Schmeelk: The Knicks’ Free-Agency Plan
By John Schmeelk
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As the NBA world flips their calendars to July, teams try to supplement their roster to try and win a NBA championship. Before we start talking about what the Knicks need to do, it’s important to make one thing clear: The Knicks goal is to win a championship this season.
They are not building for the future, or trying to make money selling jerseys. Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are under contract for the next three seasons and that is the franchise’s window to win a championship. Is it the perfect combination of players? No, but it is what the team has to work with going forward. It is the job of Glen Grunwald to supplement that core as best he can to give them the best opportunity possible to win a championship.
The Knicks are not as far away as many would have fans believe and certain moves this offseason could put them in real position to win a title.
1. STEVE NASH: A TRUE SHOT AT A TITLE
There is only one move the Knicks can make this offseason to have a real chance of dethroning the Heat: Sign Steve Nash. He can get Amar’e Stoudemire more involved in the offense, get Tyson Chandler good shots, and be a real on the floor leader. Most important, he can control Carmelo Anthony and help turn him into a true championship player. He can help manage Melo’s shots, where he gets the ball, and show him what it takes to be a winner offensively. If Carmelo Anthony can’t play with Steve Nash that should be all the front office needs to see to determine he is not a championship player. That is a green light to trade him.
The Knicks can first offer Nash their full mid-level exception and see if that’s enough to get him to New York. The consequences of offering a full mid-level are either a hard salary cap or choosing not to retain other free agents like Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak or JR Smith. If that is the price to get Steve Nash, then so be it.
If five million dollars is not enough, Glen Grunwald will have to get just as creative as he got last year to get Tyson Chandler to the Knicks. A sign and trade is the only other way. A combination of Jeremy Lin and another player or two would allow the Knicks to obtain Nash at a higher salary. The Knicks should be willing to give him three years, matching the years remaining on the contracts of Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
I understand losing Lin hurts, but obtaining Steve Nash and a real chance at a Championship trumps that loss. Lin hasn’t proven he can stay healthy or sustain All-Star caliber play for an entire season. I don’t agree with them, but there are still scouts that only consider him a borderline starter at best. I like Jeremy Lin, but even with the most optimistic projections for the next three seasons, he will not be as good as Steve Nash. Five years down the road is another story, but once again the Knicks are a win now team. What happens five years down the road cannot be Glen Grunwald’s concern.
2. LIN PLUS HELP
Thanks to the Bird Rights ruling, if the Knicks decide to retain Lin, Novak and JR Smith they can still use a three million mid-level and a two million bi-annual exception to go along with any number of veteran minimum salaries. They will more than likely use that larger exception to sign a veteran point guard. They will have a number of options.
The first guy I would go after would be Raymond Felton. We already know he can handle New York, play good defense against both guard positions, and run the pick and roll with Amar’e Stoudemire. He also has a toughness that would be good for Jeremy Lin to be around.
Andre Miller would be the second guy on the list, a real play making point guard that knows how to grind out points in the half court set. He has the experience to run a team under any circumstance and could also help control Carmelo Anthony. His defense is his biggest liability.
Jason Kidd is the third guy on my list, a veteran who knows how to win but is very limited offensively in the half court. He is an improve shooter, but his inability to run the pick and roll with Amar’e Stoudemire is disconcerting.
As for the rest, Kirk Hinrich is a good defender and a solid shooter. Jameer Nelson will get more than the Knicks can offer, as will Goran Dragic (though I think he is too much of scorer anyway). Ramon Sessions will likely be too expensive. Randy Foye has been mentioned but he isn’t enough a pure point guard for my taste. If DJ Augustin doesn’t receive or sign a qualifying offer, he could be an interesting player to develop.
All in all, getting one of the top three veterans should be what the Knicks goal is. In my opinion, Felton is the guy, but both Kidd and Miller would be adequate replacements.
The second lower exception should be used on the best player out there. If JR Smith and Landry Fields both return, and Iman Shumpert heals, there isn’t much of a need for a shooting guard. Frontcourt help to help Jared Jeffries and Josh Harrellson off the bench wouldn’t hurt. The Knicks have flexibility here, and they need to take advantage of it.
Those are the obvious options. Last year Glen Grunwald went beyond that and figured out a way to get Tyson Chandler. Maybe he can do something similar this year. The only thing known for sure is that the Knicks need to take advantage of this opportunity if they want to really challenge the Heat this season. There’s no room for misses.
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