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Who should the Knicks target in free agency?

The art of seduction: Madison Square Garden edition.

5 Million Dollars In Cash Displayed At Seminole Hard Rock Casino Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

First and foremost, the dominoes yet to fall are so abundant and critical that the entire earth can shift momentum with one signing or trade. For instance, as I was preparing this article and formulating ways to poach Jonathon Simmons or other Spurs players from the fallout of an eventual Chris Paul-to-San Antonio signing, news breaks that Paul had been involved in a trade that would land him in Houston. Now it seems much more likely that Simmons stays close to the Alamo and the sharks begin to circle elsewhere in hopes of young talent being salary-dumped. Forget the damn players, the Knicks will at some point have to figure out who’s going to make these decisions in light of the recent departure of Phil Jackson. Will it be Sam Presti? Perhaps David Griffin? Will Steve Mills finally get to wear the big boy pants after years of being in a surely dysfunctional work environment? Where the hell is Paul George going? How many ex-Knicks can we bring back for a second tour of duty?

There are many qualifiers to be considered when narrowing down prospects. Despite what every single move of the last decade would have you believe, the Knicks should maybe consider not taking a win-now approach to free agency, thus older players looking for multi-year deals (perhaps Korver, Nene, etc.) are likely out. On the other hand, Knicks gonna Knick, and if you don’t think they’ve seriously considered a guy like J.J. Reddick (33), then you clearly don’t know what they’re capable of. Players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Otto Porter are good players who will likely be compensated as if they are great players. The franchise in the other New York borough is in a position to throw cash around frivolously, the Knicks are not.

With so much of the team’s future unknown (Carmelo’s fate, Baker and Holiday’s own free agency, the list goes on), let alone the unknowns around the league, it seems borderline irresponsible to make reckless free agent predictions. For some insight into the free agency of Baker, Holiday, Rose and other Knicks from this past season, P&T has got you covered here. There are a finite number of free agents and likely only a select few that the Knicks can pursue as a result, so let’s get reckless!

Tony Snell (SF) - RFA

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Snell’s free agent availability likely hinges on how much Milwaukee values the 25-year-old small forward. Considering Snell played over 30 minutes per game for the Bucks last season in the playoffs, I would suspect they see him as crucial to their freakishly-long lineup. While the Bucks can extent Snell a roughly $3 Million qualifying offer, they’re currently over the projected salary cap by a healthy margin, and Snell may be expendable relative to guys like Thon Maker, Jabari Parker, and Khris Middleton (I would also expect they make a hard push to move Greg Monroe’s expiring contract at some point).

Why do it? If the price is right and a handcuffed Bucks team can’t move other contracts, Snell would be a valuable floor spacer who doesn’t need the ball. Snell is a rangy, strong defender who shot 41% from 3 last season. A lineup of Porzingis (5), Anthony (4), Snell (3), Lee (2), and Ntilikina (1) is devastating on paper. Every player in that theoretical lineup is a threat from deep and none of them slow your pace when getting up and down the floor. On the defensive end, Carmelo would be the weak link in that scenario, but if Porzingis’ strength develops a bit more, that’s also a deep enough defensive squad that Anthony’s impact is minimized. If Noah stays on the roster, it would also give Snell a shot at redemption!

Why not? While Snell could fit in well in a role, he’s not a player who’s expected to take any leaps beyond mediocrity. Players who can defend and knock down open shots have serious value to contending teams, and if the bidding gets crowded on Snell, the Knicks will likely have to bow out. Offensively, he’s extremely limited other than spot-ups. Snell wouldn’t be a great option in pick-and-roll and is generally not a player you want handling the ball all that much.

Jrue Holiday (PG) - UFA

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks seem determined to protect first round draft pick Frank Ntilikina from being thrown directly into the fire and continue to be linked to other free agent point guards like Jeff Teague, George Hill, and Derrick Rose, as well as keeping the trade rumors for Ricky Rubio afloat. Jrue was one name that came up as early as March due in large part because of Justin Holiday and the two brothers’ hope to potentially play together. It also seems as if Jrue is intent on getting down to business as soon as possible when free agency starts. Jrue missed several games last season due to the health of his wife, and according to reports, the way New Orleans compassionately handled that situation went a long way with Jrue. Don’t expect Jrue to leave New Orleans if they offer him anything remotely fair, but because he’s such a great PG with family ties to the Knicks, he deserves New York’s attention.

Why do it? Jrue is as tenacious a defender as his brother, who, in my opinion, was the best wing defender on the Knicks last season. Despite being in the league since 2009, Jrue is younger than Justin at just 27 and is leaps-and-bounds better as a defender than Teague, Rubio, or Rose. Should the Knicks sign Jrue, there is zero liability in terms of character. Additionally, Holiday is far from one-dimensional. On the offensive end, the former all-star is an average-to-decent shooter, a capable scorer, and a willing passer in pick-and-roll.

Why not? Most importantly, Holiday will likely command a nice check from any team, and the Knicks probably can’t afford him. Perhaps some fans hope that the Holiday brothers each take less to play together, but if the Morris twins’ situation taught them nothing of NBA business, there’s also little incentive to play together in New York with several other financially stable suitors elsewhere. One final concern could be Jrue’s health as he hasn’t been the iron man that Justin was for the Knicks last season. Since 2014, Jrue has had 6 significant injuries to his legs, toes, and eye socket.

Dewayne Dedmon (C) - UFA

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Dedmon’s role with San Antonio saw him reach his career-high in minutes per game, yet the 7-footer still didn’t eclipse more than 18 minutes, on average. With a massive matzo ball up in the air in the form of Manu Ginobli’s contract, as well as their decisions on Pau Gasol and outside free agents, Dedmon could be an odd man out in San Antonio going forward.

Why do it? If Dedmon’s value on the market is affordable for the Knicks, this is almost a no-brainer. While Dedmon’s numbers and impact won’t earn him a max deal (though he did play a nice role for San Antonio during the regular season), his per-36 numbers spell solid role player. The real caveat for Dedmon is his ability to rebound. The Knicks were dead-last in the league in defensive rebounding, and while Dedmon can’t stretch the floor for you on offense, he pulled in over 13 rebounds per 36 minutes. Potentially one of the best rebounders on the free agent market at a low price, Dedmon is worth a close look.

Why not? Offensively, Dedmon isn’t unlike ex-Knick Tyson Chandler. He can run the floor okay and he can catch lobs, but he won’t bring anything dynamic to the table to get buckets. Although his athleticism and size make him extremely effective as a shot blocker and defender in the paint, he’s not a great outside of that area and will likely be limited to defending only his position.

Willie Reed (C) - UFA

NBA: Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On the off-chance that Miami no longer wants Reed’s services, New York (and many other teams) should take an active interest in the big man. Miami should have a nice chunk of cap space available for signings, but the Heat’s admiration for James Johnson and the money he may command coupled with Pat Riley’s ability to lure splashy free agents could make Reed available in some scenarios.

Why do it? Reed is another guy who handled a minimal role to the satisfaction of his coach and has impressive per-36 numbers. Reed did pull off the rare feat of shooting better from the field than he did from the free throw line, and that’s concerning, but for a minimum-salary player, that’s a flaw you can maybe live with (The Knicks pay a lot of money to another center who can’t shoot free throws). Reed tracks rebounds and dives to the rim with so much enthusiasm and purpose that he’s no longer a minimum salary player, in all likelihood.

Why not? The price could certainly rise enough to tip the scales on Reed’s value. An increased role doesn’t always mean the same statistical trajectory, and outside of being outstandingly efficient in the paint on offense, the Saint Louis University product leaves plenty to be desired outside of the restricted area.

Christian Wood (PF) - UFA

NBA: Orlando Magic at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

This is the clearance rack portion of suggested free agents. Don’t get me wrong, just last week I got a really nice pen on clearance for like $0.15. I’m staring at the pen as I type on my keyboard and I understand now why that pen was in the clearance bin. At any rate, Christian Wood is not a player that will alter your franchise, but the potential value in his play is why he’s on this list.

Why do it? Wood plays a bit like Javale Mcgee in that he’s athletic and relatively long. This kid is just 21 years old and although he’s not really a stretch 4 threat at this point, his mechanics suggest he has the potential to be one. Wood will step behind the arc and let it fly, but in meaningful NBA minutes, coaches may want to put the kibosh on that. Best of all, Wood can likely be acquired for a near-minimum salary. I’m not convinced that Marshall Plumlee, Maurice N’dour (recently waived by the Knicks), or Nigel Hayes are better than Wood, but I’d like to find out.

Why not? Wood won’t move the needle. Sure, a million dollars doesn’t seem like much in the NBA, but when you have an abundance of big men (none of which will likely see the floor in a meaningful game) who each make one or two million dollars, it can add up quickly and become superfluous.

The 2017 free agent class is expansive, and finding value in such a market is what every organization strives for. With the Knicks’ budget expected to be quite modest, their options are even more slim. A lot of teams would love a player like Gordon Hayward, but few can afford him. Nerlens Noel and Otto Porter are intriguing pieces to several franchises, but their respective teams likely aren’t letting them slip away. Shaun Livingston is much better than most people realize, but Livingston isn’t eager to leave perennial championship contenders to play backup PG on a lottery team at a bargain. Only so many options are realistic, and an even smaller percentage of those options are helpful to the Knicks. The chess match begins July 1st, and once the major players occupy their spots on the board, madness isn’t far behind.