Kudos to Phil Jackson and the rest of the folks in the Knicks’ front office.
For the first time in a long time, the Knicks made several moves which should serve them well both in the short-term and the long-term. For a city with delusional hopes surrounding their pro basketball team, don’t be surprised if the moves made this offseason put them back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012-2013.
Joakim Noah –
Let’s get the head-scratcher out of the way. There’s no way to spin this acquisition in a positive way. Noah is coming off of an injury-plagued season where he played in just 29 games and averaged a career low 4.3 points.
Noah, once a sure starter, started in just two of the 29 games he played in this year and averaged only 21.9 minutes per game; the lowest since his rookie season.
Noah is entering his 10th NBA season yet the Knicks gave the big man a 4-year contract worth $72 million. The Knicks will be paying Noah $18 million dollars a year until his 35th birthday. This wouldn’t be terrible except for the fact that the center position is quickly becoming extinct in the NBA. You watch the finals? After the first five minutes of the game, there was no one on the floor taller than 6’9”.
At this point, an NBA team just needs a serviceable center to rebound, set screens, and score easy put-backs. The Knicks had that in Robin Lopez. Lopez is not flashy but will do the dirty work. Not to mention, he’s three years younger than Noah and the Knicks could have saved $5 million annually if they kept him around.
I can’t wrap my head around paying an older, injury-prone player $18 million a year to play a position that is quickly disappearing in the NBA.
Derrick Rose –
Let me preface this by saying this pickup has the potential to be a grand slam or put the Knicks in a huge bind come the end of the 2016-2017 season.
The Knicks are going to pay Rose $21 million this year, the last year of his MVP contract. It’s no surprise that Rose’s play will be a huge wildcard as he’s had maybe the biggest fall from super-stardom to a slightly above average player status due to his injuries. But if this season pans out like I expect, this could be huge for the Knicks.
Rose hasn’t played in more than 70 games since his MVP campaign in 2010-2011. It’s pretty safe to assume that Rose won’t eclipse the 70-game mark in 2016-2017 either. In addition, Rose is most effective when he has the ball in his hands as he’s a score first point guard. Well, Carmelo Anthony also needs the ball in his hands to be an effective scorer. Even though Rose averaged 16.4 points and 4.7 assists last season, one can assume that those numbers will dip as he’ll now be playing alongside a volume shooter (Anthony) and a prodigy (Porzingis) who also needs his shots.
If Rose doesn’t have a great season, the Knicks will happily show him and his $21 million contract the door.
Why does this matter? The salary cap is rising again next year from $94 million to a projected $105 million. Letting Rose walk would give the Knicks $32 million dollars of extra cap space to work with next season when you guessed it; Russell Westbrook becomes a free agent. Westbrook is likely going to demand a $30 million dollar per year contract and the Knicks will be able to offer him that. Couple that with the fact that Westbrook has a big city personality and is engrossed in the fashion industry, the bright lights and opportunity that New York presents might be too much for him to pass up.
The only way this deal will backfire is if Rose turns in a great season. The Knicks will have to make a decision on re-signing him to a deal where he’ll probably demand at least $20 million per year or let him walk hoping that they can land Westbrook. I don’t think they re-sign Rose and suddenly a potential starting five of Westbrook-Lee-Anthony-Porzingis-Noah looks super intriguing. On paper at least.
Courtney Lee –
At first this looked like a pretty ho-hum signing. But then when news surfaced that a player of Lee’s caliber, Evan Turner, signed a four-year deal worth $70 million; I knew the Knicks got a hell of a deal.
So let’s compare the two.
Lee averaged 9.6 points and 2.6 rebounds last season while Turner averaged slightly better numbers in 10.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Their numbers are essentially identical aside from Turner being three years younger than Lee (27 versus 30). There’s one stat that sticks out to me that I think will solidify the Lee signing. And that’s field goal efficiency. Courtney Lee shot an effective field goal (eFG) percentage of 51.8 percent versus Evan Turner who had an eFG of 46.9 percent. In addition, Turner averaged 9.3 shots per contest while Lee averaged 8.1 shot attempts per game.
So what does this mean?
The numbers above show that although Lee scored .9 fewer points per game than Turner, he’s a more efficient scorer while taking one fewer shot per game. Aka, he doesn’t need the ball in his hands so he won’t take away shots from Anthony, Rose and Porzingis while still scoring at an effective rate. In addition, Lee shoots 37.8 percent from three-point range versus Turner’s 24.1 percent from distance.
To sum it all up, the Knicks got a comparable player to Evan Turner who is a more efficient scorer, better three-point shooter and a guy who doesn’t need the ball in his hands as much as Turner evidenced by 65.9 percent of his made baskets going unassisted.
To top it off, they paid $20 million less for essentially the same player. Bravo Phil.
Are the Knicks contenders now? Absolutely not. But they did enough to slide back into the playoff picture even if they only get the seventh or eighth seed. Most importantly, they’ve set themselves up to have enough cap space to be a major player in the 2017 free agency.