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Potential under-the-radar Knicks free agent targets

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The Knicks should keep an eye on the future during free agency, which entails maintaining flexibility and looking for competent guards and defensive players to fill out the roster. With that in mind, here are some early candidates.

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Now that the Knicks have made a late-June trade splash, foregone the 2016 NBA Draft, and assembled their Summer League roster, they can move their focus to free agency. This year's crop of free agents is both interesting and wholly, profoundly uninteresting. It's interesting because the salary cap is set to increase to $94 million, almost $25 million higher than last season. It's uninteresting because almost all of the players who would be willing to sign with the Knicks are bad or terrible. But that doesn't mean the Knicks won't dip their toes to test the sewer water, and I don't think it's impossible for them to find a bona fide asset in a preposterous environment.

Joakim Noah rumors and Carmelo Anthony recruitment have been the stories so far this week, but I wanted to take a quick look at some free agents that might make sense for the Knicks, who should have about $26 million to throw around if they should so unwisely choose.

Tyler Johnson

Johnson is a restricted free agent whose rights currently belong to the Miami Heat. He has two years of NBA experience after spending four years at Fresno State. He is good at shooting threes (38% career) and shot almost 49% from the floor last year, which is elite for a guard. He probably isn't done improving, he got much better in each of his four years at Fresno State, he just turned 24, he is 6'4" and he's athletic enough to party. Johnson is a restricted free agent and Miami will match most offers. But you miss 95% of the shots you don't take, so might as well swing the dang ball.

Anthony Morrow

Morrow is one of the best shooters I've ever seen, which is why he would be a great fit for the Knicks, or any NBA team. He doesn't defend terrifically, but his shooting is such an overwhelming threat on a second unit that he can provide value for spurts. He could replace Afflalo's minutes and beat his production immediately. Playing Morrow 10-15 minute per game essentially guarantees he's shoot 40-45% from downtown, which is an especially valuable tool for a drive-and-kick point guard like Derrick Rose.

Jerryd Bayless

I'm not a big Bayless fan, but the Knicks could really use as many point guards as they can get for next year if they hope to compete. Bayless is another guy who can handle the ball and usually knock down shots in streaks. His heart is biologically similar to that of a hummingbird so he does everything too quickly. This leads him to out-rebound your expectations and throw the ball away pretty often. He's up to some wild shit sometimes, to be honest with you. But he shot a career-best 44% from three last year on 231 attempts and held onto the ball much better than usual. He seems to have learned that his best utility offensively is from far away, dedicating 53% of his attempts to the long ball.

Mario Chalmers

Chalmers is probably the best defensive guard on this list when he's engaged. He spent a long time under Erik Spoelstra in Miami before heading to Memphis, but in each place he was asked to defend more than anything else. He lost his three point stroke two years ago and hasn't been able to find it, but prior to that he maintained a somewhat questionable reputation as a big shot maker, and his free throw shooting has actually greatly improved. But the reason Chalmers should interest the Knicks is his defense. When he is locked in, he'd have a shot at being the Knicks' best defensive guard.

E'Twaun Moore

Moore's 2015-16 season was kind of hilarious. He played more than 1,200 minutes for the Bulls and shot 45% from three and 48% overall, but could only hit 63% of his free throws. At 6'4" he can guard shooting guards and some smaller forwards, though he doesn't pass or rebound much at all. Moore fits the Knicks because they need guards who can give them minutes and look reasonable on both ends. In the past two seasons Moore has looked like the type of guard who can do that. He just turned 27 and probably won't command a large contract despite the shallow free agent pool.

Darrell Arthur

Arthur is the only big man I'll include on this list, and he's the player I think should command the largest contract. In his time in Memphis, Arthur started as a competent defender while quietly expanding his offensive game. Most recently in Denver, Arthur just turned 28 and has seemingly found his overall game, one which profiles perfectly for the modern NBA. He is big enough to defend larger-bodies power forwards and some centers, and he's nimble enough to defend pick-and-rolls and short-term switches. He's worked on his stroke enough that he's now comfortable out to the three, where he shot 45 for 117 last season (39%), and he's been great from the midrange for years.

He is a seasoned veteran at this point (class of '08, coach Michael Malone reportedly loves his defense and leadership), his game seems to fit with that of Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, and Jeff Hornacek has successfully found offensive roles for similar players (The Morrii) in the past. He has his issues (his knees cause him to miss games every season), and he wouldn't move the needle much toward building a championship team. To be clear, I think it would be foolish for the Knicks to spend on a free agent big man this summer. But, if they do, I'd like them to pick Darrell Arthur off the Nuggets, whose frontcourt is too stacked to pay him.

Lance Thomas

Y'all know Lance. I think he proved himself versatile and reliable enough when healthy to be considered for a reasonable contract.

If the Knicks decide to spend some of their hard-earned cap space this summer, I think they should do so conservatively with an eye toward the future. That entails looking to maintain flexibility as well as finding players to comprise a competitive, if not winning team on both sides of the ball. I think one or more of the above players has the chance to help, though it's entirely possible they will all be overpaid by other teams.

All statistics via Basketball-Reference