It’s the halfway point of the off-season, that dead zone between the sexy days of free-agent/draft/trade buzz and the post-honeymoon hangover of training camp when nerds like me make audible sounds of delight as we discover a 10:00 a.m. summer league game. Jeremy Tyler’s mother has spent less time this summer thinking about Jeremy Tyler than I have.
To break up the monotony and ensure I don’t think anymore about Jeremy Tyler than I already have, let’s look at the Knicks roster changes from the end of last year to now. There are still a couple minor signings to be made, all for minimum salaries. CJ Leslie has a partially guaranteed deal through January of 2014. The Knicks want to sign at least one point guard and one big man before camp begins. Re-signing JR Smith and Pablo Prigioni were must-have moves, and fortunately both are back. A lot of reports make it sound like Kenyon Martin’s return is a matter of when and not if. I’m not sure of that. If someone offers a couple grand a year above the veterans minimum, which is all the Knicks can offer, I think he’ll leave. We’ll see.
Because everything the Knicks do is met with skeptical negativity by the national press—just one of the many by-products of the reign of Dolan—the new personnel has mostly been derided. Signing Metta World Peace was praised by some people, particularly Knick fans, but this was hardly universal. The Andres Bargnani trade was laughed at and pointed to as yet another example of “same old Knicks.” The drafting of Tim Hardaway Jr. was overshadowed by Dr. No trading the artist formerly known as Mr. Kim Kardashian plus a bag of old gym socks to Boston for Statler & Waldorf.
The Knicks have replaced:
Metta World Peace
Tim Hardaway Jr.
I’ll take it.
When the wheels fell off the 2013 season against Indiana, it was the offense that failed. Their playoff D was pretty good, and while that came against two teams who certainly don’t emphasize scoring (BOS & IND), the point is the Knicks played good enough defense to win both series. The offensive failings fell at pretty much anyone’s feet not named Melo. In the biggest game of the year, backs against the wall, Melo, with no hope from anyone, shot the lights out and was a free throw away from 40.
The 2013 Knicks proved the 2014 Knicks need more guys who can create their own shots, more youth, and more size. They’ve done that. Hardaway Jr. is taller, longer, and more athletic than Kidd. Bargnani is seven-feet tall. World Peace starting at the 3 means Shumpert can start at the 2 instead of Prigioni; instead of the Knick swingmen being 6’3” and 6’5”, they’ll be 6’5” and 6’8”.
Kidd was 40, Thomas 40, Camby 39, Rasheed 38, Novak 30, and Copeland 29.
Average age of players lost: 36.
World Peace is 33, Bargnani 27, and Hardaway Jr. 21.
Average age of players added: 27.
And anyone the Knicks sign at this point is likely to be young (Jeremy Tyler!).
Last year, the Knicks brought Kidd in to mentor Jeremy Lin for his IQ and spot-up shooting. By the end of the season, his only functions were receiving inbounds passes and spying for the Dr. No and the Brooklyn Nyets. Watching Kidd ‘s game fall apart was like watching someone die without dignity, like a Twilight Zone tragedy: the mind of a basketball genius (e.g. Bob Cousy) trapped in the shell of a basketball invalid (e.g. Eddy Curry). He had two separate MONTHS-long stretches where he couldn’t hit a shot. A 40-year old guard who can’t shoot or drive is not part of the solution.
Kurt Thomas was signed as insurance on insurance on insurance. And the Knicks suffered so many frontcourt injuries that Thomas ended up starting some, and creating one of the season’s standout memories in what turned out to be his final appearance, a win at Utah. It was his greatest moment as a Knick since threatening to punch Stephon Marbury in 2005.
Camby, brought in to back up Tyson Chandler and provide defense and rebounding, spent the year injured and/or in Mike Woodson’s blind spot. He didn’t get many opportunities and made the least of those he got.
Rasheed was healthy for 3 minutes before going down with a foot injury. Woodson’s bizarre fixation with Wallace led the Knicks to trade Ronnie Brewer to open a roster spot for K-Mart, rather than simply releasing Rasheed. Having Brewer available when Kidd was falling apart may have made a difference for the Knicks in the playoffs. We’ll never know.
Novak is a one-trick pony. He can shoot 3s. Even this particular skill is particularly particular: he has to be open and spot-up shooting. He doesn’t shoot off screens. Doesn’t shoot off the dribble. Doesn’t shoot runners. Doesn’t get to the foul line. Doesn’t rebound or set up others. His best move on D is encouraging his teammates from the bench.
By the end of last year, Copeland was one of only 3 Knicks who could create shots for himself, along with Melo and JR. Losing Cope hurts, especially to the team that beat you, especially for such a team as capped out as the Knicks, especially when he’d made the rookie minimum, making him, per dollar, one of if not the league’s best bargain(s). Signing World Peace for the minimum eases the pain a bit.
World Peace and Bargnani are more versatile than Novak and Copeland. The ex-Knicks shoot better (in Novak’s case, only when he’s open), and that’s it. Bargnani can post and create his own shot, and goes from being the #1 option in Toronto to a secondary scorer with the Knicks, a role he should adjust to nicely. As much as we all love Copeland, World Peace has been a starter on a championship team; he should complement the other starters, particularly keeping Shumpert from having to guard bigger players and keeping Melo from having to guard the other team’s best forward (World Peace provided similar cover for Kobe in LA). The majority of the starters are plus defenders (Chandler/World Peace/Shumpert); World Peace, while never someone you’d call a “shooter,” will stretch the floor more consistently than Kidd did; Bargnani is a more difficult cover for defenses than Novak.
Financially, even, these offseason moves make sense. Kidd had 2 years left on a deal that already looked like a bad deal last year. Camby, too. Novak, exposed the past 2 playoffs as useless against Miami and Indiana, had 3 years left.
Bargnani’s contract ends before Novak’s. Artest is making half the mid-level exception, an amount barely above the veterans minimum (the Lakers pay his amnestied $7.7M yearly salary). Hardaway Jr.’s on a rookie contract.
For a team as limited coming in to the offseason as the Knicks were, I don’t see how these moves are anything but positives.