Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
- J.R. Smith: Three years, $17.95MM. Signed via Early Bird rights. Third year is player option.
- Pablo Prigioni: Three years, $4.99MM. Signed via mini mid-level exception. Third year is partially guaranteed for $290K.
- Metta World Peace: Two years, $3.25MM. Signed via mini mid-level exception. Second year is player option.
- Kenyon Martin: One year, $1.4MM. Signed via minimum salary exception.
- Chris Smith: Two years, $1.31MM. Signed via minimum salary exception. Second year is non-guaranteed.
- Beno Udrih: One year, $1.27MM. Signed via minimum salary exception.
- Cole Aldrich: One year, $916K. Signed via minimum salary exception. Non-guaranteed.
- Toure’ Murry: One year, $490K. Signed via minimum salary exception. Non-guaranteed.
- Acquired Andrea Bargnani from the Raptors in exchange for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, a 2016 first-round pick (lesser of Nuggets’ and Knicks’ picks), the Thunder’s 2014 second-round pick, and the Knicks’ 2017 second-round pick.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. (Round 1, 24th overall). Signed via rookie exception.
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
The Knicks won the Atlantic Division by a healthy margin last season, but they’ll have a tougher road to guaranteed home-court advantage this time around. That’s exactly why the Knicks didn’t stand pat while their cross-borough rivals overhauled their roster. This year, the Knicks are rolling out a different squad but one that is still chock full of familiar faces and veteran players.
The Knicks’ biggest acquisition of the summer came in late June when they agreed to send Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, a 2014 second-round draft pick, a 2016 first-round draft pick, and a 2017 second-round draft pick north of the border for Andrea Bargnani. The former No. 1 overall pick has struggled to stay healthy and give consistent production over the course of his career in Toronto and the Raptors’ new regime, led by GM Masai Ujiri, was very willing to cut bait with him. The Raptors’ loss might be the Knicks’ gain as the big man looks pretty comfortable so far in blue-and-orange. The biggest knock on Bargnani over the last seven years has been his aggressiveness and toughness and only time will tell if he can turn over a new (non-maple) leaf with his new club. However, the offensive acumen has always been there with Bargnani and he’ll be given opportunities to score in bunches as he did on Friday night against the Bobcats (25 points off of 11-of-25 shooting).
The other headline grabbing out-of-house move to come out of MSG was the Knicks’ signing of Metta World Peace in July. The tenacious rebounder formerly known as Ron Artest was amnestied by the Lakers over the summer, not necessarily because he’s finished, but because he’s no longer worth the $7.73MM cap hit he would have put on Los Angeles. However, for a piece of the mini mid-level exception, World Peace is absolutely a worthwhile pickup for the Knicks. While the forward has a reputation around the league for being a little, um, uneven, he has leveled off in recent years and Lakers star Kobe Bryant says that he’ll miss having the veteran in L.A. World Peace more-or-less handpicked the Knicks after discouraging clubs from claiming him off of amnesty waivers (MWP’s camp told anyone that would listen that he was headed to China in 2013/14) so there’s every reason to believe that he’s on board with making this union work. Players can sometimes get in trouble when they return to their hometown and are surrounded by the friends they grew up with, but World Peace, who celebrates his 34th birthday on Wednesday, should be able to keep any distractions at bay.
J.R. Smith returning to New York was hardly a surprise, but the mini-circus that led up to it certainly was. Shortly after it was reported that Smith agreed to a three-year, $17.95MM deal (player option on year three) with the Knicks, the club announced that the guard would require patellar tendon surgery and an arthroscopy for a tear in the lateral meniscus of his left knee. Conveniently, the announcement was made just as the Knicks PR staff was packing up for summer vacation. Most Knicks fans were on board with having the reigning Sixth Man of the Year back in NYC at the time of the signing, but after the news, opinions were split on whether the deal was a good call for the club. The strangest part of it all is that agent Leon Rose claims that the two sides originally agreed to a four-year pact before Rose had it amended to a three-year deal with a player option for the final season. After learning that Smith would need to go under the knife, one would imagine that the Knicks would be the party looking to shorten the deal and minimize their risk. It also doesn’t help matters that Smith was slapped with a five game suspension for a positive marijuana test. The guard has long had a reputation for partying hard and after spending equal time on the New York Post’s backpage and Page Six thanks to his dalliances with Rihanna, the Knicks couldn’t have been thrilled about that piece of news.
Think the Smith saga was weird? Knicks owner James Dolan, a man with a penchant for raising the ire of sports radio callers, saved his strangest move for the very end of the offseason. After putting the finishing touches on the Knicks’ roster for 2013/14, General Manager Glen Grunwald was shown the door in favor of former MSG exec Steve Mills. Six weeks later, the move is still a head-scratcher. If you feel bad for Grunwald, you should save some empathy for Mills as well. When the Knicks were trailing in the third game of the season (at home vs. Minnesota), Dolan reportedly left his seat after the first quarter to give his new GM a verbal lashing over the team’s effort. Of course, Mills isn’t the man responsible for the Knicks’ roster as currently constructed, that would be Grunwald.
In addition to re-signing Smith, the Knicks also re-upped point guard Pablo Prigioni and forward Kenyon Martin. Martin was out of a job for quite a while thanks in part to a perception that he wasn’t a model teammate, but he has been nothing but a positive for the Knicks since coming aboard. The aging Prigioni earned his contract after a solid 2012/13 campaign and he’ll be helped by the tremendous addition of Beno Udrih. The 31-year-old has taken a step back since his days in Sacramento, but he was a very solid pickup for the Knicks at the low, low price of $1.27MM.
The Knicks also rounded out the end of their roster with Cole Aldrich, Toure’ Murry, and Chris Smith – a signing that has absolutely nothing to do with the new contract given to older brother J.R. Coach Mike Woodson & Co. haven’t stopped praising rookie shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. since drafting him in June and he figures to see significant minutes throughout the year.
Ultimately, the Knicks’ success will depend largely on another banner year from star Carmelo Anthony and their overall defensive effort. A team featuring the likes of Melo, Smith, and Bargnani should have no trouble filling a statsheet, but getting it done on the other end will be another story, especially with Tyson Chandler sidelined for the next four-to-six weeks. How the season plays out is anyone’s guess, but it’s probably safe to assume that the Knicks won’t finish the year in the cellar of the Atlantic alongside the Nets while the Sixers occupy the No. 1 spot.