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P&T Round(ball) Table: What should the Knicks do in free agency?

Besides not sign Terry Rozier

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Welcome to another edition of a Posting and Toasting round table discussion. What you’re about to read is a conversation Drew, Alex, Bootum, Common (the rapper), Dillon, Your Mother, and Lames had about how the Knicks should approach free agency now that Kevin Durant is going to be out for the year with an Achilles tear. Hopefully they stayed on target, but you never know with these bozos.

Drew: Guys, this whole Durant injury situation bums me out on so many levels. He finally reached the point in his career where he was the best player in the world, something he’s been clamoring for since his Oklahoma City days. And now with this Achilles injury, there is a really strong chance that he’s never going to be the same player he was. It just sucks for the league as a whole.

And how does that relate to the Knicks? I mean, I’m mad that I even began this paragraph like this. Anywell, our good friend Shwin wrote a compelling case for the Knicks not to sign Durant that I tend to agree with. He also wrote an entire series of whom the Knicks should sign if Durant decided to sign somewhere else. I more or less agree with everything Shwin wrote in the Durant article: maxing Kevin Durant in this state is just illogical. With that said, I have some takes I want to throw out there and see what the thoughts are:

  1. Signing Durant doesn’t make sense for the reasons Shwin outlined.
  2. Because of point one, the Knicks should sign the following players: Ricky Rubio, Anthony Tolliver (or bring back Noah Vonleh), and Kyle O’Quinn.
  3. As much as I want to bring in Patrick Beverly, I just don’t see him signing with a non-playoff team.
  4. Please keep Terry Rozier and the Morri (Marcus and Markieff Morris) away from this team.
  5. Signing Boogie Cousins is not smart.

Dillon: I wrote this SUPER long thing about why the Knicks should still offer Durant a max deal, but I think I’m going to leave that argument alone, omit my nuanced opinion, and just simply state that I would take that risk and definitely do it (and admit there is certainly some risk). To be fair to both sides of this argument, you are only right or wrong based on how he pans out as a player. If the Knicks decide not to offer him a contract and he’s a beast the next three out of the four years, it’s a bad look. If we sign him to a max deal and he plays a combined 50 games and crushes our cap flexibility — also a bad look.

Being the most important domino, the fate of Durant definitely changes the way you play the free agent market going forward. I think regardless of NYK’s acquisition of Durant, I am hugely high on Tomas Satoransky. I would venture to say that I’m comfortable offering him multiple years, but I’m also suspicious that his market value could vary greatly from team to team, and I have no idea what he will command in FA. Surely, the Wizards will need to start preparing cap space to max out the second coming of Giannis in Rui Hachimura — and if you’re buying that, you should also buy this.

Julius Randle is fine, but I’d stay away from the multi-year deal that he’ll ultimately command on the market. I don’t believe he’s a good fit with Mitch and I think you almost aim lower with a guy like Jake Layman or run it back with Vonleh, pending the status of the high-caliber free agents.

Bootum: Like Shwin, I’m very against signing Durant. I’m always extremely skeptical of giving massive contracts to players with injury concerns. I wanted to trade Kristaps Porzingis before even knowing he wanted out, due to his injury-proneness.

Before KD even ruptured his Achilles, I was a little nervous about signing him due to his age, height, and injury history along with Kyrie Irving and his bad knees. I still would have done it, but now that Durant has ruptured his Achilles I definitely would not. To be a good playoff team, the Knicks would have needed a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to carry a prepubescent Knicks roster coming off a 17–win season.

Even if Durant overcame the odds and did not have much of a drop-off (despite it being such a hard injury to come back from), I still do not believe relying on a 32–year-old coming off a massive injury to carry the Knicks is a reliable plan. Unless the young guys made massive leaps — which I don’t think you can count on — Durant would likely have either not been able to play enough to win many games, or he would have overexerted himself in an attempt to do so and get re-injured. Just last year, we saw how not even LeBron James was capable of single-handedly carrying a young Lakers roster to a playoff spot.

I’m not necessarily pro-tanking in the sense that the Knicks should actively be trying to lose, but I don’t think they should give money to veterans who are going to take playing time from the young guys while simultaneously hurting our lottery chances. I don’t have a problem with vets, but I’d prefer them not to play much, if at all, on a rebuilding team. Guys like Vince Carter, Anthony Tolliver, and Kyle O’Quinn would be beneficial mentors for sure. I don’t really think it’s all that beneficial for them to be playing. I wouldn’t mind bringing back Vonleh to actually play at all; he was damn good in the beginning of the season. I think his fall-off at the end was largely due to fatigue after not having had such a large role before.

Drew: Hold on guys, Bootum is still typing...

Bootum: Definitely keep the Morri and Terry Rozier away from this team. Personality aside, Marcus and Markieff are just pretty bad. Both the Wizards and Thunder were much worse with Markieff on the court. Rozier and Marcus Morris had the two worst on-offs per 100 out of any Celtics rotation player. Rozier would probably do a little better in a larger role, but I really don’t think he’s that good. He was decent in 2017-18 and shined in the playoffs, but he’s been horrible his other three years in the league, and was even worse during the playoffs this year than he was during his pitiful regular season. I think it’s most likely the ’17–18 season was an aberration, and him being pretty bad his other three years in the league is closer to the true Terry Rozier than the Drew Bledsoe killer. I’d much rather watch 20-year- old Frank Ntilikina brick threes over 25-year old Rozier. Rozier is also notorious for never passing to the roll man, and being horrific at lobs when he does decide to throw them. Not really a great fit alongside Mitchell Robinson. How come we’re never allowed to sign a point guard that can pass and shoot?

I don’t get why the Knicks have interest in Boogie at all. Outside of also having a bad locker room reputation like the Morri, he’s also currently pretty bad at basketball after his injuries. I’d honestly rather play Mitch and Kornet over him whether we’re in rebuild mode or trying to win games. Boogie didn’t run back on defense before tearing his Achilles; he’s really not doing it now. He and Mitch, our best non-RJ prospect, could not effectively play together. Boogie is too slow and his shot seems to have left him post-injury, whereas Mitch, who has only made one shot outside of the paint so far, isn’t much of a shooter either. The best-case scenario with Boogie would be him making big strides so we could trade him for good returns. But considering we rarely make trades outside of when someone requests one, we’d probably just take the usual route and let him walk for nothing.

Drew: Wow, this is the first time I haven’t received any sort of snarky response from someone. It’s almost as if everyone forgot we are having a totally-not-forced conversation.

Just to continue piling on Rozier, he shot under 40 percent from the field and had a worse true shooting percentage than Emmanuel Mudiay. Let that sink in for a moment: Emmanuel Mudiay is a more efficient shooter than Terry Rozier.

I’m also with Bootum on the Cousins front. The one thing I’ll add is that if Cousins does rebound from his poor season and begin putting up numbers, he would be doing so at the expense of Robinson in some capacity. Maybe the Knicks get a future first-round pick to dump Cousins at the deadline, and then what? You basically wasted two-thirds of the season cutting into Robinson’s play time with other potential core young guys for maybe a pick? Doesn’t make sense.

Actually, I have another thing: What if he plays so well that the Knicks want to bring him back to pair with Durant? Is DeMarcus Cousins a foundational player on a championship team? I don’t think so. I’d rather the low-usage vertical floor spacer who can legitimately guard the perimeter and the rim.

Bootum: Boogie and KD post-Achilles tears would be torn to shreds on defense.

Lames: Defense is for suckers. That’s not what we do around here. GET BUCKETS, BOOTUM!

Dillon: Bringing in Rubio, on a shorter deal, would be fine. O’Quinn will always get love from me (SAY QUEENSBRIDGE!) and Tolliver is a pro — all for it!

I don’t love Marcus Morris but I think he has some healthy amount of “fuck you” in him and I think he would be kept in check in the locker room. In a small role, he could be fine. Rozier is a no from me, dawg.

Pat Bev is a guy I love watching play, not a guy I want to watch in blue and orange. Mostly I see him in suits quite a bit, and when he is in uniform, he’s an incomplete player and a net positive on only one side of the ball.

Drew: As much as I disagree with your take on Beverley, Dillon, I just feel like he’s going to want to play on a playoff team to try to win a title and not be a mentor on a young, more than likely bottom-five record team. Because of this, I’m not going to go into great detail as to why he’d fill a need on this roster and bring an attitude that the young players can learn from. Imagine Ntilikina with Beverly’s attitude?!

Alex: Hey guys, what did I miss?

Drew: First off, you’re the worst, Alex. Second, you missed both Dillon and Bootum thinking we weren’t having a conversation. Do you actually have something of value to add to this discussion?

Alex: Well, maybe I’m in the minority here — at least based off of this roundtable — but I think the Knicks should sign Kevin Durant if he wants to come here. I know that the recovery from an Achilles injury is no sure thing, but I think Durant has proven himself to be well above average in every respect in his time in the league — I really don’t see why recovery work ethic would be any different.

On top of it all, Durant has the type of frame that seems made for a good recovery from this injury — he’s always been lithe, meaning his newly-repaired Achilles won’t have to support a ton of weight (as was the worry with Cousins, but more on him in a moment). That said, all of the talk of “Oh, Kevin Durant will come back X percentage of himself” is stupid. There’s no mathematical way to determine how good KD could still be on the Knicks. But I just think that — even if he’s hurt, even if you don’t know how good he’s going to come back — you just don’t turn away a guy like Kevin Durant.

As far as the rest of free agency goes... I wouldn’t sign a true max-level secondary star along with KD at this point (like a Jimmy Butler). I feel like that could only end badly because it would A) make that second max-level star into the scapegoat for 2019-20 if the Knicks don’t make the playoffs and B) put a heavy set of expectations on Durant to come back and be an immediate savior in 2020-21.

The idea, should you get KD, should be to use that second max slot worth of cap room to spread out among some good role players on one- or two-year deals (or trade for some decently useful guys on big deals and get a little future draft compensation for your troubles). I like Rubio potentially as a mentor for DSJ and/or Frank, or maybe even a guy like George Hill that would be alright with playing more of a mentor/reserve role at a more advanced stage of his career. As Stingy wrote yesterday, I’d be into Vince Carter as a mentor for guys like Kevin Knox and R.J. Barrett. Bringing back Noah Vonleh on a two-year deal would be cool by me as well.

That’s of course assuming that the fever dream scenario of signing KD and Kawhi Leonard is completely out the window.

As far as the Boogie conundrum... Again, I have the unpopular opinion here, but I’d be willing to give it a shot, with or without Durant. My thoughts are basically this:

  • I think Boogie and Mitch could potentially work together in a similar way to how Boogie and Anthony Davis worked together in New Orleans (though with a much heavier emphasis on Boogie handling the ball, since that’s not Mitch’s forte in the slightest).
  • Because he’s more of a “legacy” big man in an evolving NBA, it’s reasonable to assume that he’s not likely to ever be a true max-level player again. So if you throw him, say, a one-year, $20 million contract, your risk is minimized and you give him a chance to prove that he’s worth a bigger deal. On top of that, if you get calls from capped-out suitors before the trade deadline, you can trade him and they would have the ability to work over the cap and sign Boogie to a deal starting at 120 percent of his previous year’s salary using Non-Bird rights. For a constantly star-hungry and capped-out team (like the Houston Rockets, who can never make up their mind and are always looking for new shiny toys for Daryl Morey), that would mean they could exceed the cap and sign Boogie to a deal starting at $24 million.
  • Or, maybe he just works out, and you keep him and Durant going forward!

I don’t know if signing Boogie is necessarily something I’d look at as a first, second, or even third option in free agency, but it’s also not something I’d rule out entirely.

Drew: I don’t know what’s worse: Alex’s takes or the amount of em dashes he used to write this drivel.

Alex: The em dash is like my Mjolnir.

Lames: I thought a Mjolnir might be some sort of semi-obscure diacritic and I was excited to learn more about it. Then I googled it and now I’m sad. GROW UP, ALEX!

Dillon: Hell yeah, my dog Alex! One other point about Durant (and it seems Bootum disagrees with me here) but a slower, less athletic version of Durant is still a guy with a stupid wingspan who can protect the rim well enough as a 5 and shoot over anyone without even jumping. His game and body type lends itself well to his eventual aging.

Drew, I hear you on Pat Bev. I love the dude, but he’s not going to be worth the money. Plus, I don’t get the impression the FO gives a shit about developing Frank. This will be a “show me what you are” year for Frank and I don’t see them investing long-term in any mentors for him, though I dare a team to try and get past half-court with that back court on the floor.

Alex: I like that James just pops into these things to stoke fires and shit on our nerdy references from time to time.

Oh, and Drew, let me redeem myself in your eyes here: Terry Rozier is hot garbage. He’s literally the only guy that, regardless of whatever spin the Knicks put on the signing, would make me want to vomit.

But anyway, we could probably go on for a year or two (or another 3,000 words) about all of this. Luckily, free agency is in a few hours, and we’ll have all the answers we could ever want in a matter of days. To quote Drew quoting the Dan Le Batard show: strap it on, folks. Things are about to get very interesting, one way or another.