The Knicks have been one of the busiest teams this offseason, starting it all off with a blockbuster trade and following it up with quality free agent signings. It’s time to take a look at each player the Knicks acquired and give my opinion on what I thought. A little segment I like to call “Grading the New York Knicks.”
PG Derrick Rose
Before free agency even started, the Knicks were very involved and made the most headline-worthy move prior to the draft. In exchange for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, and Jerian Grant, the Knicks acquired ex-MVP point guard Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, and a 2017 second round pick. There is a wide range of opinions about this move, drawing both positive and negative reviews as every move does. But this is the kind of low-risk, high-reward that many believe the Knicks needed to make. First of all, I agree with that, but I myself am also on the fence about this move. I know the lack of a legitimate point guard was arguably the biggest hole on the roster, and the Knicks definitely fixed that problem by bringing in Rose, but they also happened to get the most injury prone player in the NBA. Yes Derrick Rose is great, one of the best, when healthy, but lately it has been very rare for him to stay healthy. He has had a long list of injuries throughout his eight-year career that have put a lot of wear and tear on his body.
Nevertheless, despite all his injury woes, this was also a smart move for the Knicks for a number of reasons. In performing this trade, the Knicks dumped the pricy contracts of Calderon and Lopez, clearing a good amount of cap space to bring in other free agents. The Knicks also have themselves a big three consisting of Rose, Carmelo Anthony, and Kristaps Porzingis. Rose also makes the Knicks a more attractive destination for free agents so hopefully they can have success bringing in quality players. But the main reason the Knicks were smart to make this move was for the reason I mentioned earlier: this is a low-risk, high-reward move. Say the worst possible outcome happens where Rose gets injured right away. The Knicks will have to get past the season but then they can just let him go since he becomes a free agent after this year. On the other hand, if the best possible outcome happens where Rose returns to his MVP form and plays really well for the Knicks, they can resign him. All in all I think this was a classic Knicks move, but this one actually made sense. It isn’t as if they’re paying 20+ million dollars for Rose over the course of a number of seasons. It’s only one year. They basically get a free look at one of the most explosive players in free agency. If it works out correctly, this can make Phil Jackson look like a genius. I give it a B+ only because of the injury concerns.
SG Justin Holiday
It is easy to overlook Holiday, the throw-in of the Rose trade, but maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to do that. While Holiday is the starting shooting guard right now, that will change over the course of free agency. This is an inconsistent but potentially high-quality reserve who is still young and has great length on both ends of the floor. He needs to show that he can produce consistently but I think he falls into a nice situation with the Knicks and he will have the best chance to prove his worth.
C Joakim Noah
To kick off free agency the Knicks added yet another guy who played for the Bulls last year in 31-year-old big man Joakim Noah. Despite an injury-riddled season last year in which Noah played only 29 games, Noah has had a pretty great career. The two-time All-Star and 2014 Defensive Player of the Year has widely been regarded as an elite center when healthy, and one of the better ones in the league. He isn’t the kind of guy who will rack up lots of points, but he is a defensive monster with a high intelligence for the game. Whether it comes to blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, or just being an immovable force he can do it all. Noah is also a phenomenal passer for his size as he has great court vision to go along with that.
Noah is a very important leader both on and off the court. He helps make his teammates better and was the heart and soul of the Bulls for his whole career there. The Knicks desperately needed a real vocal leader and they finally have a pretty darn good one. People say Noah is getting old; he’s only 31. Relax. He still has plenty of good basketball left. Yes they overpaid for him, but due to the new salary cap Tomofey Mozgov is getting $64 million over 4 years, so I wouldn’t panic. Assuming Noah can return to his 2014 form, he will be the perfect fit for the Knicks and help this team see the playoffs year after year.
SG Courtney Lee
The Knicks added another quality player to round out their starting five by signing 30-year-old SG Courtney Lee to a 4-year, $48 million dollar contract. Lee is in my opinion a very underrated player in this league, and I like the signing. Not only does Lee make plays and is a nice, reliable shooter, but he also is very good on defense. He is one of those guys who makes whatever team he plays for better, and locking him up for four years I think is smart. He hasn’t had any major injury problems, and with guys who tend to have trouble with injuries playing alongside him, it’s good to have somebody you can rely on to stay relatively healthy. On the other hand, the Knicks did overpay for a guy who doesn’t put up very great averages, but that’s okay for two reasons: the cap and his presence. The cap is getting higher and higher every year, so everybody is getting highly overpaid. When you look at it that way Lee got a pretty solid amount compared to other contracts. He may not be the kind of player to fill up the stat sheets and put up high averages, but Lee does a little bit of everything and his presence will be felt and noticed on the court when the season begins.
It’s easy to like what the Zen Master is putting together here for the Knicks, and I really think he is assembling a team that can make the playoffs next season. He still has a long way to go, the Knicks have no bench, but he is definitely making the right moves and putting together a very respectable starting five. Let’s see what he does next.
PG Brandon Jennings
Here is where Phil Jackson flashed his genius by making his best transaction. Desperately needing to fill out their empty bench, the Knicks found their crucial backup point guard by inking seven-year vet Brandon Jennings to a 1-year $5 million deal. This was one of those moves where to be honest, I completely forgot Jennings was available and thought the Knicks wouldn’t have enough money left to sign any real productive backups. With that being said, once I found out about the signing, I went and jumped into my pool. Alright, maybe that was because it was very hot outside, but I also was very excited about the signing. Jennings is one of those guys who is more than capable of being an impact starter, but now is one of the best backups in the league. The Knicks, after having terrible point guard depth, now have a very explosive and potentially dominant duo in Rose and Jennings. While both have major injury concerns, they can be a top 10 point guard tandem in the league when healthy.
Jennings is the kind of super quick, athletic, explosive playmaker that the Knicks really lacked on the bench. He can come in immediately, keep the pace going, and completely light up a court when he’s hot. The Zen Master also got him for a really nice price, another reason I was so excited about the signing. With the way bench players are getting paid this offseason, I thought Jennings would get something around $9-$10 million a year on a multi-year deal. But Jennings was willing to take only $5 million to help the Knicks further accomplish their playoff dreams. Jennings definitely is a guy who deserves more than $5 million a year, especially when you look at who is getting paid more. Nevertheless this is what I would call the definition a sexy pick-up and is one of the best signings in free agency based on low price for high production. Nice job Phil.
SF Lance Thomas (re-signed)
The Knicks had to bring back at least one of their guys, right? Well they did, and they brought back the best one on the market in small forward Lance Thomas. Being pretty popular in around the league and drawing interest from a number of teams, it looked as if the Knicks would have a hard time bringing Thomas back. But, being the loyal team player he is, Thomas made it clear that he wanted to stay in New York and would take a discount to do so. The Knicks then inked him to a 4-year $24 million dollar contract, keeping him in what he described as his “new home” for the forseeable future. I think this was a crucial re-signing and was the most important one to make. Thomas is the kind of guy you want on your team, probably the reason why he drew so much interest from numerous organizations. He is a quality role player who can give you a good amount of playing time per game. He is a solid starter and can do a good job of filling in. He has great defense, the strongest area of his game, but he also has greatly improved his 3-point shot, hitting a career-high 44 of his 109 attempts last season.
This is an extremely loyal guy who is very humble and grateful for where his life journey has led him. He is a team player, and puts the success of the team and his teammates first. He is the kind of guy people love to coach and have on their team. Inking him long-term was a very smart idea and will definitely pay off.
Phil Jackson and the Knicks decided to throw away a rebuilding plan for the future and focus on a rebuild where they win now. They possess a much better roster then they did last season, and have a number of quality players. They have solidified their status as a very respectable team who I definitely think can make the playoffs. They have a number of nice options and will be very appealing to major free agents on the market next year. Knicks fans should be very excited for the start of the season, as things are moving in the right direction for this team.