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Six Players to Avoid in Knicks Free Agency

The Knicks free agency will be a topic of much debate the next few months. Of the names being thrown around, are any of them even worth it?

Knicks fans are hungry for decent talent in New York. Thankfully, fans have all the pieces in place this free agency to create something special for the 2016-17 season. Unfortunately, the Knicks find themselves looking to take the next step at a time when the whole NBA is looking to do the same. NBA teams hunting for talent before the season starts are dealing with three main factors: cap inflation, next year’s TV deal, and a flood of free agents. Fans may not like it but New York should eliminate themselves from a few potential talent signings because of these factors.

Drip Drip It Looks Like Rain

The cap is on the verge of exploding as NBA teams are already dealing with contract inflations in the current off-season, but actually the NBA’s new TV deal won’t take effect until this coming season, which means the real explosion will not happen until next off-season. This is the last chance for teams to make a deal and even inflated contracts will look cheap compared to next off-season’s numbers. Meanwhile players and agents have been preparing for this moment as many top tier and quality players structured their contracts to let them cash in just before the storm or right as it hits. This puts New York right in the thick of free agency with middle of the pack money, less than stellar team structure, and a team that was outside of the playoffs. The Knicks have to use their resources wisely and make home run decisions. It’s time for Phil Jackson to show them why New York pays you the big bucks.

DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan would be a great name on paper, but also on paper he is a high volume shooter with inefficient numbers. He does own the third spot in the league for free-throw attempts (8.4 per game), fifth in and-1 opportunities (52 total) and ninth in fouls drawn (5.5 per game) but that is not max money material.

He is a two-way guard, but he operates within the three-point line and shrinks Toronto’s offense despite them specifically drawing up screens and pick plays for him to penetrate. As other teams operate above the three-point line, the Knicks run the risk of overpaying for basically a wing defender.

Although DeRozan averages 85% from the charity stripe and averages 1.7 points per possession, it comes with the cost of ball dominance. His most effective and efficient offense relies on multiple opportunities to score within a position with the ball in hand. Toronto uses a two-star system to give him ample opportunity to have the ball, but New York has a go to scorer and is looking to develop Kristaps Porzingis as a second option. New York can’t be trapped paying for DeRozan as a third or second option and a hindrance to Porzingis’ evolution.

Bradley Beal

Beal believes he is a max player, $22 million in his own words. He readily acknowledges his health issues but brings up a good point when mentioning how Stephen Curry was hurt for the first four years of his career. The difference is Curry has become a once in a generation talent, who breaks records for breakfast while Beal hasn’t done anything that noteworthy yet.

Beal’s perception is the biggest problem. Since he believes he is a max player there is no guesswork in his contract, he wants the max. That is money the Knicks just can’t indefinitely commit; they just got themselves out of the hole of no flexibility and the light is finally at the end of the tunnel. Beal would send them right back!

His perception and honesty, though refreshing, also makes it clear that signing him won’t be the end of the problems. By his own admission he will probably always been on a minute’s management and on an injury watch list. It is something the Warriors have successfully done with Curry but they also have one of the deepest teams in the league which is something the Knicks cannot boast about.

Season Age G GS MP FG% 3P% eFG% AST STL PTS
2012-13 19 56 46 31.2 .410 .386 .477 2.4 0.9 13.9
2013-14 20 73 73 34.7 .419 .402 .479 3.3 1.0 17.1
2014-15 21 63 59 33.4 .427 .409 .489 3.1 1.2 15.3
2015-16 22 55 35 31.1 .449 .387 .515 2.9 1.0 17.4
Career 247 213 32.8 .426 .397 .489 3.0 1.0 16.0

Provided by Basketball-Reference.comView Original Table
Generated 5/23/2016.

Unfortunately, Beal is probably a max player, especially in this financial environment, but the career numbers just don’t support a new high ceiling for him. He isn’t a guaranteed home run so why should the Knicks spend home run money on him.

Nicolas Batum

While Batum has shown he is a great character guy and a superb addition to the culture of a team off and on the court, there is just too much competition for the Knicks to get in a bidding war over him. Batum actually hurts the Knicks by playing too good because there is lots of competition for his position but none at his value. It is basically just him and Khris Middleton.

Points Rebound Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers
Batum (2016) 14.6 6.4 5.5 1 0.7 3.2
Middleton (2015) 16 5.3 2.8 1.8 0.2 1.7

Assuming the Knicks jump on Batum at the very least they have to contend with a Hornets team that made the playoffs and have nearly $40 million in cap space on a conservative guess. If the Knicks pursue Batum, they make themselves too busy for other free agents for a guy who fits the mold of too many other teams needs.

Batum is just too strong of a contender to be on the Knicks radar because he is on everyone else’s and there is no signs of cracks or weaknesses in Batum’s negotiations with other teams so what exactly would the Knicks be probing for? Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard are at similar pay scales and if the Knicks aren’t looking at them when those guys’ contracts are up, why look at Batum?

Rajon Rondo

All kidding aside Rondo is a culture killer. Sure he has bounced back from being a guy who kills teams from the inside to a guy who plays good basketball but do the Knicks really want to run the risk of playing Jakyl and Hyde with their point guard? Rondo played plenty of games for Sacramento, so it is fair to say his skills are back. He had the most total assists in the NBA at 839, even more impressive when you consider Westbrook’s count is still going but he is second with 834.

Rondo is among the five point guards available this off season who are ranked top 50 and the only other point guard ranked in the top 25. The Kings have already committed to backing out of a bidding war and while that seems ideal for the Knicks, plenty of other teams are looking to get into that bidding war. And for what? A guy who plays a distributing style of point guard play with feeble offensive numbers. He is no doubt the smartest basketball player on the court but just as easily and beautifully as he can run an offense he will torpedo it with tantrums and insulting his own teammates, silly technicals and suspensions, and straight up going rogue in the middle of a game.

11.9 6.0 11.7 0.1 2.0 0.454 0.580 0.9 3.9 35.2 72

What should worry the Knicks the most is his poor offensive skill set. While Rondo has been able to make his career with these weaknesses, when he has been elite and his team winning, has only been when surrounded by offensive talent. Even though Rondo has maintained steady offense this season, the percentages aren’t impressive and he was paired with one of the most efficient and offensively gifted big man in the game. At best Rondo will work incredibly well in the Knicks offense but in reality it will come with a Molotov cocktail.

Dwight Howard

Despite his terrible reputation among fans and maybe even around the league, the numbers say that Dwight Howard is still a monster. He is top 5 rebounder and top 20 blocker. His scoring punch is still strong and he still has fast enough hands to break up interior game play. He also has a tendency to turn up his numbers in the playoffs, which is something the Knicks would like once they get back in there. Say what you want about Howard he is still a good center.


5. Dwight Howard (HOU)   835


16. Dwight Howard (HOU)   113

His weaknesses haven’t changed. He still remains limited in end game situations, although he isn’t as bad as he was a coach still worries about leaving him. His offense set is still limited, perhaps even more now due to injuries and age. While he did play starter minutes and played in most of the games last season his injuries will always be a concern and it isn’t a surprise to teams to hear Dwight Howard is out again.

The Knicks pursing Howard would be redundant. New York doesn’t have a deep center rotation but they at least have a clear starter. Dwight Howard will command top pay this offseason for good reason so there isn’t much wiggle room for the Knicks to negotiate on other than health issues. If there is any guess as to how well Dwight works with other centers just ask the Rockets or even the Magic who both lost their back up and starter caliber centers to Howard’s presence. Not because of Howard running them out but because his game doesn’t work well with two big men and so long as his minutes stay high there is no point in overpaying for two starter centers. So why sign Howard just to bring on rotation problems?

Mike Conley

Mike Conley is quietly an elite point guard. He is the only other point guard besides Rondo to be ranked in the top 25 of free agents despite never having made an all-star appearance. Let’s face it he is too good to take less money. Wouldn’t you blame him if he did? The guy hasn’t been healthy this season but then the Grizzlies were hit with the injury bug bad this year. His numbers didn’t take a huge hit but his field goal % dropped like a rock. It is the only bargaining chip the Knicks could use. The Knicks would be taking a measured gamble if they chose to go after Conley.

There is no doubt he is worth the gamble as Conley is ranked in steals, assists, FT % but with such slim pickings in this seasons point guards it is a virtual certainty that they will have to over pay to get him. Conley already commanded nearly $10 million before becoming a free agency that number could easily hit $20 million if the Knicks find themselves in a bidding war.

On top of all that Mike Conley has a reputation as a good culture guy, which makes him all the more alluring to teams. As if his price tag and numbers weren’t high enough to put a target on his back the Knicks could easily blow through their entire budget on one guy because he has all the qualities every team wants in their point guard.


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