, but he’d be a good backcourt partner for Douglas on paper. Livingston can run an offense, but at 6’7” he can defend shooting guards.

Shaun is a low-volume scorer and was efficient last season, but in fairness it was a small sample. (Despite having no 3-pt shot, he’s primarily a jump-shooter and shot well on jumpers last season.) Solid playmaker, but TOs are a big problem. Livingston’s biggest strength is versatility: he can play PG on offense and SG on defense, allowing him to complement a smaller combo-guard who plays the SG on offense and PG on defense. Toney Douglas is such a player. (Jaycee Carroll too.) Livingston might be had cheap, since the Wiz have filled up their backcourt. We’ll see if last season was a fluke or a sign of things to come… and that’s what you want to be saying about bargain bin free agents (not highly paid ones…).

Similar Player Comparison Unfortunately, to date, closer to Marko Jaric than Doc Rivers or Penny. If we’re talking minimum salary, a 25 year old Jaric is a good value. If we’re talking $4-5 mill per… not as much.

#5 Dorell Wright

Wright is a 24 year old coming off a good season where he made $2.75 million. Should the Knicks have $3-5 mill left over perhaps he’s worth a look. If he ends up with no offer but the veteran’s minimum, then he’s a steal. There’s a lot of redundancy with him and Bill Walker, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Fields… so the Knicks resources are probably better spent elsewhere. I think Wright will be a solid FA bargain for someone, though.

Wright is similar to Wilson Chandler. Dorell is low-volume/medium-high-efficiency, while Wilson is medium-volume/medium-low-efficiency. Otherwise Wright was as good as or better than Chandler in terms of defense, shot blocking, stealing, rebounding, TOs, assists, etc (despite the prevailing homerism, Chandler is just not a very special player). Wright’s 3-pt shot took a huge step forward in 2009-10 after missing most of 08-09. He’s already shown the outside shot that we’re all hoping Chandler will develop by 24 years old.

Wright is a strong defender who I would also compare to Mickael Pietrus. He could fill the wing defense/ outside shooting role (Bowen, Bell, etc.) quite well (also MUCH better finisher than Bowen or Bell). Play either the 2 or the 3 depending on situation. A solid, well-rounded NBA rotation player entering his prime. Should Chandler be used in a sign-and-trade, Wright could instantly replace his production at a slightly higher cost. A change of scenery could do Wright some good. I bet San Antonio steals him for, say, 3-4 years $3 mill per.

Similar Player Comparison

#6 Ben Wallace

We all know Ben: big on defense, not so much on offense. Not a typical D’Antoni guy, but the Knicks were desperate for some interior D last season and might be again next season. Ben played for the minimum in Detroit last season, playing pretty well for an otherwise soft, underperforming Pistons squad. His DPOY days are over, but for the minimum there may not be a better interior defender. Detroit was 8.6 pts/100 possessions better defensively with him on the court last season and 1.6 pts/100 better offensively. Their rebounding went up on both sides of the ball, they blocked more shots, and teams had a harder time scoring 1-on-1. Wallace and LeBron have a relationship from Cleveland, no idea if that’s a plus or a minus… Of the washed up veterans, Wallace is probably my favorite (Maybe Kurt Thomas #2).

Knicks Draft Prospects

Today’s article is by lifelong KnickerBlogger commenter Ted Nelson. It won second place in the “Can You Be A KnickerBlogger?” Contest

The draft is an afterthought in NYC this year, between the bright lights shining on free agency and the Knicks lack of a first rounder. The Knicks do, however, have two picks early in the second round at 38 and 39. Your chances of finding a quality NBA player in the second round aren’t great, but the 2010 draft is still a legitimate chance to add talent. With only a handful of players likely to return, the Knicks need talent. (The Knicks may also choose to add a first rounder through a trade.)

While the pickings are usually slim in the 2nd round, there is still NBA talent available. Current NBA stars picked in the 2nd round include Manu Ginobili, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Monta Ellis, Luis Scola, and Michael Redd. And there are a host of contributors of lesser stature who fell to the second. All four of last season’s conference finalists had at least one rotation player who was not taken in the first round.

There is a reason players fall to the second round, though. If they were home run draft picks they would have gone in the first. It’s often a discrepancy between a player’s performance and the scouting report on their skills. Sometimes a kid comes in as a top recruit with all the skill in the world and fails to impress, but in other cases a mediocre athlete who doesn’t even look like he could hang at the local Y tears it up in college or Europe.

Below are 18 prospects projected to go anywhere from the late first to undrafted, organized along the lines of categories that commonly bread second round success. It’s hard to predict who will be on the board when the Knicks picks come up. It’s unlikely that all of these guys will be on the board at 38, but some of them will be.

Character Questions

These guys have the skill to play in the NBA, but can they deal with the mental grind and be productive members of the team and community?

Examples: Ruben Patterson, DeAndre Jordan, Andray Blatche, Glen Davis–weight

Lance Stephenson Cincinnati 6-4/5 210 G 19
Stephenson has a big ego and doesn’t like to share the ball. However, he’s also a great athlete with good basketball skills. Watching Cincinnati-West Virginia in the Big East tournament I was pretty convinced that Stephenson was the best NBA prospect on the court… even with Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks also on the court.

Stephenson has the handle of a PG and size/scoring ability of a SG. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a PG mentality and maybe not the mentality to be an efficient scorer at the 2. He can be a plus defender at either back-court spot. Ultimately the defensive side is where a lot of his value should come from. Whether he can develop the mentality necessary to be a reasonably efficient scorer within a team structure is the question.

If he’s still on the board when the Knicks pick he’s a difficult talent to pass up: by that point in the draft there are only so many guys about whom you can say “he clearly has the talent to play in the NBA.” If there are other good options on the board, though, he’s really easy to pass up. I would say that personal interviews go a long way towards judging who Lance Stephenson really is. His stock is understandably volatile and it’s not clear whether he’ll be one of the first guys taken in the second round or go undrafted.

Renardo Sidney Mississippi State 6-10 275-400 PF 20
Sidney was a big-time recruit–#1 in his class at some point–who couldn’t get on the court due to NCAA rule violations. Never mind that a bunch of old guys making millions off the labor of student-athletes like him suspended him for profiting from his ability, his lacksidasical attitude and weight gain during the suspension are legitimate causes for concern. He’s a 6-10 PF who has been compared to Chris Webber, so by the 2nd round he’s a very intriguing prospect. After taking a year off it will be interesting to see where he’s at developmentally. The whole reason for the age limit was to see how prospects would do against better competition, but with Sidney we don’t have that.

To me it’s pretty similar to Stephenson, where if there’s nothing else that intrigues you on the board take a shot if the kid shows you something in interviews/workouts. Probably even riskier than Stephenson, but he’s 6-10.


Billed as lottery picks entering college or even their final season, but didn’t live up to the hype or build on their previous season. Now they’re projected to go in the 2nd round. Can they bounce back and justify that lottery hype? Or is their slide justified?

Examples: Chase Budinger, Bill Walker, Chris Duhon

Willie Warren Oklahoma 6-4 207 G 20
Warren had a good freshman year as Blake Griffin’s side kick. The expectation was that he’d emerge from Griffin’s shadow this season and become one of the top players in the country. It didn’t happen. It’s not really that Warren played a lot worse. He just didn’t get better and the Sooners didn’t win. His TOs sky-rocketed and his very solid 3 pt shot turned into a liability. One more season might have helped him set the record straight and guarantee a first round spot. Then again, a bad season might have dropped him out of draft consideration all together.

Warren is a combo-guard who can score the ball and defend either back-court spot. Wouldn’t fill a need with Toney Douglas on the roster, but may be too good a talent for the Knicks to pass up if he’s still on the board. An NBA player.

Craig Brackins Iowa State 6-10 230 PF 22
After spending a couple of years in the lottery of mock drafts, Brackins is a consensus second rounder at this point. Brackins is a skilled offensive player with somewhat of a finesse game. His scoring and rebound volumes both took a considerable hit from his sophomore to junior seasons, as did his scoring efficiency. Has a good overall game that should allow him to play in the NBA. Has range out to the college 3 and also a somewhat of a post game. Inconsistent scorer, though. A little rare for a 6-10 guy with his scoring talent to fall to the second round, so the Knicks should take a look if he’s still on the board.


These guys were productive college stars, but scouts have questions about whether their game will translate to the NBA. Historically these guys are the inverse to the Adam Morrison, Shelden Williams types who have failed to match their college productivity in the pros after being drafted high: the Josh Howard, Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer types who fell in the draft but proved their doubters wrong with successful pro careers.

In a sense this is the best bet for a successful second round draft pick–the guy can play, but scouts don’t seem to realize it. The problem is figuring out which player has the skills but is being underrated. It looks obvious in hindsight, but is often a lot harder at the time.

Examples: DeJuan Blair, Carl Landry, Mario Chalmers, Marc Gasol, Paul Millsap, Ryan Gomes, Steve Blake

Greivis Vasquez Maryland 6-5 195 G 23
ACC Players of the Year have enjoyed a fair amount of NBA success. The award guaranteed nothing for Julius Hodge, Juan Dixon, Joseph Forte, or Chris Carrawell, though. Vasquez had a strong overall game at the college level, but you have to question which parts will translate to the NBA. He’s a combo-guard who is unlikely to walk into the league as a PG and he may lack either the shot or the athleticism to be much of a scorer at the NBA level. The optimistic view is that he’s a 6-6 combo-guard who can play the one or the two in the NBA, the negative view is that he’ll be a star… in Europe. Knicks could do worse by the 38th pick: he wants it and he can play.

Da’Sean Butler West Virginia 6-7 225 SF 22
Butler was a first round lock before injuring his knee in the national championship game. Well rounded game. Solid scorer, though a little high-volume/low-efficiency in college. Can score multiple ways. Good ball-handler and playmaker. Good defender. If his scoring doesn’t translate to the NBA does he bring enough to the table to be an NBA player?

Quincy Pondexter Washington 6-6/7 215 SF 22
Questionable whether he’ll fall to the Knicks pick. A strong all-around wing prospect. A polished college player who is going to bring a little bit of everything. Question is his upside and whether he brings enough of any one thing. Questions also about how he will transition from the college 4 to the NBA 3. (There were similar questions about a guy like Josh Howard.)

Sherron Collins Kansas 5-11? 190 PG 23
Collins is one of the best college guards in the draft. He’s an undersized bowling ball who may not have much NBA success, though. I think the comparisons to Will Bynum seem fair, as he lacks the other-worldy athleticism of Nate Robinson. Collins is a flat out basketball player who will probably have a very successful pro career in Europe if he fails to make it in the NBA.

Jordan Crawford Xavier 6-4 195 SG 21
You have to question whether he can adjust to being a complementary scorer after having the ball in his hands all the time at Xavier: he lacks great finishing ability but does have a strong outside shot. If he adjusts he should be a solid NBA off-guard. He has a very good handle and is a solid playmaker at the 2. Should be able to hold his own defensively, though he’s unlikely to be a plus defender. Not really undersized, but size is also not a plus. May be gone by the time the Knicks pick.

Unexpected Faller

It’s impossible to say who this will be at this point, because in that case it would be expected. There are usually some guys in the draft that everyone and their mother think should go earlier but just keep falling. Consensus doesn’t always mean success in the NBA draft, but sometimes teams pass on no-brainers (DeJuan Blair being one of the most obvious examples in history). This years early candidate is Da’Sean Butler, who I thought was getting a little too hyped but has now fallen to the late second in mock drafts after injuring his knee in the national championship game. Armon Johnson is an intriguing guy who may fall to the Knicks.

Examples: DeJuan Blair

Big Bodies

Size is at a premium in the NBA, and the draft is often the best way to get it. Once teams have a strong bigman on their roster they usually lock him up. The draft is a chance to get first dibs on a big guy. By the 2nd round you’re looking for a diamond in the rough, a specialist, or a grit guy. This is a deep draft for bigmen, though, compared to last seasons vertically challenged draft class.

Undersized bigs (6-6 PFs) tend to be really underrated and there is one success story almost every year. This year a lot of talented guys in the 2nd have legit size, though.

Examples: DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, Nick Fazekas!, Paul Millsap, Leon Powe, Ronny Turiaf, Andray Blatche, Amir Johnson, Anderson Varejao, Matt Bonner, Boozer, Scola…

Daniel Orton Kentucky 6-10 260 F/C 19
Orton unexpectedly declared for the draft after riding the pine behind Cousins and Patterson all season. With little NCAA experience to go on, it’s not clear whether he’ll go in the lottery or fall to the second round. Orton has great size for the PF spot, solid size at C. Has a strong all-around game as a rebounder and defender. He didn’t show much scoring ability at Kentucky, but has the makings of a well-rounded offensive game for a F/C. It’s a little odd he didn’t spend another season at Kentucky and propel himself into the lottery. If he falls all the way to the Knicks I’d say his upside is worth the risk.

Jarvis Varnado Mississippi State 6-9 210 F/C 22
Already a fan favorite at Knickerblogger, Varnado is the kind of shot-blocker the team could use. A good athlete who could fit in as a 5 for D’Antoni because he gets up and down the floor well. May get pushed around at the 5, though, especially early in his career. Also a strong rebounder. Efficient scorer around the basket. A lowish case scenario is maybe Steven Hunter, who played some of his best NBA ball for D’Antoni in Phoenix. Upside has been compared to Theo Ratliff. I would consider the Knicks lucky if Varnado falls to them. As Knicks fans we know how valuable it is to have some interior defense.

Solomon Alabi Florida State 7-1 251 C 22
I somehow don’t see a seven footer who was a bigtime recruit falling to the second round, but that’s where he is in some mocks. Others have him in the early 20s. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team takes him in the 20s as a project. Alabi has the tools to be a very good defensive C. He is raw, though, and there’s a chance he’s still on the board when the Knicks pick. With back-to-back picks it’s hard to pass him up in the late 30s. Hopefully D’Antoni’s reluctance to play 5s doesn’t factor into the decision.

Dexter Pittman Texas 6-10 310 C 22
Truly a BIG body. Pittman is a skilled inside scorer, but has trouble staying on the court for more than a couple of minutes at a time (literally). And that’s a big improvement in his conditioning since his freshman year. I didn’t include him in character issues since he clearly wants to improve and be a team player, it’s just a matter of whether he is physically able to. He might find his way into an NBA rotation as a 4th bigman in a role similar to the one Glen “uno-uno” Davis plays for the Celtics (and he’d probably manage to score a lot more efficiently than the player formerly known as Big Baby).

The Euro Route

This is a popular route with second round draft picks since teams can watch how the prospect develops while still holding their draft rights. Things have changed since the days when Manu fell to the 2nd to last pick in the draft, and top young talents rarely go unnoticed. However, it’s still possible to find a promising young kid and watch him develop. In a lot of cases this is actually preferable to taking a European in the late first, where the salary a team can offer is not competitive with what European teams can.

Examples: Ginobili, Scola, Okur, Marc Gasol, Ersan Ilyasova, Varejao, Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat.

Kevin Seraphin France 6-10 255 F/C 20
One of the most intriguing international prospects in this draft, Seraphin is a big-time athlete as well as a big-time project. The 20 year old is probably someone you want to leave in Europe for a couple of years. That might not appeal to the Knicks, who have a lot of holes on their roster now. Seraphin could end up being a perfect bigman for D’Antoni: a big athlete who excels on the pick-and-role and finishing at the basket. Plays for the same team as 2009 draftees Rodrigue Beaubois and Nando de Colo. Got decent playing time for a 20 year old and got better as the season went on. The type of high upside guy who could develop into a star or could never make it to the NBA.

Pablo Aguilar Spain 6-8 210 PF 21
Doesn’t have the highest upside in the world, but a productive player at a young age. Plays in the toughest domestic league in Europe and is one of the best player on a borderline playoff team. Came up with Real Madrid before being transfered. A face-up 4 with a good outside shot. Downside is that he’s a total ‘tweener. With the success he’s had in the ACB at a young age he’s likely to continue to improve and become a star in Europe. It’s a question whether he’ll even improve enough to be an NBA rotation player. Probably a specialist who will have more success in certain situations and for certain coaches: i.e. a PF who doesn’t rebound or score inside the 3 pt line. Comparable to Jorge Garbajosa.

Nemanja Bjelica Serbia 6-10 210 G/F almost 22
Described as a PG trapped in a PF’s body by Sounds like a project with a long way to go, but apparently opinions vary widely on him. Certainly has strong upside. At 22 he better start getting a lot closer to that upside soon.

Miroslav Raduljica Serbia 6-11 240 C 22
A legit center prospect with a good offensive game. You have to think his potential is somewhat limited or he’d be a lot more hyped. Could be a diamond in the rough, though.

Alexey Shved Russia (CSKA Moscow) 6-5 161 G 21
Talented player with good upside, but a raw project right now. Plays for one of the best teams in Europe, CSKA Moscow. Doesn’t get on the court much. A wait and see prospect who could develop into a star in Russia and then make the jump to the NBA.


Some other typical second round success categories that I’m not sure about 2010 examples for are the hustle defender (Luc Mbah a Moute, Trevor Ariza, Keith Bogans, Amir Johnson) or the guy who came out too early (Trevor Ariza, Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, Mo Williams, Andray Blatche). The second category especially depends on draft position.