By John Schmeelk
» More Columns
In a long story on Monday, ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that the Knicks would be looking for two-way players in free agency and cited two examples: P.J. Tucker and Dante Cunningham.
According to Begley, the Knicks were pleased with the contribution of Courtney Lee and want players that fit his mold. This report would also jive with their apparent interest in Jae Crowder. That is, if they can figure out a way to get the Celtics to take Carmelo Anthony.
In one respect, Phil Jackson should be applauded for looking for the right kind of help. The Knicks have had very few players that could be viewed as positives on both ends of the floor over the past 10 years. Too often they have ended up with one-dimensional players that can score but can’t defend (Jamal Crawford, David Lee, Zach Randolph, Anthony), or players that can defend but can’t score (Joakim Noah, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, Jared Jeffries). The latter list is much shorter than the former.
It’s one of the reasons a player like Kristaps Porzingis holds such value. He can be a dynamic scorer and rim protector, helping the team on both ends of the floor. Those guys don’t come around very often. If the Knicks had surrounded Anthony with more of these two-way players he would have far more playoff wins under his belt as a Knick.
Ironically, last summer the Knicks traded away one such player in Robin Lopez, who was a good defender and average offensively, for a player in Derrick Rose who can score but plays no defense. They then replaced Lopez with Noah who (in theory) can defend but couldn’t score if his life depended on it. Maybe Jackson has realized the error of his ways this offseason and will ultimately try to make a correction. However, there will no correcting the three years and $54 million remaining on Noah’s contract.
There is one problem. The three players Begley said his sources cited as examples (Lee, Tucker, Cunningham) are 31, 30, and 32 years old, respectively. J.J. Redick, long rumored to be a target for the Knicks, would fit into this category as a two-way player that turns 33 in June. The Knicks are in rebuild mode. Why under any circumstance should they go out there and spend salary cap money on players that are over 30, especially if they are looking to trade Anthony?
If anything, the Knicks should be looking to trade someone like Lee for a draft pick or rookie contract player that can develop into a two-way player. Justin Holiday, 28, a player on their roster but will be a free agent this offseason, is one such player. Perhaps Jackson is desperate to try to scrape together an eighth-seeded playoff team?
It would be a mistake.
The Knicks need to play and develop young players. If they win with said young players, great. If they lose and wind up with a good draft pick, that would be fine, too. There’s nothing worse than playing veterans, hovering around 40 wins, and not getting a good draft pick.
Jackson needs to embrace the rebuild with YOUNG two-way players. Youth is the goal here and the sooner he realizes that the healthier the team will be moving forward.
- One other player Begley said some Knicks front office people hope they can acquire is Ricky Rubio. A trade for him fell through around this season’s deadline, but the Knicks are optimistic they can re-engage the Wolves. Rubio would be a good addition as a two-way player in his late 20s that can help advance Porzingis’ career. The question remains what the Wolves would want for him with Rose hitting free agency.
- Pictures of Porzingis boxing champion Mairis Briedis in a Latvian gym emerged on the internet on Tuesday. He said he would try to box this offseason to get stronger. As long as he doesn’t get hurt it might prove to be a way for him to improve his functional strength.
For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk