In Part Un of this series I took a gander at some of the guard options available to the Knicks in a scenario where they land one or (doomsday scenario) zero max-level free agents. The rebuild will continue in earnest at that point, but I remain skeptical the Knicks wouldn’t at least spend the money on short-term contracts for good vets, even if means overpaying a bit.
As deficient as the Knicks are across the board, the wing has been and remains one of the current roster’s biggest weaknesses. Damyean Dotson showed flashes of having the upside to be a plus complementary piece, but that is ultimately what he is. While his on-ball defense is good, he gets caught napping and back-cut to death frequently. Kevin Knox was dog shit as a rookie. Unlike many, I’m neither very concerned nor surprised by that. I’m willing to give him time, because he was always going to be a rough-around-the-edges slow-burn developmental prospect. I also think shooting 34.2 percent from distance at his age is something to work with. Let’s all chill on deciding what he is or isn’t after one year in the league. But I digress.
Anyway, that’s basically it for wings on the roster for next year. I guess some will argue Frank Ntilikina’s a wing. Whatever, even if he is, the Knicks are still short on shooting, ball handling, defense and depth in that department, and they will be even if they sign Kevin Durant. He’d definitely, uhh, help fix a lot of those issues, but he’s still going to need help.
So who are some of the mid-to-lower tier free agent wings the Knicks could target this summer?
Danny Green: Danny Green has spent the entirety of his career being a defensive demon and knocking down big-time threes for serious contenders. For a guy who was waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs, who eventually picked him back up after he bounced around the G-League for a minute, he’s done remarkably well for himself and he’s got a championship ring to boot.
If you look up 3-and-D players in whatever weird-ass dictionary that would define such a term, it’s Green’s picture you’ll see. The closest the Knicks have come to having that caliber of wing in recent memory is Iman Shumpert in the state of Texas. It’s been slim pickings for a while.
Green looked close to washed his last year with the Spurs, but has had a mini renaissance in Canadia with the Raptors. Would he really ditch the comfortable digs in Toronto on a contender (well, at least if Kawhi Leonard sticks around) or could the New York native be convinced to come home and help turn things around in Manhattan?
Price point: One year, $16 million or two years, $22 million.
Danuel House Jr.: House is one of the more mysterious options available this summer. At 25 years old, he’s still short of his prime and has logged under 1400 minutes during his career. He’s shot 37.7 percent on 236 three-point attempts (39.8 percent from the corners). He’s been a solid defensive rebounder on the wing, and this year showed enough positional flex to play 45 percent of his minutes at power forward.
You may be thinking that as a restricted free agent, prying House from the Rockets would not only be difficult, but also too rich for your blood. However, that is likely not the case.
With the NT-MLE being out of the question, they will have access to their T-MLE. They have other players like Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried who also have non-bird rights who are also limited to Houston’s T-MLE for a raise. If they do not have their MLE to offer to House, then they could only match an offer sheet for him worth the minimum (projected at $1.78 million for 2019-20) or a 120% raise ($1.89 million). His qualifying offer is worth $1.89 million, so if he cannot find a deal elsewhere worth more than the minimum, he can go back to Houston for the additional $110k.
The article goes into much greater detail, but the short of it is House could likely be had from under the Rockets for as little as $3-4 million due to their concerns over the luxury tax. I think the author may underestimate how robust the market would be for a player that has flashed his skills. For the Knicks’ purposes, he could give them an option at the four to allow them to play small, and at his age may still have some untapped upside. I’d be into it.
Price point: One year, $6.5 million or two years, $12 million, team option on the second year
Justin Holiday: OAKAAK. Re-connecting with old friends can be fun. Maybe not for Tim Hardaway Jr., but it’s possible! Holiday is still a low-usage, pure 3-and-D guy, who, despite his bony-ass frame, can swing between both the two and three. He’s durable, works his butt off, never complains and is a very down to earth veteran. In many ways he’s really a somewhat useful version of what Lance Thomas has pretended to be over the last three seasons.
Also, he ain’t gonna cost much.
Price point: One year, $4 million
Wayne Ellington: Also OAKAAK. Ellington was persona non-grata when he was included as a salary match in the Tyson Chandler/Jose Calderon trade engineered by Phil Jackson. He was subsequently waived by the Knicks to make space for somebody who assuredly sucked and isn’t in the NBA any longer. He bounced around to the Lakers and then the Brooklyn Culture Setters before landing in Miami where, under Erik Spoelstra’s tutelage, his perimeter shooting ability was maximized like never before.
He was traded to the Phoenix Suns at the trade deadline in a cap-saving move and signed with the Pistons, who he helped nudge into the playoffs. His 3-point shooting prowess is for real and at 32 years old, he still looks like he has plenty to offer in that capacity. Ellington’s not just a pure spot-up threat either. He can catch and shoot off of quick-hitting actions like curls and dribble hand-offs. If you want somebody for Dotson to learn from that can help spread the floor in the present as well, Ellington’s a solid choice even if the defense leaves something to be desired.
Price point: One year, $7 million
Reggie Bullock: Take everything I just said about Ellington and apply it to Bullock. The main difference is Bullock is bigger and has more equity to swing between both the wing spots, as he’s done throughout his career. At 27 years old, Bullock’s age make him a more appealing option. He’s similarly limited when forced to put the ball on the deck, but is much less of a defensive liability, although he’s still no great shakes.
Price point: One year, $7 million or two years, $12 million
Tyreke Evans: I’m 100 percent sure that every single time Tyreke Evans has been a free agent I have wanted the Knicks to sign him. A dude with plus handles, drive-and-kick ability and the flexibility to toggle 1-3 positionally is a fun Swiss Army knife type of player. I was disgusted and bothered when he landed with the hated Pacers last summer.
Of course, as happens to many good people when they move to Indiana, he struggled with adjusting to being surrounded by more cornfields than human beings. The struggle is real.
Whatever the reasons for his struggles, Evans didn’t get to the rim as much and saw his 3-point shooting and assist rate dip precipitously. As an unabashed and irrational Tyreke stan I think this has a lot to do with how the Pacers run their offense. Either way, that dip in production creates an opportunity for the Knicks to snag him in free agency and bank on a resurgence.
Price point: One year, $7 million or two years, $13 million with a team option
Jeremy Lamb: Lamb was once a key part of the James Harden trade. Unfortunately for the Thunder, he never panned out for them and he was traded to Charlotte after his third season. He’s been much better for the Hornets and has really taken a step up over the last two seasons, averaging 14.1 points on 45/36/87 splits. He’s also developed into an extremely good defensive rebounder for a wing, something which my good friend James Marceda has stated several times is a skill of extreme importance.
Lamb will also just be 27 years old next season and entering his prime. The stench of being a former lottery flameout doesn’t seem to have quite worn off, as his improvement with the Hornets seems to have flown under the radar. Lamb has developed into an all-around wing player who is capable of knocking down shots, has some off-the-dribble verve and is at worst a neutral defender. Hopefully (if the Knicks are into him) my estimation that the perception of him league-wide still lags behind what he’s become is true.
Price point: One year, $12 million or two years, $20 million
Rudy Gay: Two years removed from a devastating Achilles injury, Rudy Gay has looked to be back to his best self and just posted the highest TS% of his career (shoutout to Pop!). It perhaps is no coincidence that his rejuvenation has coincided with the vast majority of his minutes with him operating as a small-ball power forward. At the four, he’s a more credible threat to spread the floor and can take advantage of smaller wings inside or take bigs outside, where he’s equally comfortable operating.
Gay would provide much-needed spacing, shot creation and an unappreciated willingness to do the dirty work both on the glass and on the defensive end. It’s possible he’s just benefiting from the Popovich bump, but he still looks spry for his age and the Spurs have carefully managed his minutes in building him back up physically. If you can’t get KD, signing the destitute man’s version isn’t a bad choice for somebody that Knox can learn from, as his ultimate destiny similarly lies as a small-ball power forward.
Price point: One year, $13 million or two years, $24 million, with a second year team option
Some other Wing Bros I like to varying degrees:
Dorian Finney-Smith: Finney-Smith is jumbo wing, who can flex as a power forward. He showed a little bit more game off the dribble and the defense is real. He could really fuck shit up on that end alongside Mitch and Frank (that is if Frank’s still around). He’s also an RFA, so do you really want to pay up to pry him away from Cuban’s grimey grasp?
Bojan Bogdanovic: I think of the non-max level wings he’s the best one. The man is a sniper, he’s developed into a legit secondary/tertiary scorer, and he did a credible job when thrust into the primary role due to Victor Oladipo’s injury in Indiana. Problem is, because of all that he just seems like somebody who’s going to be too expensive for the Knicks. And at 30 years old, this might be the last chance he gets to ink a lucrative long-term deal. I think he stays in Indiana for some real guap.
Luol Deng: He hasn’t really played much over the last few years, but in limited minutes this season Deng still looked like he had some game left in him. He’s purely a four at this stage of his career, but there’s a place for him in the league. Doubt he’d get more than the minimum, either. Probably makes more sense if the Knicks’ dreams do come to fruition rather than if they don’t.
Tomas Satoransky: I’m very into Satoransky’s game. He can run your offense at times, he can play off the ball, and though he’s not explosive, he’s crafty off the bounce. There’s some fun tools to work with, but he’s also 27 years old and a restricted free agent. How much upside, if any, is there? And is it worth it to try to make an offer so unpalatable the Wizards decide to pass? After out last foray into restricted free agency, perhaps not.
That’s it for the wing portion of this series. Part three will focus on bigs and hybrid PF/C types. Look out for it. Ttyl boo.