By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks have a very small roster right now, and they need a wing player who can defend and shoot the three. Ideally, anyone joining the team should be younger than 30, play both ends of the floor (though considering Jose Calderon and Carmelo Anthony's weaknesses on defense, that should be the most important factor) and be a good value.
The Knicks have about $27 million to spend in free agency, which started at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. I'm ranking these players in order of preference and I'm listing range of starting salary only. With the increase in the cap coming, there's no way to tell what players will want on long- or short-term contracts.
(On this list, you won't see any pipe dreams, restricted free agents who aren't leaving or players that don't make any sense: LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Paul Pierce, Brandon Knight, Monta Ellis, Manu Ginobli, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford.)
1. Khris Middleton: An improving young player that averaged 13.4 points per game last year on 47-percent shooting and 40.7 percent beyond the arc. He is also a lock-down defender who can play SG or SF, which could push Melo to PF. (That's a good thing.) The trick is that he is restricted and the Knicks would have to make an offer the Bucks wouldn't match. Estimated starting salary: $8-12 million.
2. Danny Green: An excellent perimeter defender and knockdown shooter (41.8 percent from three-point land) that knows how to play off the ball in an offensive system. Only 28 years old, he stands at 6-foot-6 and is a Long Island native. Word has it he wants to stay in San Antonio but it remains to be seen if he is in their plans with bigger fish like LaMarcus Aldridge in play. Estimated starting salary: $8-12 million.
3. DeMarre Carroll: A small forward who would push Melo to the four, Carroll is an excellent defender and became a much better scorer with the Hawks last year (49% FG, 39.5% 3PT). He turns 29 later this month, but doesn't have a ton of tread off the tires because he didn't play much his first five years in the league. Estimated starting salary: $9-11 million.
4a. Arron Afflalo: An excellent two-way player who played poorly to end his season in Portland last year. Last season was cut short by a shoulder injury. His shooting has been slightly up and down the last three years, hitting just 30 percent of his threes back in 2012-2013 with Orlando. He will be 30 years old when the season starts, and had his best year in Orlando in 2013-2014 when he averaged 18 points a game and shot just under 43 percent from behind the arc. Estimated starting salary: $12-13 million.
4b. Wesley Matthews: He would be ahead of Afflalo on this list if he wasn't recovering from an Achilles injury in March. He says he will be 100 percent to start the season but that would mean he recovered faster than usual. When he gets back will he be 100 percent of his old self? He can guard, shoot, and can post up from the guard position as well. He'll be 29 years old when the season starts and says he wants a starting salary of $13-14 million. I doubt a team will pay that with his injury. Estimated starting salary: $10-12 million.
5. Tobias Harris: At 6-foot-9 and just 23 years old in July, Harris is an up-and-coming small forward who scored more than 17 points per game last year. He shot 36 percent from behind the arc and has the tools to be a good defender. He is a restricted free agent so the Knicks would have to pay a lot to get him out of Orlando. Estimated starting salary: $10-12 million.
6. Al-Farouq Aminu: He'll be 25 in September and is super athletic at 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds. He is a good defender and showed some of his best basketball in the playoffs for the Mavs last year. His big problem is his lack of shooting ability. Teams will be enticed by the former No. 8 overall pick's athleticism and upside. UPDATE: He reportedly agreed to a deal with Portland overnight.
7. Dwyane Wade: I hesitate to even put him on this list, but fans have been asking about him. He is 33 years old, has missed about 20 games per year and has a chronic knee issue. He can still get it done when he plays, and he shoots the ball efficiently. Not a good three-point shooter. Knows how to win. He won't do that with the Knicks, and will find a better fit elsewhere. Expected starting salary: wants $20 million-plus per year.
Consolation prizes: Marco Belinelli, Louis Williams, Gerald Green, Rodney Stuckey, Alan Anderson, Gary Neal, Leandro Barbosa, Corey Brewer, Jae Crowder.
Click here for a look at the big men the Knicks could target in free agency
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