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P&T Round(ball) Table: Should the Knicks sign Fred VanVleet in free agency?

Is Fred worth giving the bag to?

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Hey, maybe the Knicks will play basketball next season! If that happens, they’ll need some new, hopefully better players.

One such player could be Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet. The 25-year-old will be a restricted free agent this summer. Should the Knicks pursue him? Our panel discusses.

Prez: I consider myself pro-play-kids-and-get-another-top-10-pick-in-2021. That said, I would not mind signing VanVleet, especially for an overpriced two-year deal. The main reason is I think there are enough minutes collectively for VanVleet, whatever point guard we presumably nab in this draft, and Frank at the 1 and 2. VanVleet and Frank can both play off-ball. Among this year’s point guard prospects, Killian Hayes, LaMelo Ball, Cole Anthony and Kira Lewis can all (to different degrees) also play off-ball. So there are guard minutes to go around, especially if the Knicks give RJ Barrett minutes at the 3 (which they should). Having a short-term mentor for our pick, who could share the court with our pick and also would be BY FAR our best floor spacer is the kind of “exception” to “tanking” that I support. What he provides would help develop our kids, rather than inhibiting their development — and flattened lottery odds plus a deep 2021 draft means we will still have a nice shot of adding someone to our core next year, too.

MMiranda: No. I do not want Fred VanVleet. I’d rather see him on the Heat. I do not want him in a box. I do not want him with my jocks. I do not want him on the Knicks. I fear he’ll end up shooting bricks. I’m no all-seeing psychic seer; I just don’t see him working here. His impact is less large than lil’. I would not pay him $20 mil. If FVV is at your offense’s helm, that offense will pro’ly underwhelm. He’s a fine player for a good team to got, but he’s one small piece and the Knicks need lots. VanVleet’s a dude you add to a guild; he’s not a cornerstone around whom you build. The Knicks have gone this way before: pay big bucks to role players whose games float rather than soar.

I know he’s shown he can defend, but the Knicks need surgeons, not just a mend. For years it’s messiahs for which we’ve prayed. Now we’re pumped to sign this band-aid? FVV is a finishing piece; the Knicks aren’t even near the eighth-seed’s lease.

Could VanVleet sign here? He surely could. I just don’t think he’s all that good. His floor is fine, but does he move the needle? Think “Avengers: Endgame,” headlined by Don Cheadle. I’d save Dolan’s pennies for another day. There surely must be a better way. New York’s backcourt always sucks, but FVV’s not where I’d spend big bucks.

Shwinnypooh: FVV started 48 games for the 48-16 Raptors and improved his overall scoring efficiency on higher usage when Lowry was off the floor. If he’s just a band-aid or a role player you’d expect to see some major drop-off when he’s out there running the show by himself, but it doesn’t. His statistical output and impact metrics — on both ends — are comparable to Jrue Holiday at the same point in their careers. Most Knicks fans would gladly have signed up for Jrue from age 26-28, which is what a 3-year deal for FVV would take him through.

System players don’t up their usage and play a more prominent role as a starter with an uptick in efficiency when an MVP-level player leaves town. They don’t do that on a diet of shots increasingly reliant on self-creation, rather than assisted looks. Almost never do they average as many drives per game as noted offensive stars like Devin Booker, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, etc.

Last summer the Bucks signed Malcolm Brogdon to a 4-year, $85 million deal. If the Pacers offered to simply dump that into the Knicks’ cap space, would you take it? Is that an overpay? I don’t know, but what I do know is a lead guard who has shown the ability to play on- and off-ball alongside another ball-handler with a strong track record of 3-point shooting is probably what you want as a complement to RJ Barrett as he develops.

He’s a quality addition even if you draft a lead guard, because FVV doesn’t limit you in playing them together like an Elfrid Payton did this season. He can even allow the Knicks to play multiple point guard lineups for most of the game with “lead guard we draft,” Frank Ntilikina and Barrett all taking up a lot of those minutes as well. He’s also been a rarity as a small guard with an all-around good defensive profile.

Maybe he’s an overpay at three years, $54 million in isolation (or something along those lines), but he provides value in unlocking lineup combinations that we just don’t have available to us on the roster at the moment. He also provides a pull-up shooting, floor-spacing threat we desperately need, and one that, combined with his ball-handling ability, would help slide our younger core players into more comfortable roles where they’re not being asked to produce far above their current capabilities.

Alex: Sign me up. I was reluctant at first, but now I’m basically on board with giving him the Julius Randle treatment from a year ago, only I’d give him a third-year player option instead of a team option if that’s what it took to get the deal done.

I’d give him a 3-year, $59.9 million deal with a third-year player option, as I said in this extremely divisive tweet:

One stipulation to handing that much money to FVV would be that I’d like the Knicks to find a way to ship off Julius Randle, even if it’s just for a second round pick or something. I want the Knicks to be like a lot of successful teams in the league and, short of having a franchise-altering talent like Giannis, not empower their power forward to be any sort of initiator. Save that for the guards, i.e. FVV, and find a power forward that can just space the floor, a la Jerami Grant. But that’s a whole ’nother roundtable.

The only thing that’s kind of concerning is that FVV doesn’t profile as an elite shot-creating combo guard in the mold of, say, CJ McCollum. Here’s FVV’s shot chart this year:

Fred VanVleet’s 2019-20 shot chart

And here’s McCollum’s:

CJ McCollum’s 2019-20 shot chart

The elite creators in the league possess the ability to creatively get their shot at all three levels, and FVV is pretty clearly missing that mid-range pull-up that is sort of the calling card of elite scoring guards.

Speaking of pull-ups, FVV does a lot better in spot-up situations shooting than he does pulling up, particularly from deep:

Fred VanVleet’s 2019-20 shot tracking numbers
NBA Stats

Investing in VanVleet means banking on leaps from both RJ Barrett and Frank Ntilikina, both risky propositions to be sure. But based off how Ntilikina and Barrett were playing to end the year, I’d feel comfortable giving FVV the bag to be a stabilizing and helpful presence for them while also providing team-wide value himself.

Bootum: I’m not the biggest fan of it. I’m just a type of guy that would rather just see the young guys work out the growing pains. I compared him to Tim Hardaway Jr. earlier today, and my point wasn’t that he or Hardaway is bad, but that I’ve just seen enough of the “young-but-not” guys making us marginally better while taking minutes from the Young Core at the cost of making the Knicks’ draft odds worse. The Knicks won two more games than the Kings, who selected second in the 2018 Draft. If Tim Hardaway Jr. doesn’t get signed, the Knicks could easily have Luka Doncic right now and we wouldn’t be debating whether or not we should be signing Fred VanVleet. It’s not all about the pick, but again just wanting to see the young guys play. Would just starting whatever sub-40% guard we draft and pretending RJ is still a SG be the worst? Maybe Lamar Peters could be our Fred VanVleet.

I can’t argue that he would have a positive effect on the floor and likely positive influence on the young guys and their development. A point guard that can penetrate, pass, and shoot, is something the Knicks haven’t really had since ever, and more importantly a dimension that would have a huge impact on RJ and Mitch. Some form of competence really wouldn’t hurt. I’m just not sure if it’s worth it. I don’t think anyone here is really gonna be arguing for more than two years, but I don’t see him agreeing to that even if we overpay. FVV is a guy who I definitely don’t think is going to be better on the Knicks. If the NBA/society ever start again, he’s already going to be 27 years old for a large part of the season. His numbers haven’t improved much from three years ago, and he’s already not too efficient in an elite Raptors system. That’s all fine if you’re just signing him to be a transitional guard as we try to help the fellas get closer to competency. But you don’t want to be stuck giving 20 million a year to a 30-year-old 6-foot VanVleet.

Shwinnypooh: So don’t sign him through age 30?