Free Agent Talk

Discussing Possible Knicks Off-Season Options

As everybody knows, the Knicks were the victims of a gentlemen’s sweep at the hand of the Miami Heat in round one. Now, understandably, the talk amongst Knick fans is what the Knicks should do this summer. The Knicks will be facing a ton of issues this summer, from the PG spot to Mike Woodson to Amare and everything in between. More

Done Deal: JR Smith In. Renaldo Balkman Out

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It is a done deal. Whether you love it or hate it, JR Smith is a New York Knick. Renaldo Balkman, who was probably hated by most Knick fans, will be released according to Berman of the Post:

According to multiple sources, Smith, who played in China during the lockout and became eligible to sign an NBA deal on Wednesday, will be at the Garden tonight, but won’t make his debut until Sunday against the Mavericks.

The Knicks have to cut a player to make room for Smith and Renaldo Balkman, who has been out of the rotation since early January, is the expected candidate, according to a source. Coach Mike D’Antoni was never a big fan of Balkman, a throw-in to the trade with the Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony. Balkman has one remaining year at $1.8 million and could have been an amnesty casualty if the Knicks were still going for 2012 cap space.

I noted earlier in my JR Smith pros/cons post that indeed the Knicks new addition is a big risk. He’s been known to be a defensive liability and he has had a vast history of off-court problems. However, I am of this belief. I believe that defense is effort and that Smith is athletic enough to play well defensively when he puts in the effort. I also believe that the Knicks have a solid support system in place. Tyson Chandler, Baron Davis and Amar’e Stoudemire have been great leaders for this Knick team and I expect them to keep JR Smith on a tight leash.

This signing does provide me with a small moral victory as well. As anyone who follows me on Twitter (@tarmosino) or follows the site knows, I am not a fan of Bill Walker. Nothing personal against the man, I just don’t think he can play. In theory, this signing should cut his minutes way down. Walker logged solid rotation minutes playing both small forward and shooting guard but Smith can play both those positions and is a far better talent than Walker.

For more analysis on Smith’s impact with the Knicks, check out my aforementioned JR Smith Pros/Cons article. Thanks.

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The Pros and Cons of Bringing JR Smith to New York

It has been widely rumored that JR Smith will be a New York Knick soon enough. The Knicks and Smith have had mutual interest for months and the Knicks reportedly will be using their 2.5 “room exception” on Smith. It is also rumored that Smith is trying to work in a player option for next season.

The Knicks bench has been porous this season. With the emergence of Jeremy Lin, the Knicks bench has played stronger as of late but this still is not a championship level bench. The Knicks bench ranks 26th in the league in points per game, they are dead last in rebounds and they are 25th in field goal percentage.

Enter JR Smith. The ex-Denver Nugget has elite athleticism and scoring ability. He is an absolute wizard with the basketball and has deep shooting range. Defensively, Smith is a gambler. He rated above the league average in Defensive Plays Rate (via Hoopdata) which measures defensive blocks, steals and charges taken. Smith gambles a lot defensively and therefore does get a lot of steals. He rated 8th last season in steals per minutes among shooting guards and he rated 5th in total rebounds among shooting guards. He shows flashes of strong defense but has not done so consistently and is notoriously thought of as a weak defender. Given his athleticism, Smith does have the potential to be a solid defender but he has not shown any willingness to do so in his 4 year NBA career. There is a basic assessment of JR Smith’s game. The question now is how does he fit on this Knicks team? Here are the pros and cons of the Knicks signing JR Smith: More

Is a Howard to Knicks Trade Even Possible?

ESPN New York’s Stephen A Smith reported yesterday on his show that the Orlando Magic inquired, the key word there, the New York Knicks about a potential Dwight Howard for Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler trade. Given the contracts of Stoudemire and Chandler, the Knicks would have to also take back a sizable contract from Orlando. The 2011 figures in this rumored trade look like this:

Amar’e Stoudemire $18,217,705 million

Tyson Chandler $13,107,838 million

Total: $31,325,543 million

Dwight Howard: $17,885,400

The new NBA collective bargaining agreement contains new rules pertaining to trades. Taxpaying teams can take back 125% of their outgoing salary plus $100,000. Non-taxpaying teams (based on team salary after the trade) have two options as to how much salary they can take back. Non-taxpaying teams can acquire up to the lesser of 150% plus $100,000 OR  100% plus $5 million. Teams can trade up to $3 million in a trade but the Knicks used up that $3 million in the Tyson Chandler sign and trade.

The Knicks sit at $62,487,871 in salary. The Orlando Magic currently sit at $69,066,010 million dollars in salary. This figure puts them slightly under the $70 million luxury tax threshold. Here are the 2011 salaries for their players, significant to this trade, minus Dwight Howard:

Hedo Turkoglu: $10,600,000 million

Jameer Nelson $7,305,555 million

JJ Redick $6,500,000 million

Glen Davis $6,300,000 million

Jason Richardson $5,395,000 million

Chris Duhon $3,460,000 million

Quentin Richardson $2,446,200 million

Ryan Anderson $2,244,600 million

Earl Clark $1,200,000 million

Excluded: Von Wafer, Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins, Justin Harper, Larry Hughes

Because of the cap standings of both teams, both teams being under the luxury tax threshold, the Knicks and Magic have more flexibility with a potential trade. However, the Knicks swapping $31.3 million in salary with Orlando and taking in Howards $17.8 million in salary is not possible. Under the new CBA trade guidelines, the Knicks would have to take back another salary because swapping STAT and Chandler for Howard would not work. Here are some trade scenarios as pertained to each CBA rule:

  1. The Knicks take back 100% of Orlando’s salaries plus 5 million. The Magic would have to give up $26,325,543 million or more in salary to make this scenario work. That means in addition to Howard’s salary, the Magic would have to shed an additional $8,440,143 million in salary. Any trade of Howard likely will include the long term contract (3 years remaining, $34.2 mil) of Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu makes 10.6 million this season thus bring Orlando’s salary price up to $28,485,400 mil. This trade will work under the new CBA rules. However, the Magic would be taking back an additional $2,840,143 million in salary. Under the 100% + 5 mil rule, the Magic would have to remain under the tax. Therfore they would have to give up another contract resulting in an excess of $1,906,153 million. In my opinion, ex-Knicks Chris Duhon (3 years remaining, approx $11 mil in salary) and Quentin Richardson (2 years remaining with an additional players option for 2013, approx 5 mil in salary, $7.8 mil with option) would be the most likely candidates to be included in a trade. I believe that the basic framework of a Turkoglu/Howard/additional contract for Stoudemire/Chandler trade is the most likely trade if one is to come to fruition.
  2. The Knicks take back 150% of Orlando’s salaries plus $100k. The Magic would have to give up a little bit more than $20.8 million in salary to make this trade work. Given the long term contracts the Magic have on their roster along with the minor rebuilding they will need to do losing their star player, I believe the Magic would want to give up more than $20.8 million in a trade. In order to use this 100% + 100k clause, the Magic would have to give up between $20.8 million and $26.325 million (from the scenario above). However, if they were to give up Turkoglu, which they should and which they want to, they would eliminate this clause from being used in the CBA. This scenario would be plausible if the Knicks were going to take back any other Orlando player not named Hedo Turkoglu in a trade. This scenario is unlikely because I truly believe the Magic are going to part ways with Turkoglu as well as Howard in any trade they make.
  3. The Knicks and Magic never have serious discussions. Per the new CBA, Tyson Chandler, a newly acquired free agent, cannot be dealt until March 1st. If Orlando is swept off its feet by the Lakers, Clippers, Mavs, Nets or a mystery team, which I do not believe it will be, then they could move Howard before the Knicks can even discuss this trade seriously.
  4. The Knicks and Magic find a 3rd team. Conceivably, just like the trades that brought Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler to New York, the Knicks could find a 3rd team to deal with. Any trade scenario involving 3 teams would have to include more parts than just Turkoglu/Howard and Stoudemire/Chandler. At this point it is impossible to predict what 3rd team could be involved because no serious talks have gone on between Orlando and New York.

In conclusion, the main idea of this long and potentially head-ache enabling blog post is that financially the Knicks could pull off a trade for Dwight Howard. The new CBA allows it and both teams have contracts to make it work. The factors that would hold up a trade go beyond the financials. Whether the Magic are fully committed to trading Howard is up in the air. It is unknown whether the Knicks would part ways with newly acquired Chandler. As well as whether to give up Chandler, there have been no indications from the organization that Dolan is ready to break his loyalty with Stoudemire. It also remains unknown as to whether Orlando would even take this kind of deal. They would be locked into two long term big contracts and two decaying Amar’e Stoudemire knees. In my opinion, I do not believe this is a trade that will ever come to fruition. I think it makes obvious sense for the Knicks but I think the financials of the situation would far outweigh the on-court benefits for the Magic. I believe Amar’e and Tyson Chandler could fit nicely with that already strong Orlando team but I do not think the two players would launch the Magic into championship contention. Either way, Chandler cannot be dealt until March 1st so the Knicks will have their current center for at least 6 more weeks before they go chasing after another team’s star center. A lot can change in six weeks but if I had to bet a hypothetical house (seeming that I don’t own a house) on whether this trade would happen, I would bet against it.

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Steve Novak is a Good Signing For the Knicks

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The Knicks had a need for a stretch 4 who could shoot the three-ball with efficiency. They will sign one today. Former-Spurs forward Steve Novak is expected to sign a one-year veteran minimum contract with the Knicks. I actually like this move. Many teams seem to carry a guy or two like this. The Bulls have Kyle Korver, the Lakers now have Jason Kopono and the Spurs have Matt Bonner. I think every team needs a guy or two who can just come in to a game and provide a spark with some outside shooting. Novak is a 41% three point shooter. Obviously he will not be a force on the defensive end but he will give some nice offensive depth at both the 3 and the 4.

I think our backup front-court players have a chance to make an impact this year. I do like Jeffries (I know, I know) and what he provides on the defensive end. I like Harrellson and Jordan at center. Harrellson showed a bit of everything in the Knicks first preseason game. He showed his ability to hit the three, he showed some defense, rebounding and toughness. Jordan is a big 7 footer who I think can bring some solid defense in the post. Balkman, yes I have to mention him, could potentially provide some nice energy off the bench. He showed this during the Knicks first pre-season game, scoring 20 points and pulling down 4 boards. In Novak, the Knicks have a guy who can stretch the floor and hit the 3 ball. I think Shawne Williams would have been a combination of all these things (size, shooting, defense) and alleviated the need to play all these guys but I think the Knicks are sitting okay right now. Novak brings an element to the front court that the Knicks did not previously have.

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Knicks Dropped the Ball on Shawne Williams

Glen Grunwald is off to a great start as interim-general manager. Adding Tyson Chandler was a great move. Getting rid of chronic three-point brickman Chauncey Billups was an even greater move. Grunwald’s first mistake however is a huge one. Knick free agent forward Shawne Williams has signed a 2 year $6 million contract with the rival New Jersey Nets. The importance of Shawne Williams should not be understated. This was a guy who played with a chip on his shoulder and gave his full effort every game. He’s not a perfect player by no means but for this team he would have been a near perfect role player.

What are the biggest needs of the team right now? Shooters and big bodies to boost the defense. What is Shawne Williams? A 6’9 shooter who hit 40% of his 3′s last year and can play 3 defensive positions. He was the ideal fit for this team. He brings defense, 3 point shooting and toughness. So why wasn’t he brought back?

The Knicks waited and waited and waited to bring Williams back. Getting Chandler was great but I believe their next move should have been to re-sign Williams. Instead, the Grunwald-led Knicks pursued luxury free agents. Free agent guards JJ Barea and Jamal Crawford were both offered contracts while Williams sat on the back burner. As he sat and waited, other teams offered him more lucrative contracts. Clearly Williams, if you look at his twitter account, wanted to return to the Knicks but he was forced to wait and wait. Are Barea and Crawford more dynamic bench scorers? Absolutely. Does this team need scorers over defenders? Absolutely not. And Williams is not inept offensively. He shot 40% from 3 last season. We need shooters. You hear talk about guys like Michael Redd and you hear that the Knicks need more shooters. You hear about Mo Evans (who we also struck out on) and Troy Murphy and how we need big defensive bodies. We could have kept Shawne Williams who fills both roles. Instead the Knicks failed to land Barea, Crawford and Williams and now are left with Renaldo Balkman and Billy “No Skills” as the backup small forwards.

Shawne Williams absolutely deserves a bit of blame. If he wanted to return so badly, he would have accepted less money to come back to the Knicks. However, I place 90% of the blame on the Knicks. Williams was a low salary project last season. He was coming off a season in which he hit an emotional high between getting a second chance in the league and playing a key role on a contender. It was a great story in every aspect. But Williams isn’t a multi-million dollar earning star. He played on a vet minimum last season. 2 million dollars is a lot of money to anyone but especially to a guy like that. By having Williams sit around and watch the team pursue free agent after free agent, the Knicks set themselves up to lose him. How can the Knicks claim a commitment to him when potentially they would have asked him to take another vet minimum? I can’t blame Williams fully because I believe he felt a bit betrayed and he had a better offer on the table. The Knicks should have made him a top priority and now they are left with a big void on the bench.

There is not a clear path for the Knicks go to here. I really have trouble believing they will go into the season with Balkman and Walker as the backup small forwards. I think Williams can be replaced but there does not seem to be a viable option out there right now. Losing Williams can be overcome but I really do believe he was a perfect fit for this team. The Knicks are now in free agent limbo at the small forward position and the hated Nets now have Williams. Glen Grunwald has done a great job so far but he really dropped the ball on this one.

Crawford to Decide on Free Agency Tomorrow

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Tomorrow, free agent Jamal Crawford will decide on which team he will play for this season. He is deciding between the Knicks, Trailblazers and Kings. The Knicks can only offer him the room exception for 1 year 2.5 mil. The Blazers can offer him the full midlevel exception at 5 mil and the Kings can offer more than that. On twitter, there has been much fan support for Crawford’s return to the garden but it is not looking like it will happen. Most people, including myself, believe Crawford will land in Portland. He will make 5 mil this year instead of 2.5 mil and Portland is closer to his Seattle home.

Shawne Williams is also a free agent and has garnered interest and contract offers from other teams. I would like to think the Knicks can get Crawford and keep Williams but if Crawford were to be a Knick, Williams would have to sign a vet minimum. I don’t think that will happen. At the end of the day it might be Crawford or Williams instead of Crawford and Williams. Or worst case, the Knicks lose out on both guys…

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Knicks Miss Out on Barea

Free agent point guard JJ Barea has agreed to a 4 year $19 million contract with the T’Wolves. David Kahn strikes again as the Timberwolves now have 17 point guards on their roster. He would have been a nice fit off the bench with the Knicks but his tiny frame makes him a liability on defense. I’m not too bummed out that the Knicks won’t have Barea. I’d like Jamal Crawford but that doesn’t look like it will happen either. The team seems contented to go with Douglas, Shumpert and Bibby at point guard this season. Maybe another veteran point will fill out the roster but I think primarily those are the guys who will play. As long as Douglas doesn’t play 7000 miles an hour and take dribbling tips from Bill Walker then we will be okay.

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Jerome Jordan on the Verge of Becoming a Knick

From Marc Berman of the NY Post

Add another 7-footer to the team.

The Post has learned 7-foot center Jerome Jordan, a 2010 second-round draft pick, will be the next addition to the Knicks’ roster as he was involved in heavy contract negotiations late last night to bring him to New York, according to his agent Todd Ramasar.

As I said last night, I think this is a great move and the perfect time to bring Jordan over. If he has any game, which it looks like he does, then he will be a great addition to our front court as the backup center. The Knicks just went from being weak down low to have two 7 footers at the center position and arguably one of the top three greatest scoring power forwards in NBA history. I am unbelievably excited about this upcoming season because now the Knicks will have some toughness and size around the rim and that should make for an improved defense. Defense is now the key for this team and they have improved very quickly.

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Turiaf Headed to Wizards

So Ronny will be gone after all. This contracts the sign and trade talk we heard earlier because now the Knicks have the cap space to sign Chandler as a free agent. Its sad to see Ronny go. Even if he’s made of glass and he can only play 15 min a game, I think he would have been a solid backup center behind Chandler. Now I think Jerome Jordan has to be brought over unless the Knicks are going to play Jeffries as the backup center. If Jeffries is the backup 5, then who plays the backup 4? I think they should make Jeffries the backup 4 and then have Jordan and Harrelson battle it out for the backup center spot.

I’m going to miss this

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsU3sFEZn6s] [twitter-follow screen_name='tarmosino' show_screen_name='no']