If you haven’t heard, the Knicks, after trading Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, Courtney Lee and some other dude, now have enough cap space to sign two max-level free agents this summer. There is a strong belief around the league from executives, coaches and players that Kevin Durant will willingly exchange the basketball nirvana that is the Golden State Warriors for the purgatory that is the New York Knickerbockers. More power to you, Kevin!
Allegedly, depending on who you listen to and what you choose to believe, he could very well be joined by Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker.
Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, who has a close relationship with Durant (remember All-Star Weekend?), is one of the players who could join Durant in the Big Apple. Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker also has fans in the Knicks organization. Multiple executives doing their homework on the free-agent class, though, fully expect Durant to sign with the Knicks and Irving to join him.
Setting aside your personal preferences, signing Kyrie with Durant certainly seems to be the dream scenario for Scott Perry and Steve Mills. Signing Kemba in the same scenario may be, although not for sure.
I don’t know about you, but that’d be pretty fucking sweet, considering some of the “basketball” we’ve endured since Novakaine was a thing (it was a thing). But we are Knicks fans. Free agent fantasies have come crashing down upon us like we’re three levels deep in a dream and Joseph Gordon-Levitt just initiated “the kick.”
Last time that happened, when the Knicks had cleared the deck for two max free agents, Donnie Walsh ended up maxing out Amar’e Stoudemire on an uninsurable five year, $100m contract. And really, that is the worst thing the front office could do this summer.
We can argue whether or not signing Kemba or Butler to a max deal is a similar albatross. I don’t believe so, but for the purposes of this article, let’s assume maxing them out, even with Durant in the mix, caps you out as a close-but-no-cigar “contender”.
There are much worse realities than turning into the 2020s version of the ’90s Knicks. But does time really have to be a flat circle? I could take it. Hell, I’d probably dig it, but I want the whole fucking thing this time!
So what should the Knicks do if they can only sign Durant among the star free agents available, or worse, strike out on the whole enchilada?
Well, at a very basic level they should try to sign good players. If they get Durant they’ll need some of those, and even if KD passes on the chance to play with the Blockness Monster, these kids need some help. (And I mean real help, not Mario Hezonja.)
The Knicks, with Durant or otherwise, need more shooting, ball handling and defensive aptitude. Basically, they need everything and need it at every position. Stars are ideal because of their all-around production, but shopping in the lower rungs of the free agent market or operating as a clearing ground for teams to dump salary can yield useful options, too.
Patrick Beverley: Would you be interested in a defensive pest at the point of attack? One that has started and played big minutes for multiple playoff teams? What if I told you he was a career 38.0% shooter from beyond the arc, and hit 39.7% from distance just this season? Is that something you might be interested in?
Beverley has a troubling injury history, although he did play in 78 games this season. He’s not the greatest primary ball handler ever, and that would still remain a hole, but he does provide some additional playmaking. Even at 30 years old he seems to have plenty left in the tank, and if the Knicks really are interested in instilling a defensive culture, who better to kickstart that than Bev?
Price point: $12 million on a one-year deal or two years, $16 million.
Darren Collison: Yeah, I know. Darren Collison doesn’t really get the juices flowing. He’s the most average starting point guard imaginable. And guess what? The Knicks haven’t had many of those over the years. Collison’s a low usage, solid efficiency player who is capable of knocking down shots from the perimeter, has playoff experience, and can functionally run an offense.
As a temporary solution you could do much worse. We have before.
Price point: $10 million on a one-year deal
Ricky Rubio: It feels like Rubio has forever been on the cusp of becoming a Knick only for it to not quite come to fruition. Basically basketball blue balls. But the Knicks could finally get a nut this summer if they add him to the fold.
Rubio’s a good defender, has exquisite vision, and can really dish out of pick-and-roll. What he really can’t do is shoot — or finish at the rim, for that matter. He’s basically a more fleshed out, developed version of sweet baby Frank. So if we sign him I’m certain that half the fanbase would love him and the other half would hate his guts.
Count me in the former camp. Ricky Rubio as the point-guard-of-the-future-for-the-next-year-or-two-before-we-get-sick-of-him sounds good to me.
Price point: $18 million on a one-year deal or 2 years, $30m, team option on the second year
Jeff Teague: No, Jeff Teague is not a free agent. He is in the final year of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves after exercising his $19 million player option. The Timberwolves are in a tricky financial position with Tyus Jones a free agent this summer and Dario Saric to come next year. They’re already capped out for next season before signing anybody, so they could be looking at pushing over the tax threshold this summer if they’re not careful.
Teague is a solid PG, but he doesn’t really move the needle for them in the West. Dumping his salary buys them breathing room under the tax and gives them some cap space to play with this summer. If they’re looking to salary dump him, as annoying and punchable as that face is, Teague would be a solid one-year rental.
Some other bros I’d be cool with:
Seth Curry - I mean if you’re starting Seth Curry at point, that’s not great, but as an off-ball guard he’s a threat. Much like his brother, Seth can really stroke it from outside and he’s got a little bit of juice off the bounce to create.
Ish Smith - I’ve always been a fan of Ish. He’s not really good, although as a backup he’s certainly capable. He’s good in pick-and-roll and knows how to feed bigs. (Ed. note — Clyde would also LOSE HIS SHIT because Ish is his favorite player in the NBA.)
Elfrid Payton - He gets numbers, but I don’t think he’s actually good. He’s still quite young, though, at just 25 years old, and Scott Perry has worked with him before in their shared time together in Orlando.
Price point: $8 million on a one-year deal
That about does it for Part One of this depressing ass series of articles. In Part Two I’ll take a look at some of the non-max level wing players available in free agency.