Will J.R. Smith Be A Knick Next Season?

By John Schmeelk
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On Tuesday I went over the Knicks’ financial situation for the next three years, so keep that in mind as we go through the offseason decisions that the Knicks will have to make.

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Here are where the pivotal points are going to be.

1) J.R. Smith: The one good thing about Smith’s mediocre … no, wait … awful playoff performance is that he might have played himself out of a contract that would take him out of New York. If Smith opts out of his contract, the most that the Knicks can offer him is about four years and $22 million, and that should be enough. Smith’s other option is to activate his player option, which will pay him a measly $2.8 million next year, but will give the Knicks full Bird rights on him the following offseason when they could pay him more money long-term. Either scenario would give Smith to the Knicks at below or at market value. He has too much talent for the Knicks to simply let him walk. To me, this is a no-brainer as it won’t cap the Knicks out for future seasons, and if Smith walks they have no money to get someone of equal talent.

2) Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni: The Knicks can put a qualifying offer on both those players, but if I’m reading the collective bargaining agreement properly, every dollar they sign them for above 120 percent of last year’s salary will eat away at their mini mid-level exception. Both guys will be 20-minutes-a-game players next year, but remember that the Heat got Ray Allen with their small mid-level last year. Is it better to bring back one or both, or go after a veteran in free agency? This is going to be Glen Grunwald’s toughest decision this offseason. Of course, there’s a decent chance that Prigioni goes back to Spain, which will make Grunwald’s decision easier. In a perfect world, the Knicks get them both back.

3) Kenyon Martin: He sat on the free-agent market all year. Nobody wanted him for anything more than the veteran’s minimum. The jury is out on whether he played himself into a bigger contract. I think that the Knicks will be able to bring him back at a bargain and not lose much, if any, of their mid-level exception.

4) The Old Guys: Will Jason Kidd retire? He played like he has already. He’s looked retired for a while now. After the Pacers series, I thought he would call it quits, but apparently he wants to play a couple of more years. If he comes back, his time on the court will be limited. Marcus Camby is signed for two more years as well, and there is no sign that he is contemplating retirement because of his plantar fasciitis. Can Camby again be the player that he was in 2011-2012? If he can, losing Martin won’t hurt nearly as much. He can at least provide a defensive and rebounding presence.

5) The Injured Guy: Amar’e Stoudemire is signed for two more years for about $50 million. He is always hurt. No team will take him in a trade until he is an expiring contract. He is not going anywhere this year, unless Grunwald has mind-controlling powers. Stoudemire’s health and ability to blend in with the team is one way that the Knicks can make a serious improvement next season. You can’t expect him to be healthy, but you can hope. Either way, he will be a part of this team.

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6) The First-Round Pick: The Knicks do have a first-round pick this year. In a year in which the draft is considered to be very week, I could see the Knicks trying to package the pick with a mid-sized contract for someone who another team considers overpaid, but still talented. This is an asset that the Knicks need to use one way or another.

7) The Mini Mid-Level Exception: This is the one weapon that the Knicks have to use in free agency, and they have to make it count. Being a 54-win team, they should be able to attract a free agent who can crack the rotation and play a significant role. If Smith, Copeland and Prigioni all come back, a two-way big man who can not only contribute defensively and on the boards, but on offense as well, could be a target. Another target should be an athletic wing who can help make the Knicks run more. If Prigioni, Copeland or Martin leave, finding a replacement for them might be the order of the day.

The Knicks have to find a way to get better this season. They are going to have to get creative to do that, but last year Grunwald showed the ability to do that. The Knicks have a great pipeline to Europe, and Grunwald does a good job managing  the details of the salary cap. With Carmelo Anthony potentially opting out after next season, this year is important for the Knicks to take another step closer to a championship. It starts in the offseason.

I’m taking off until the NBA Finals, the draft and free agency. Enjoy the conference finals, everyone!

You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and New York sports. 

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