Overall, Motivated Jackson Found Value And Impact, But Noah Deal Will Remain A Giant Risk


By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks wasted no time and made a number of moves this weekend, taking advantage of their salary cap space to put together a pretty good-looking roster on paper. Here’s what they did and what I think:

Joakim Noah

You already know my specific feelings on Noah. After dealing with injuries the past two seasons you wonder at age 31 if he may be in decline and if he can recapture his dominant play from three years ago.

What can’t be argued is that Noah’s peak level of play is probably higher than every other big man free agent that has signed this offseason, spare Dwight Howard. At his best he was an elite defender, excellent passer, fierce rebounder, and a great teammate. The Knicks paid a premium to see if he can be that guy again.

Four years is an awfully long commitment for someone with so many ifs surrounding his game. Noah has to be at least as good, if not better, than Robin Lopez last year to earn that $72 million contract, and provide the value commensurate with the cap space the Knicks used on him.

This deal all but negates any extra cap space the Knicks could have freed up next year with the Derrick Rose trade. They are paying Noah a few million more than they paid Lopez and Jerian Grant together. Noah has to be great if this plan is going to work, and his last two years have been far from that. — Grade: C

Courtney Lee

With Rose and Carmelo Anthony already locked into the starting lineup, the Knicks needed a defensive minded shooting guard that can defend and hit the open 3-pointer. They got exactly that in Lee. Given the inflated market this summer, a four-year, $50 million contract was a great value even for someone like Lee, who will never sniff an All-Star game.

Perhaps the most important thing about the Lee signing is that he has played in 77 or more games in each of his last four seasons. His 38 percent career 3-point percentage doesn’t hurt either. He is always there and does what he does well, which happens to be exactly what the Knicks need. Every good team needs players like Lee.

Even though he turns 31 in October and it is a four-year commitment, he has shown no signs of slippage, and his game should continue to age well. — Grade: A-

Brandon Jennings

The Knicks’ third major need this offseason after trading away Jerian Grant and cutting Tony Wroten was backup point guard. They found one in Jennings.

This season for the Knicks will be his second coming off his torn Achilles’ tendon and the team hopes his numbers improve from last season. Before the injury in 2014 he was playing the most efficient basketball of his career for the Detroit Pistons. He had hiked his field-goal shooting above 40 percent and his 3-point shooting to 36 percent.

Never an efficient player, Jennings will provide some playmaking off the bench, and be a decent substitute for Rose when he has minutes restrictions, and might miss the second game of back to backs.

At only one year worth and $5 million, it is a great flier contract. Don’t expect a lot of defense, but he will be a good replacement for Rose in case of injury. — Grade: B

Lance Thomas

The Knicks used their “Bird Rights” on Lance Thomas and agreed to a four-year, $27 million contract. It is a bargain deal for the Knicks, especially since Thomas’ salary won’t cut into their remaining salary cap space.

Before hurting his knee last season, Thomas played defense and hit the open 3 with consistency. He is an excellent teammate, doesn’t mind doing the dirty work and is great in the locker room. At age 28, the Knicks have him signed up through his prime seasons.

Retaining Thomas gives the Knicks a great bench option on the wing that can play defense, hit on catch-and-shoot opportunities, and give the team some balance. Great move. — Grade: A-

***

In order to make these moves the Knicks had to conduct some salary cap business. They renounced their rights to Kevin Seraphin and Derrick Williams. They won’t be back. New York also took its qualifying offer to Langston Galloway off the board. The Knicks can still bring him back and go over the cap to do it, but they can’t match any offer by another team. Galloway can still come back, but it’ll just be tougher.

The Knicks still have room for a $2 million contract that they would like to use on Willy Hernangomez, last year’s second-round pick, on a three-to-four-year contract. Then they also have a “room exception,” which is good for one-to-two years at just under $3 million per season. Guys like David Lee, Mario Chalmers, Galloway or another veteran big could be a target with that money.

Once Rose and Noah were secured, the Knicks then used their remaining cap space very efficiently to put together a nice little roster that could be fun to watch this season. There’s still some offseason to go, and we’ll see how Phil Jackson and Steve Mills take advantage of it.

For all things Knicks, please follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk

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