Knicks

Can the Knicks Land Any Reputable Free Agents in 2020?

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Familiar Situation

Even with everything that has happened over the past few months, there is still one thing we do know. The New York Knicks need help. Well, yeah and the sky is blue, so what’s new? Everything. The NBA is in one of the strangest predicaments we’ve ever seen. Every day it seems like the consensus around the league changes about if they want to cancel the season or not. No matter what happens, this free agency is going to be intriguingly uncomfortable for many teams.

There’s a chance that teams may be skeptical about taking risks on players because of the skewed sample sizes. We’ll remember this year as one that featured a pandemic, nationwide protesting, and some mediocre franchise giving Davis Bertans $100 million for three years. Jokes aside, this situation is perfect for the Knicks because they can’t get enough help. Expect the team to take a similar approach to last year by signing team-friendly deals and emphasizing veteran leadership. Except that this time this approach will not be Plan B. These are some free agents that the Knicks should consider looking into that could improve the roster next season.

Davis Bertans

Okay, like Woody from the Toy Story franchise says, “Reach for the sky.” Bertans is far from the biggest name on the free-agent market. However, in terms of value and promise, the “Latvian Laser” will be one of the most sought-after commodities. He looks like a guy you would not want to see in an alleyway, but you want to see him open behind the three-point line in crunch time. Coming off a career year where he averaged a career-high 15.4 points on 43% shooting and 42% from three, Bertans is going to earn compensation. He’s capable defensively and can score in bunches, making him a blueprint stretch big.

 

Now, shifting back to reality, I do not see Bertans coming to New York. However, one can always explore possibilities, and Leon Rose will do just that. It’s certainly possible, but as of now, he doesn’t fit. The Knicks would have to decline Bobby Portis’ option. Also, it’s difficult to envision a scenario where Julius Randle stays if Bertans comes because Mitchell Robinson is not coming off the bench. Bertans would naturally be a better fit, so New York would have to move Randle’s contract. This thinking is probably futile because although Bertans does not care where he goes, he does not strike me as a big-city personality. I also anticipate that he will go somewhere where he can be a second or third scoring option.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens now that he announced he will not be rejoining the Wizards in Orlando. You cannot blame him for this decision because frankly, the NBA should not have considered Washington to compete. If the Knicks figure out a way to make it work, maybe he’ll be our next Latvian sharpshooter.

Joe Harris

The Knicks showcased a severe lack of three-point capability last season, especially after trading Marcus Morris. Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock contributed 1.4 threes over 36 games and 1.3 threes over 29 games, respectively. The team had no consistency in this area, and with an addition like Joe Harris, the offense improves immediately. Having him to space the floor and make tough shots takes a lot of pressure off of R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle. Before the season halted, ‘Beef Jerky Joe’ was lighting it up, shooting 47% from the field and 41% from three while also being a reliable rebounder.

Harris would be a perfect addition to the Knicks roster, and he would not have to worry about offensive looks. This addition is beneficial because it does not change the direction of the draft. Whoever New York drafts will be able to play alongside Harris seamlessly. The Knicks need a guy like Harris who can come in right away and be a volume scorer, coming off screens and opening up the paint for big men to operate.

Here is the catch, because there is always one with the Knicks. Harris will not leave Brooklyn if he does not have to. Harris has an ideal situation for next year, where he’ll be able to play with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, and Caris LeVert. If the Nets value Harris’ capabilities, it would have to take a lot to pry him away. Nonetheless, if contract talks make Harris feel undervalued, what a shock it would be for the Nets if he decided to commute to join the Knickerbockers. Now this statement comes with a lot of unjustified confidence, but, on paper, Harris would be an excellent signing.

Honorable Mentions

Before getting to the last player that should gauge a more extensive look, there are several less glamorous options for the Knicks.

Marco Belinelli: a veteran sharpshooter who spaces the floor and can fly around the court. He has been super consistent throughout his career and would be a great mentor to younger players. As an NBA champion, he is probably not too worried about going to a contender. So, the Knicks could sign him to a considerable but reasonable contract.

Tim Hardaway Jr.: after two previous stints in New York, Hardaway could come in (on a much more team-friendly deal) and be a consistent shooter and offensive playmaker. He has a player option, and there is a decent chance that he accepts it. However, Dallas is looking for an upgrade at the shooting guard position, so they are not too set on retaining Hardaway. He was having one of the best shooting seasons of his career, and he proved to be a formidable outside presence for Dallas.

Harry Giles

A lot of people might be quick to write off Giles, but he could be a good signing while not jeopardizing too much cap space or roster flexibility. Vlade Divac decided to decline Giles’ fourth-year option, which is puzzling because we have only seen a small sample size of Giles. If the Kings do not want to try to incorporate him into their future, essentially saying he and Marvin Bagley III cannot coexist, the Knicks could pounce. Now it is essential to understand that Giles has not performed well enough to deserve any special treatment. It is just surprising that a team that lacks talent outside of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Bagley would cast him out so casually.

Only 22 years old, Giles averaged seven points and four rebounds in 96 games over the past two seasons.  Giles has a nostalgia factor, and maybe that is why a lot of fans, including myself, do not want to see him fail. He was a cheat code in high school, and if not for several ACL tears, the narrative around him would be completely different. Big whoop, injuries happen, so what?

Well, even though sports are often unforgiving, there are still plenty of feel-good stories of players overcoming adversity. This opportunity could be a chance to develop a guy who has the tools to be an outstanding player. I am a proponent of signing low-risk, high-reward players of all ages. Even if the Knicks bring back Portis next year, Giles could play a lot more minutes than he was in Sacramento. I would instead give 10-15 minutes a game to Giles than to Taj Gibson.

Knicks Moving Up

Overall, it is relatively early to gauge the value that many of the impending free agents will hold, because a lot is going to change once the guys get back on the hardwood. The spirit of the NBA is finally starting to manifest itself again, and I am excited to see what kind of product we’re going to witness. The Knicks might not make a huge splash, but there aren’t too many candidates to begin with. If Leon Rose can concoct an offseason similar to last year, then I will have no complaints. There are a lot of quality veterans and guys that excel in certain areas that the Knicks could utilize. As long as R.J. Barrett, Frank Ntilikina, and Mitchell Robinson continue to get better and learn how to play with each other, we should be fine.

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About Jack Minello

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