The NBA draft is tomorrow. NBA free agency begins next week. EXCITING! WHAT COULD GO WRONG??!! A lot actually, especially if you are the New York Knicks. I wrote a piece back in February about the
success woes of the Knicks and I briefly covered what could lie ahead in their plans for the future (I guessed the Knicks would wind up 5th in the draft, so I guess I should be happy they received the 4th pick).
The Knicks officially have four players under contract for the 2015/2016 season. This includes Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Cleanthony Early (cringeworthy). The salaries between these four players total $32,427,391. With the expected salary cap level to be $67.1 million for the upcoming season, that leaves the Knicks over $34 million to play around with.
So what should the Knicks look to do in the draft and through free agency? The hell if I know, but I have a (potentially far-fetched) idea. It appears that this is going to be a trade-heavy draft. Therefore, I believe the Knicks will trade back in this year’s draft, and my ideal trade candidate is the Denver Nuggets
Knicks Receive: PG Ty Lawson, 7th pick in the draft
Nuggets Receive: PG Jose Calderon, 4th pick in the draft
The Nuggets love foreign players, and have recently been on bad terms with star point guard Ty Lawson (don’t drink and drive kids). They have been actively shopping him as they look to rebuild their 57-win squad from two years ago. In this scenario the Nuggets trade up to grab 19 year old Latvian star-child Kristaps Porzingis as an athletic big man who can stretch the floor. He has a slim frame and little muscle, but could be a decent weak-side defender to Jusuf Nurkic and Kenneth Faried. The Nuggets also walk away with Jose Calderon (he’s European!) to help control the pace offensively and provide some 3pt shooting while they rebuild this squad.
The Knicks receive an instant upgrade at point guard in Ty Lawson at a reasonable price tag (he is set to make $12.4 million this upcoming season). Lawson is an effective point guard who can score (15 PPG on 52.6 TS% in 2015) and facilitate (9.6 APG on 43.0 AST%), but leaves something to be desired at the defensive end. How does he fit into the triangle? I have no idea, I really hope it becomes abandoned this year after people realize it’s unsustainable without Kobe or MJ in your offense. Now with the 7th pick, the Knicks could go in a few different directions. Every player you and I want will not be there, but I think they will grab either Willie Cauley-Stein, Justice Winslow, or Mario Hezonja.
I’m going with the unconventional pick, Mario Hezonja. “What! Why?” you say. Wait until I get to free agency before you criticize me and my rationale. He’s an athletic freak, can shoot the 3 ball, and played very well in limited minutes on FC Barcelona (one of the top teams in the world’s second best league, the ACB, and yes it’s better than the NCAA). Is he a great fit? Eh, hopefully. I have no faith in Fisher or Phil to run this franchise correctly, but I can dream.
The Knicks need help everywhere, and if they sign Greg Monroe to a max contract, then you might as well give up hope. I doubt the Knicks get or even pursue any of the top guys, so I think go the next tier down.
Signing 1: SG Danny Green
Contract: three years, $36 million
Danny Green is a 3 and D specialist (career 42.0% 3P%), and a native New Yorker. He is listed as Tom Ziller’s 14th-best free agent this year, and he is a sensible addition to this woeful Knicks roster.
Signing 2: C Robin Lopez
Contract: two years, $15 million (team option year 2)
Ziller had this to say:
“RoLo is a center who knows his role offensively (an efficient, low-volume scorer who eats on the pick-and-roll) and is a really solid defender without hunting down blocks. He’s a top offensive rebounder and a dreadful defensive rebounder, so fit is a concern — I wouldn’t trust him on teams reliant on smallball lineups. But as a plus player at a premium position, Lopez is a very attractive free agent.”
I’d take the flyer. I wouldn’t really want to lock him up long term, but I think he could be a decent fit, especially on the offensive end. I’d still try to make sure Cole Aldrich comes back on a minimum deal to shore up some of the defense that will be lacking.
Signing 3: PF Jonas Jerebko
Contract: one year, $4 million
I picked up on a little something earlier in the season
He was seldomly used in Detroit, but after being traded to Boston on February 19th, his per-36 minutes stat line looked as follows:
40.6 3P%, 9.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 14.1 PPG, and a +7.5 box plus-minus
Oh yea, opponents shoot less than 40% from the field when guarded by Jerebko on 7 FGA per game. Also has great hair. For a 6’10 mobile backup big man, you could certainly do worse.
So I expect the Knicks to pick up the options on Quincy Acy and Langston Galloway, as well as offer the vet’s minimum to Cole Aldrich. That brings the roster total up to ten players, and the salary total up to around $62 million (including Hezonja’s rookie-scaled wage), which should leave them plenty of money to fill out the roster without exceeding the luxury tax threshold.
PROJECTED STARTING ROSTER:
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Danny Green
SF: Mario Hezonja
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: Robin Lopez
Yes Melo should be spending most of his time at the four at this point in his career (he’s on the wrong side of 30 and has questionable knees). The second unit should hopefully look as follows:
PG: Langston Galloway
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr
SF: Quincy Acy
PF: Jonas Jerebko
C: Cole Aldrich
Honestly, maybe a 50 win team that could get the 4th seed in the East. However, in 2017 the Knicks would only have Melo, Danny Green, and probably Hezonja under contract. In that season the NBA salary cap could reach upwards of $108 MILLION. I don’t have to tell you what that means. The Knicks just really need to stop trading away first round draft picks.