By John Schmeelk
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According to Twitter over the past few days, it would appear the Knicks have talked to -- or have interest in every single free agent on the market. Hopefully this will help Knicks fans focus on real possibilities and needs in the coming weeks.
-- This is the easy one: Sign J.R. Smith. He is far from the perfect player, but the Knicks have no choice but to sign him. They can maximize their offer at about four years for between 22 and 23 million since they own his early Bird Rights. If J.R. wants to bolt to a bad team for more money, he can, and the Knicks won't be able to use that money elsewhere. It's J.R. Smith or no one, and in that little game I'll take J.R.
-- The Knicks will try to resign Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni, but the former appears to be a lost cause with Copeland getting a ton of looks elsewhere. The Knicks already found Copeland's potential replacement in Andrea Bargnani.
It is still unclear if Prigioni wants to play in the NBA, and what his price will be. If the Knicks have to pay him more than their qualifying offer to him, it eats into their mid-level exception. Even if that is the cost, Prigioni was so valuable last year it might be worth it to bring him back.
-- The Mini-Mid Level Exception: The Knicks need to use their mid-level exception of just over three mllion on the best player they can find, regardless of position. The Knicks need assets, and they can't waste their mid-level like they did last year on Jason Kidd. They still have needs at point guard (regardless of whether Prigioni signs or not), small forward, a defensive minded backup big-man, and even a shooting guard if Smith doesn't return. The Knicks can also split this exception up and use it on multiple players.
Here are my targets:
Jose Calderon: He could very easily get a better offer than the Knicks small mid-level exception. Not a good defender or penetrator but he can shoot and knows how to run a team. They are unlikely to land him, and would be more of a replacement to Prigioni than a compliment.
Darren Collison: He is looking for a starting job and the accompanying money, and he won't find it in New York with the Knicks. If he has no other suitors, he might be an option for the Knicks.
Aaron Brooks: A good athlete that can shoot it, but more of a scorer. Can run the high pick and roll. Not a pure point guard and I wonder about his defensive ability. Could get him below mid-level deal.
Beno Udrih: Everyone in the league says how much they love this guy, yet he is always on a new team.
Will Bynum and Devin Harris are rumored Knicks targets but I would stay away from both. Bynum isn't a great passer, nor can he shoot or defense. Harris has lost a lot of his athleticism and is in steep decline. Sebastion Telfair does not excite me either.
Brandan Wright and Tiago Splitter would be good big men to target but both are restricted and would be near impossible to coax away from their teams with the Knicks resources.
Elton Brand: He is a local guy and could be very effective as a defender, rebounder and mid-range jump shooter. He could be a very effective low cost option at the vets minimum.
Timofey Mozgov: He is an excellent athlete and young, which could put him out of the Knicks price range. But he can defend and rebound and that would make him a good fit if they can get him.
Carlos Delfino: He was let go by the Rockets and provides good shooting, ball handling and pretty decent defending skills. He could play important minutes and keep Melo at the four. Love this move if the Knicks can get him at three million a year. I like him more than Chris Copeland.
Matt Barnes: He is another useful player that can defend and shoot the three. Would be a very solid role player off the bench and could probably be had for below the mid-level exception.
Chase Budinger (shooter with athleticism), Al-Farouq Aminu (underachieving athlete) and Francisco Garcia (defender) are all young players that could provide some help defensively.
Tony Allen and Monta Ellis are both apparently Knicks targets but both will wind up being outside the Knicks price range. Tony Allen and Iman Shumpert as a defensive tandem in the backcourt would be deadly. Ellis doesn't make sense unless Smith bolts. J.J. Reddick will also probably get a contract closer to the standard mid-level exception.
Gerald Henderson: He can do a little bit of everything except shoot the three, which really reduces his value as a two guard. Otherwise, would be a very solid backup.
Marco Bellinelli: He can score but was inconsistent for Chicago.
Anthony Morrow: He is tall and can shoot the three, but his numbers should be better.
Alan Anderson: He killed the Knicks last year, and hopes to land a nice contract after playing better than expected in Toronto.
Considering the dearth of big men that would be a good fit, I make Elton Brand a huge priority for front court depth. He does everything the Knicks need. Tony Allen is the best player that is not a complete absurdity at the mini-mid level, so I would make him my primary target with that money. Once he says no, the Knicks have some decisions to make. If JR Smith doesn't return, small forward has to become a huge priority for the team. I would offer Delfino my full mid-level and make him one of my first players off the bench. It's a shame Mike Dunleavy is off the market since he could have played that role well too. Point guard would be next, where I take the best remaining player from Collison, Brooks and Udrih (in that order). If JR stays and Prigioni leaves, that's when Jose Calderon becomes an option. My last priority would be Henderson, Belinelli, Morrow or Anderson for a veteran's minimum contract.
The Knicks don't have a ton of resources or options in the free agency market this year so they need to make the most of the money they have. Glenn Grunwald had to do this last year and wound up with Jason Kidd, Steve Novak, and Marcus Camby. None of them are on the roster this year. He has to do better this season or the Knicks are going to be looking at a first round series on the road.
You can follow me on twitter for everything on the Knicks, NBA free agency, Giants, NFL and everything else New York sports at https://twitter.com/Schmeelk.
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