Last week, I examined 15 guards whom Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks can realistically target in free agency. Today, I’ll look at forwards and centers who are set to hit the open market in July and would be a good fit for New York.
The Knicks’ starting frontcourt – featuring Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Robin Lopez – was actually one of the better frontlines in the Eastern Conference last season. They also have Kyle O’Quinn under contract for three more seasons. In addition, 2015 second-round pick Guillermo (Willy) Hernangomez has expressed interest in coming stateside after a strong season in Spain. Hernangomez, whose contract with Real Madrid expires at the end of the month, is a 6’11 center who played alongside Porzingis during KP’s final season in Europe. It will be interesting to see if the Knicks are able to sign Hernangomez to play in NYC next season and, if so, what kind of contract that will require.
Clearly, the Knicks’ primary priority will addressing the gaping hole in their backcourt. However, considering the Knicks have failed to qualify for the playoffs in three straight seasons, they obviously need to search for value contracts wherever they can find them. Again, the idea here is not to list the best available players, but rather identify players that New York may view as potential values, which would allow them to improve incrementally, while also retaining the cap space necessary to make a big splash in 2017.
Marvin Williams, 29, Unrestricted free agent:
The 2015-16 campaign, Williams’ 11th NBA season, was also his best season. He set career-highs in PER (16.8), Win Shares (7.8), and True Shooting Percentage (.585). He was one of just seven players to knock down at least 150 threes and shoot above 40 percent from behind the arc. In addition, he posted a career-high in rebounds and blocks. He’s a reliable, solid “stretch four” in today’s NBA.
Solomon Hill, 25, Unrestricted free agent:
Hill was largely ineffective for Indiana over his first two NBA seasons, which is why Larry Bird and the Pacers decided to decline the team option on the final year of his contract prior to the start of last season. However, Hill surprisingly emerged as a valuable contributor in 2016, particularly over the second half of the year and into the postseason. There are certainly limitations to his game (for his career, he has 32.5 percent from three-point territory and as eFG% of 46.5 percent), but if signed at the right price, he profiles as a valuable “glue guy” off the bench.
Nicolas Batum, 27, Unrestricted free agent:
A terrifically talented and versatile player, Batum would immediately improve any team he joins. Last season, he was one of just four players to average at least 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and two three-pointers per game. The other three players were Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and James Harden. Batum is also a plus-defender who can guard both bigger and smaller payers. If he signed with New York, the Knicks could roll out a starting lineup featuring four players 6’8 or taller. Signing Batum would also give the Knicks the flexibility to trade either Lopez (moving Porzingis to the five spot) or Carmelo Anthony (if ‘Melo was willing to waive his no-trade clause, of course). The obvious issue is his potential cost. With so many teams having so much cap space, Batum will receive max offers this summer.
David West, 35, Unrestricted free agent:
Yes, the Knicks needs guards. This we know. The Knicks also need leaders in the locker room. ‘Melo is a supremely talented basketball player and played extremely well last season, but he has never been a vocal leader. When he’s experienced his greatest success in NBA, it has been when he was surrounded by vets who took control of the team. The Knicks have won over 50 games only once this millennium, and that was back in 2012-13, when they fielded the “oldest team in NBA history,” featuring Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Jason Kidd among others. West took an enormous pay-cut last year in order to prioritize winning and a chance at a title, so it’s highly unlikely he would consider the Knicks. With that said, he is the type of ‘pro’s pro’ the Knicks would love to bring to MSG.
Terrence Jones, 25, Restricted free agent:
The Rockets had high expectations for Jones coming into last season, hoping he would continue his development and emerge as a star. Instead, beset by injuries and ineffectiveness, Jones took a step backward in 2015-16. Does that make Jones a “buy-low” candidate? As a 22-year-old, in his second NBA season, Jones averaged 12.1 points (while shooting above 54 percent from the floor) and 6.9 rebounds per game. The Rockets will likely match any reasonable deal, so a team would likely have to gamble and offer Jones above market value in order to scare off the Rockets.
Jared Dudley, 31, Unrestricted free agent:
Like David West, Dudley is pro’s pro who is a bit long in the tooth, but can still produce efficiently and contribute on both ends of the floor.
Joakim Noah, 31, Unrestricted free agent:
Who was the last Eastern Conference player not named LeBron James to finish in the top five in NBA MVP voting? That would be Joakim Noah. The last player not named Kawhi Leonard to win the Defensive Player of the Year award? Yup, Joakim Noah. Noah was a truly elite NBA player as recently as 2014. However, he is now coming off a major injury and played poorly when he was on the floor last season. Nonetheless, he’s the exact type of player I would gamble on if I’m Phil Jackson. Offer him a short-term, big-money ‘make good’ contract. He brings passion and defensive intensity every second he’s on the court. That’s something that’s been missing at Madison Square Garden for far too long. He immediately would become a fan favorite. Noah is also a solid screener and phenomenal passer out of the post, making him an ideal fit in Triangle-type sets. One other thing: Noah is also the last homegrown NYC product to make an NBA All-Star team. Would he give the Knicks a hometown discount?
Dwight Powell, 25, Restricted free agent:
An intriguing prospect, Powell has only played sparingly in his first two seasons in the NBA, but he’s raised some eyebrows when given minutes. His per-36 minutes averages are impressive at 14.5 points and 9.9 rebounds.
Ryan Anderson, 28, Unrestricted free agent:
The Knicks were once again near the bottom of the league in three-pointers last season. However, new coach Jeff Hornacek has already stated New York will modernize their offense and increase their attempts from behind the arc. Anderson has consistently been one of the NBA’s best long-range shooters since entering the league. He’s averaged at least two made three-pointers per game for six straight seasons. Given the premium placed on three-point shooting in today’s NBA, Anderson will have plenty of suitors, which will likely price him out of the Knicks range.
Jon Leuer, 27, Unrestricted free agent:
Leuer saw plenty of playing time in the train wreck that was the Phoenix Suns’ 2015-16 season. He ended up starting 27 games and averaged a respectable 8.5 points and chipped in 5.6 rebounds in less than 19 minutes a night. He’s has issues defensively, but he can stretch the floor on the other end. His familiarity with Hornacek could be a plus.
Donatas Motiejunas, 25, Restricted free agent:
A true “boom or bust” proposition, Motiejunas has continuously shown flashes of intriguing upside over his first four seasons in the NBA. However, he hasn’t been able to shake the injury bug, with a lingering back issue being the most significant setback to date. He has starter potential and a game perfectly suited for today’s pace-and-space attack, but the questions is how much should a team invest in a young big with a balky back?
David Lee, 33, Unrestricted free agent:
Lee was so ineffective that he was unplayable at times over the first half of last season in Boston, and he was buried on the bench as a result. However, he showed signs of life once he signed with Dallas after the All-Star break, averaging close to a double-double in March. He’s still a well below-average defender, but he can help a team offensively. The former Knick enjoyed his time in New York, and he’s made over $75 million in his career (he was the highest paid player on the 2014-15 world champion Warriors). Would be be willing to come off the bench for the Knicks and play for at or near the veteran’s minimum?
Timofey Mozgov, 30, Unrestricted free agent:
Also a former Knick, it appeared Mozgov was headed toward a huge payday at this time last year, when he was starting and playing very well for the Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals. A year later, Mozgov is an afterthought in Cleveland. The Knicks have plenty of depth at center, but if Mozgov is underappreciated on the free-agent market, Phil Jackson could pounce and possibly scoop Mozgov up at a discount if he remains unsigned weeks into July.
* Other Potential Targets: Darrell Arthur, Mirza Teletovic, Meyers Leonard, Jordan Hill, Trevor Booker, Nene, Ian Mahinmi, Boban Marjanovic, Chase Budinger, James Johnson
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