By that I mean, what if the Knicks aren’t able to land any of the big time, top-tier free-agents? That’s the 800lb gorilla in the room that we’ve all been willfully ignoring for almost two years now because the thought that the Knicks obliterated their talent base and suffered through two rudderless seasons only to whiff in free agency is so unpalatable. I know that, whenever my mind drifts towards that kind of speculation, I tend to shout it down with thoughts like “Nah, Donnie wouldn’t have done this unless he had good intel that someone great would come.” or “Nah, we’ll at least get Joe Johnson because of his relationship with D’Antoni and Donnie’s relationship with his agent.”
But even if it’s not the most likely scenario (and, for the record, I don’t think that this is what’s going to happen), let’s dig deep down into the places we don’t talk about at parties and explore the possibility: What if the Knicks don’t land any one of Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Amare, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay or Carlos Boozer? Even worse, what if the Knicks don’t get any of those guys and they lose David Lee?(!?) What will they do then?
It appears our loyal commenters certainly have a dark side (especially Italian Stallion) because yesterday, in the comments to our weekly fan satisfaction poll, they explored these thoughts in a more meaningful way than I’ve ever observed in a pro-Knicks forum. Knicks fans always seem to conclude that Donnie will get somebody great to take the money. But what if no one does? When I first started reading through the comments, the very suggestion caused me to cringe and resort to my default rationalizations. But as I began to consider the possibility of this outcome, as is sometimes the case when you explore your worst fears, the thought became a little bit less scary.
This is the conclusion I arrived at: If the Knicks can’t land any of the big fish, as Dan suggested they should certainly rent their cap space in a trade or two. Whether they pick up draft picks or young players, it’s a great way to get something for nothing. But they should also still take the plunge into the free agent market. Only instead of looking for franchise players, they should look to add young, talented rotation players that could serve as building blocks and compliment the one potential star they already have on the roster (Danilo Gallinari, of course). While this plan wouldn’t produce immediate results anything like what everyone was dreaming on when DW anounced his 2010 plan, if this summer lands the Knicks upgrades at four or five rotation spots and mixes in playoff-experienced veterans with some talented young guys, that would be an extremely productive summer.
In one of the comments to the poll post, Traps dropped a list that included a number of the second (and third) tier free agents available this summer. For your convenience, here it is again:
J.J. Redick (R)
Tyrus Thomas (R)
Randy Foye (R)
Ronnie Brewer (R)
Channing Frye (P)
Grant Hill (P)
Anthony Morrow (R)
Kelenna Azubuike (P)
Shannon Brown (P)
A quick scan of that list reveals that the most prevalent types of players available this summer happen to be playoff-experienced vets and talented, young players with upside. Bully for us.
Now, we all heard the news yesterday that the Knicks are interested in Marcus Camby and that, likewise, Camby has a strong interest in returning to New York. Whoever else the Knicks might sign this summer, in my opinion Camby would be a great, great addition. Another big guy on the list that immediately jumped out at me was Amir Johnson. He’s unrestricted this summer and only 22 years old (the same age as erstwhile Knick Jordan Hill, by the way), despite this being his fourth NBA season. I think he’s on the cusp of becoming a very solid big man (perhaps as good or better than Hill?) and he wouldn’t be very expensive.
So let’s say, for instance, that the Knicks dealt Wilson Chandler and a giant trade exception for Darren Collison and Peja Stojakovic. Then in free agency they added Camby, Johnson, (last night’s star) Anthony Morrow and Raja Bell. To me, that would make for an awfully productive summer. Not only would it give the Knicks a young rotation brimming with potential, there would be some older players – guys that have been through some NBA wars – playing key roles on and off the court. Best of all, the Knicks would maintain their flexibility for the future and have a young talent base to make trades, all while still fielding a team that was capable of making the playoffs.
Consider this rotation: Collison, Bell, Morrow, Gallo, Camby, Douglas, Johnson, Peja and Bill Walker. Probably not much more than an 8th seed but not bad at all, right? Certainly not a bad way to kick off a rebuild. Or, if the Knicks re-sign Lee, how about this: Douglas, Morrow, Gallo, Lee, Camby, Bell, Johnson, Walker and let’s say Jordan Farmar. That’s not too bad either.
Look, even as I write this I know that, if the Knicks field a roster similar to one of those next season it’ll undoubtedly be a huge disappointment because of all the sacrifice and unrelenting hype that preceded this summer. But, after some hand-wringing (and maybe even some soft weeping) I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with some new rationalizations and convince myself that the Knicks took their shot with the superstars and then did the next best thing with the money.
Frankly though, the more deeply I explore the dark side, the more I’m beginning to actually believe that scenarios like these might really and truly be the next best thing to landing James or Wade. These might not be the moves that put the Knicks over the top. But they could be the moves that lead to the moves that put the Knicks over the top.
Or at least that’s what I’ll be telling myself if the Knicks strike out with Joe Johnson.