The Knicks may not end up in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but there’s no denying that the franchise is headed in a better direction than it was this time last year. Addition by subtraction in the organization has given the rest of the franchise room to grow.
Although the Knicks have shown that they’re capable of winning ball games this year, it would be foolish for the team to abandon what has morphed into an organic rebuild to chase short-term gains.
This summer, the Knicks would be wise to stick to their plan and manage their growth responsibly. While they’ll have their hands tied financially where it matters most, how they handle their few free agents could shed light on their mentality heading forward.
Ron Baker, PG, 25 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $8.9MM deal in 2017
Baker endeared himself to head coach Jeff Hornacek last season and immediately became the wealthiest third-or-fourth-string point guard in the NBA. The Knicks may envision Baker as Frank Ntilikina‘s eventual primary backup, hence their paying more than they needed to re-sign him, but that doesn’t even matter. As much as we all love Ron Burgundy, he won’t find more than the $4.5MM 2018/19 player option he has with the Knicks anywhere else in the NBA.
Michael Beasley, PF, 29 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.1MM deal in 2017
There’s simply no denying that Beasley is capable of filling the stat sheet when given an opportunity. He’s done it sporadically throughout his career but most recently last month while Tim Hardaway Jr. nursed a leg injury. Beasley signed a one-year, “prove it” deal with the Knicks last summer, but the only thing up for debate is whether or not he can dutifully transition back out of the Madison Square Garden limelight and become a consistent producer off the bench for a team trending in the right direction. Beasley’s likely too old to attract attention from a team amid a traditional rebuild, so he’ll have to establish himself as an emotionally mature, volume scorer off the bench if he wants to get paid. If he does, I’d buy in.
Jarrett Jack, PG, 34 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.4MM deal in 2017
The Knicks brought a face familiar to New Yorkers in to keep the starting point guard position warm until Ntilikina is ready to take over. By all accounts, the former Nets guard has done everything one could expect from a 34-year-old journeyman who had played just 34 games across the previous two seasons. The Knicks will presumably have the option to bring him back on the cheap next season if they’d like to extend their current backcourt arrangement, but he’ll have more interest from contenders now that he’s shown he can stay on the court.
Enes Kanter, C, 26 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $70MM deal in 2015
A move to the spotlight in New York City has brought Kanter’s value close to where it was in 2016 when he signed a substantial contract extension in the wake of an excellent half-season stint with the Thunder. Kanter has deficiencies, no doubt, but the basketball collective seemed to overreact slightly when he didn’t immediately live up to his lofty contract in the first few years of the NBA’s Small Ball Era. I expect Kanter back in New York with his 2018/19 player option because the city seems to suit him and I can’t envision a situation in which he’d be more immediately valuable than the one he lucked into thanks to the Carmelo Anthony deal.
Doug McDermott, SF, 26 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $10.4MM deal in 2014
While McDermott has done a fine job providing solid minutes off the bench in his first Knicks season, the biggest takeaway from his 2017/18 campaign so far is that his ceiling is right about where people thought it was after a ho-hum career start in Chicago. McDermott could be a low-key valuable add for a team seeking a minor piece, though the Knicks may be better off letting him walk and freeing up the space for a more ambitious signing.
Kyle O’Quinn, C, 28 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $16MM deal in 2015
O’Quinn is a consistently efficient big man who has bulldozed his way into New York’s frontcourt logjam because he’s simply too effective to keep on the sidelines. Despite his production, however, the Knicks would benefit from flipping him for something, because it would clear more minutes for players like Kanter and Willy Hernangomez. Wherever O’Quinn ends up, he would hit free agency this summer as a lumbering big man in a bear market. For that reason, expect him back on his $4.3MM player option with an eye on 2019.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.