By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks have virtually no size on their roster, save for project Kristaps Porzingis. They need a rim protector. They need someone that can play, score, and pass out of the post.
Players that have both of those skills are extremely rare in the modern NBA, so if the Knicks want both they are going to need two bigs in free agency.
Considering the defensive struggles of Carmelo Anthony and Jose Calderon, rim protection is going to have to be a priority. Youth and cost are also high priorities, given the Knicks are rebuilding and only have $27 million of cap money to spend in free agency. They need to get some mid-level cost value guys to bring in at least three impact free agents.
With the pending big jump in the salary cap, some free agents might want shorter contracts, so I’ll list only each player’s estimated starting salary. I looked at wing players on Monday. Here are the BIGS.
Sorry Knicks fans, I’m not including the following players because I feel they are unrealistic or terrible fits: LaMarcus Aldridge (not just unrealistic but there are fit problems with him, too), Marc Gasol (perfect fit but isn’t coming), Tim Duncan, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Amar’e Stoudemire.
* Robin Lopez: He provides rim protection better than most of the other players available, and he can be had at a reasonable price. He is not a good offensive player, but if you stick him in the middle he will do all the dirty work and not let turn the Knicks’ paint into a “safe zone” for opponents. He’s only 27 years old. Estimated starting salary: $7 million-$10 million.
* Kosta Koufos: This would also be a bargain/value signing for the Knicks. He can protect the rim and he rebounds and scores well enough not be a liability on that end of the floor. If you sign him you will still have $20 million to go around to other more high-impact players. Estimated starting salary: $5 million-$8 million.
* Greg Monroe: Perfect offensive fit for the Knicks in the post. He can score and has experience as a passer out of high post from his days at Georgetown playing in the Princeton offense. Rebounds the ball well. The problem is his defense isn’t very good, particularly his rim protection. He and Anthony manning two front court positions could be a defensive disaster. Estimated starting salary: $15 million.
* DeAndre Jordan: A great finisher, rebounder and pick-and-roll player, at just 27 years of age he has a lot going for him. The problems: His starting salary will be astronomical. He can’t hit free throws. He has no back-to-the-basket game. He has not shown the ability to be a passer. These are all things Phil Jackson requires out of his players. Despite his block shot numbers, his advanced rim protection stats are not strong. Estimated starting salary: $19 million.
* Brook Lopez: Lopez would be the second or third player on this list if it wasn’t for his foot problems. He has range, can post up, and is a better rim defender than most give him credit. Plus, he’s only 27 years old. The problem is chronically problematic feet that aren’t expected to get miraculously better. He will also cost a pretty penny in year one of a new deal. Estimated starting salary: $19 million.
* Omer Asik: A big man that can rebound and protect the rim. He is 29 and needs to get more consistent but he can be a good defensive piece in the middle. He won’t give you a lot of offense. Estimated starting salary: $7 million-$10 million.
* Paul Millsap: Millsap could be put at power forward beside Anthony, but I think the two players would play similar roles offensively. He is a good defender, but lacks ideal size to bang in the paint on a regular basis. Estimated starting salary: $11 million-$14 million.
* Thaddeus Young: A good player, but wouldn’t fit with the Knicks. He would occupy a lot of the same space offensively as Anthony and is not a top defender. He’ll make a team somewhere better. Estimated starting salary: $7 million-$10 million
* David West: He is old, past his prime, and not a rim protector. He would add toughness and leadership, and can play in the high and low post, but with where the Knicks are in their rebuilding process the time is not right. Estimated starting salary: $8 million-$12 million.
* Enes Kanter: I love his emerging offensive game, but he is a restricted free agent and doesn’t play a lick of defense. The Thunder will likely re-sign him. Estimated starting salary: $7 million-$9 million
The best of the rest: Brandan Wright, Chris Kaman, Bismack Biyombo, JaVale Mcgee, Emeka Okafor, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Jordan Hill, Brandon Bass, Josh Smith.
Those are the big men to watch over the next few days.
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