The 2017 offseason will be important for the New York Knicks. Here are ten under-the-radar free agents for them to consider.
NBA Free Agency is always about the superstars. This summer will be about Chris Paul potentially joining the mighty San Antonio Spurs and the Boston Celtics trying to talk Gordon Hayward into joining his old college coach Brad Stevens. The New York Knicks won’t be involved in any of that talk.
New York has signed six former All-Stars since acquiring Amar’e Stoudemire in June of 2010: Baron Davis, 32, Jason Kidd, 39, Rasheed Wallace, 38, Kenyon Martin, 35, Metta World Peace, 34, and Joakim Noah, 31. Each one was (and is in the unfortunate case of Noah) a shell of his former shelf.
Team president Phil Jackson was brought in to sell the star free agents on playing in the Big Apple, and he hasn’t gotten the job done. Now that it appears the Knicks are going through yet another rebuilding process they won’t be able to attract the stars again.
Jackson and his staff will need to look elsewhere to fill the many needs on that roster. There are always diamond in the rough free agents who fly under-the-radar. These are the guys who typically aren’t signed until all the big names are off the board.
Here’s the ten that the Knicks should consider.
10. Shelvin Mack, PG, Unrestricted
- Age: 27 (04/22/1990)
- 2016-17 Averages: 7.8 points, 2.8 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .446/.308/.688
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 10.9 PER, 1.4 WS, -2.8 RPM
Phil Jackson would love Shelvin Mack. He’s on the court for his defense, his stats don’t jump off the page, and he always makes the smart the decision.
On a per 36 minutes basis, the career reserve has averages of 6.0 assists to 2.5 turnovers in six seasons.
Mack’s been a dreadful three-point shooter throughout his career, 32.1 percent on 2.2 attempts per game. Per NBA.com, his effective field goal percentage of 48.6 last season.
However, he should be shooting from the corners more.
It was a small sample size (8-20) in 2016-17, but that’s a pretty good 40 percent conversion rate on the shortest three-point shot. In 2015-16, he was the same 40 percent while converting 16 of 40 attempts.
He had one of the best mid-range shooting seasons of his career. Per NBA.com, he converted on 30 of his 70 FGA for a 42.1 percent clip.
9. Shaun Livingston, PG, Unrestricted
- Age: 31 (09/11/1985)
- 2016-17 Averages: 5.1 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .547/.333/.700
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 10.1 PER, 2.6 WS, -2.38 RPM
Shaun Livingston is another guy whose value doesn’t come in the traditional stats. In fact, his stats are even more pedestrian than Mack’s.
Livingston is a champion, soon to be a two-time champion, with the Golden State Warriors and he’ll bring that type of leadership to a New York roster that is almost guaranteed not to have it.
Phil Jackson likes bigger guards in the triangle offense and Livingston and is one of those. He’s 6-foot-7 and remains one of the best post up lead guards in the Association.
Livingston was extremely efficient this season playing for arguably the best team of all time.
Per NBA.com, he made 55 of his 71 attempts in the restricted area (.775) and 68 of his 155 mid-range shots (.439).
However, Livingston is completely devoid of a three-point shot. He’s only put up 66 FGA from the outside in 698 career games.
8. P.J. Tucker, SF, Unrestricted
- Age: 32 (05/05/1985)
- 2016-17 Averages: 6.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.2 assists
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .413/.357/.774
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 10.5 PER, 3.6 WS, 1.09 RPM
The Knicks were reportedly interested in acquiring P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline. He ended up with the Toronto Raptors instead.
Tucker played for Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, and they obviously got along well. Hornacek had nothing but good things to say about his former defensive stopper.
“He’s a great team guy,” Hornacek said. “He’s a guy who brings a toughness. What is he? Maybe 6-5, 6-6 and we used to put him on (DeMarcus) Cousins when we were in Phoenix, he’s that kind of guy. You can put him on just about anybody.
If Tucker were three years younger, he’d be No. 1 on this list. He’s an excellent defender and is coming off the best shooting season of his career.
According to NBA.com, Tucker was particularly accurate from the corners. On corner threes, he was an impressive 39.2 percent.
He’s smart too. 153 of his 196 three-point attempts came from the corners. Tucker knows where to go on the court.
Tucker’s value comes in his defense. He’s a small forward, but he can guard power forwards and as Hornacek pointed out even some centers.
7. Zach Randolph, PF, Unrestricted
- Age: 35 (07/16/1981)
- 2016-17 Averages: 14.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.5 steals
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .449/.223/.731
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 18.5 PER, 3.2 WS, -1.42 RPM
It sounds strange to say that the once great Zach Randolph will fly under the radar, but at 35-years-old (soon to be 36) he will. Now he may not be willing to return to New York. His first stint didn’t go very well. However, fortunately for him, Isiah Thomas isn’t there anymore.
No longer a dominant post presence, Randolph may not be a part of the Memphis Grizzlies’ long-term future. He’s been a huge part of their franchise for eight seasons, and they moved him out of the starting lineup in 2016-17.
Randolph was still one of the best defensive rebounders in the game, and the Knicks need some major help in that area. In 2016-17, New York finished last in defensive rebounding percentage, last in opponent second chance points, and 24th in opponent points in the paint.
Memphis, on the other hand, is led by their interior defense. They were eighth in DRB percentage (Randolph was first on the squad in the stat), fourth in opponent second chance points, and first in opponent points in the paint.
That astronomically high usage percentage is strange. Randolph had the 15th highest usage percentage in the entire Association.
He was ahead of guys like Paul George, Kemba Walker, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant.
6. Tyreke Evans, SF, Unrestricted
- Age: 27 (09/19/1989)
- 2016-17 Averages: 10.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .405/.356/.750
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 15.5 PER, 0.7 WS, -1.5 RPM
Try not to overreact to the thought of Tyreke Evans’ injury history. Yes, he’s missed 99 games in the last two seasons combined, and he’s coming off another knee surgery.
The first six seasons of Evans’ career went well. He posted averages of 33.5 minutes, 16.8 points, 5.2 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals, on a slash line of .447/.278/.755. He missed 84 games in six seasons.
Evans never had a three-point shot. Until last season that is. Evans has played 65 just games in the last two seasons, but he converted his threes at a 36.9 percent clip.
It’s not as small a sample size as you’d think either. Evans managed to launch 203 long balls in that period. He converted on 75. He’s not going to be a sharpshooter by any means, but if he’s at least respectable, it makes him that much more dangerous.
Think about it this way: New York could be able to get a skilled 27-year-old wing player on the cheap. Evans is listed at 6-foot-7, he can handle the ball, and even played a little point guard as a rookie.
The triangle offense requires as many ball handlers as possible. Evans would help out in that area. This season, he played a majority of his minutes at the small forward position for the first time in his career. He can play the one, the two, and the three.
5. Mason Plumlee, C, Restricted
- Age: 27 (03/05/1990)
- 2016-17 Averages: 10.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.9 steals
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .536/.000/.580
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 18.1 PER, 6.0 WS, 0.93 RPM
Signing Mason Plumlee is a long shot for the Knicks, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t consider him. Just because their two best young players are big men doesn’t mean they should write off Plumlee.
It’s very rare that a RFA changes teams, especially one who’s young, but Plumlee’s minutes did go down after he was traded to the Nuggets during the season. With that so did his production.
New York could insert Plumlee into the starting lineup instead of pointlessly throwing Noah back out there again. It will be heartbreaking if a 27-year-old Plumlee smack dab in the middle of his prime signs for less money this summer than the Knicks gave Joakim Noah a year ago.
Plumlee converted on 64.5 percent of his attempts in the restricted area. He gets the job done around the rim. He can’t score outside the paint which is detrimental to the modern day big man, but New York wouldn’t sign him to score.
He would give New York the passing from the big man spot they hoped to get from Noah. The big man averaged 4.0 assists per game last season with the Trail Blazers. He had one game against Detroit where he recorded 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a near triple-double. He only had eight points.
Plumlee is a solid defender and a good rebounder. New York needs more young talent, and Plumlee would be a great addition.
4. Darren Collison, PG, Unrestricted
- Age: 29 (08/23/1987)
- 2016-17 Averages: 13.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.0 steals
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .476/.417/.860
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 15.3 PER, 3.9 WS, -0.41 RPM
Darren Collison has played for five different teams in eight seasons. Like Courtney Lee last summer, he probably just wants a long-term home. The Knicks were reportedly interested in Collison as a trade target last year. They eventually filled that point guard spot with Derrick Rose instead.
Rose is hopefully on his way out the door, and the Knicks are likely to draft a point guard with their eighth overall pick. Collison has long been one of the best backup (and occasional starting) point guards in the Association.
He’s slowed down a little bit as he’s about to hit thirty, but keep in mind he has been playing for the Sacramento Kings for the past three seasons. That had to suck the life out of him.
Collison is a career 38.0 percent three-point shooter, and he’s been over 40 percent from downtown the last two seasons. Per NBA.com, Collison was a ridiculous 56.0 percent on corner threes. He’s a good fit in the modern game and the triangle offense.
Not only can Collison make threes, but he’s smart. The veteran doesn’t turn the ball over. On a per 36 minutes basis, he has career averages of 5.9 assists and 2.5 turnovers.
He’s not going to be the explosive player that Rose was, but all you Phil cult followers will love him. Per NBA.com, Collison was a ridiculous 46.4 percent on mid-range attempts this season. Viva la mid-range!
3. C.J. Miles, SF/SG, Unrestricted
- Age: 30 (04/18/1987)
- 2016-17 Averages: 10.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 steals
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .434/.413/.903
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 13.7 PER, 4.0 WS, 0.35 RPM
Talk about having a contract year. C.J. Miles had the best shooting season of his 12-year career when he needed it the most. At age 30 this is his last chance to get seriously paid, and seriously paid he’s about to get.
While the rest of the league was going three-point crazy, Miles exploded in 2016-17 from beyond the arc. Entering the season, he was just a career 35.2 percent from downtown. Per NBA.com, 56.8 percent of his shots (nearly 5 per game) were catch and shoot threes and Miles converted on those at a 42.3 percent clip.
He made 50.8 percent of his corner threes. 50.8 percent! That’s crazy. Not a small sample size either, Miles was 66 of 130. Extremely impressive stuff.
Miles had a $5 million player option for next season, and not surprisingly he already turned it down. No sense in delaying the inevitable.
According to NBA.com, Miles scored 1.34 points per possession in 2016-17 as a spot up shooter with an effective field goal percentage of 67.5 percent. He finished the season in the 97th percentile of efficiency. Don’t think teams won’t notice that.
His improved defense is something the Knicks can depend on as well. Miles was one of the best players on Indiana’s struggling defensive unit in 2016-17.
The Knicks won’t be able to attract a big name. A top-notch role player like Miles would be a huge get for them. It worked with Courtney Lee.
2. JaMychal Green, PF, Restricted
- Age: 26 (06/21/1990)
- 2016-17 Averages: 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .500/.379/.802
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 13.5 PER, 5.8 WS, -0.02 RPM
The Grizzlies are sure to max whatever offer thrown this kid’s way because he’s a legit stud on the rise.
New York’s only hope could be to offer the full $20 million per year and scare Memphis off. Highly unlikely. It’s a shame because Green’s such a great fit next to Porzingis because of his defense.
Green shines of the defensive end. He can protect the rim to give Porzingis a break and move out to the perimeter (Porzingis’ biggest weakness) on a switch with a guard.
As of 2016-17, Green’s offense is finally starting to catch up to his defense. The youngster’s jumper finally came alive when he adapted to the modern game.
Green was 37.9 percent from three-point range and 40.5 percent from the corners. Per NBA.com, he was 40.3 percent on catch and shoot threes.
He also made an excellent 51.1 percent of his mid range attempts. That’s something Phil Jackson will love. To hell with the three-point shot anyway, right Phil?
1. Dewayne Dedmon, C, Unrestricted
- Age: 27 (08/12/1989)
- 2016-17 Averages: 5.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks
- 2016-17 Slash Line: .622/.000/.699
- 2016-17 Advanced Metrics: 16.0 PER, 5.2 WS, 2.31 RPM
Last but certainly not least is Dewayne Dedmon. He’s a much more likely candidate for the Knicks than Green after declining his $3 million player option for next season.
Dedmon had a breakout year in 2015-16 with the Orlando Magic, and he was even better this season with the San Antonio Spurs.
The big man converted on over 68 percent of his attempts in the restricted area which led to a career-high 62.2 percent field goal percentage. It’s not his offense that New York needs, nor would they be signing him for.
Dedmon was in the top-ten in defensive rebound rate (via ESPN) among names like Hassan Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan. As pointed out earlier, New York was in desperate need of assistance on the defensive glass.
For the second straight season, Dedmon was one of the best defensive players in the league. He was fifth in the entire league in defensive real plus-minus and dominated while protecting the rim.
According to NBA.com, Dedmon lowered the opponent’s field goal percentage within six feet of the rim by a large -10.4 percent. Porzingis needs another big man who can help him out on defense and Dedmon can be that guy.
He’s a cheaper and more likely option than Green. Also, he’s just a year older. Not as much upside (Dedmon has no offense outside the rim), but it’s the right move for New York if they can get him.