The New York Knicks possess several soon-to-be free agents this summer. The question is, “What’s the appropriate course of action for each?”
All anyone wants to talk about this summer is the New York Knicks big aspirations to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two blockbuster moves that would firmly position New York as a title contender. And those are great goals to have, especially if they are realistic. I mean, which team wouldn’t want to sign two proven champions?
But what is lost in this mess of a free agency is that the Knicks have several of their own to worry about come July. In fact, the Knicks have enough free agents to make a pretty mean G-League starting lineup.
Ok, fine, some of these guys are pretty good; but there is no chance in hell the Knicks are bringing them all back. So let’s take a look at both the market for these players and whether or not them coming back to New York even makes sense.
It’s curtains for Emmanuel Mudiay’s time in New York. The Congo native is entering unrestricted free agency in July and it’s tough to see a path for him back to New York. Aside from the fact that someone is going to pay him $5 million plus per year, Emmanuel’s one and half seasons with the Knicks was pretty underwhelming. Although he averaged 14.8 points per game on 44.6/32.9/77.4 shooting splits this year, he failed to show any improvement on the exact same flaws he’s had since joining the team.
There are far too many possessions where Emmanuel Mudiay has the ball in his hands for 10+ seconds. It usually looks something like this:
- Comes off screen
- Gets a big man switched onto him
- Attempts to make a move
- Settles for a mid-range jumper or contested three
And I’ll admit, he does average nearly 15 PPG on solid shooting, so his playstyle does work many times. Which is why a team like the Suns will be happy to throw $5-10 million per year at him. But if the Knicks are going to go out and use their two max spots they wouldn’t have the money to afford him and wouldn’t want a ball dominant point guard taking contested 15-footers with two different all-stars on the court. Not to mention the fact that the Knicks already have Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina (for now) and will be looking to add Kyrie Irving in July. So yeah, it’s looking like Mudiay is far more likely to be a Sun rather than a Knick next season.
There was no reason for the Knicks to re-sign Mario Hezonja. He averaged just 8.8 points per game on 41% shooting from the field and 27.6% shooting from behind the arc. Horrendous efficiency. Especially for a player that was advertised as a sharpshooter. So that should have been the end. He’s just another tank warrior, giving his career for the betterment of the Knicks’ lottery chances. But then, in the final nights of the tank marathon, David Fizdale made the biggest mistake of his life. He decided to let Hezonja take the start at point guard.
Hezonja then proceded to put up a 16 point, 11 assists, 16 rebound triple-double in his first career start as the head of the offense. Then, the very next game, Mario scored 30 points on 57% shooting from the field; leading the Knicks to a 113-110 win over the Wizards.
I mean, come on; you can’t let the guys Knicks tenure end like that. I know that there’s no way Mario Hezonja turns out to be a good, 82-game point guard. But just off the 0.0001% chance that he will be, you have to bring him back. Plus, god knows no one will offer him anything north of the veteran’s minimum, so what’s the harm in throwing him into a few preseason games and seeing how he does. If he sucks, great, that’s what was expected. But if he tears it up, then you know that if shit hits the fan, you have the best secret weapon in the league: Mario Hezonja at point guard.
Noah Vonleh’s free agency is going to be a weird one. He’s known for being a scrappy hustle which is always a tough market to gauge. I could honestly see a team offering him around $8 million per year, but I also wouldn’t be too surprised if he received little interest from everyone. So it’s probably in the Knicks best interest to wait and see the types of offers Vonleh receives before jumping in. But if New York is able to re-sign for $5 million per year or less, I would say that’s a no brainer signing.
Whatever. Offer him the minimum I guess. He’s not good, but he can knock down some three-pointers. Obviously, he’s not going to be a rotational player, but why not let him sit at the end of the bench and if anyone gets a cramp he can come in for a few possessions and maybe hit a three. Beyond that, he’s a complete liability on defense and shoots 41% on non-three pointers as a center. But again, you’re not expecting him to stay in the rotation.
This one is also very simple. The Knicks would love to have DeAndre Jordan back. He’s still a great class cleaner and works efficiently in the pick and roll as well as serving as a veteran mentor for Mitchell Robinson. But they’re definitely not getting him for the veteran’s minimum. And there’s no point in bringing him back if they strike out on every big-name free agent. So the only scenario where Jordan back to the Knicks makes sense is if they are able to attract one big-time free agent (i.e. Kevin Durant) but don’t use their other max spot. Then, bringing DeAndre back on a one or two year contract worth 10 million per year makes sense. He would help keep the team in a competitive, near contention state while also being a mentor for the young guys.
- Emmanuel Mudiay: Let him walk.
- Mario Hezonja: Bring him back on a minimum deal.
- Noah Vonleh: Offer no more than five or six million per year.
- Luke Kornet: Bring back on either a minimum deal or a two-way contract.
- DeAndre Jordan: Bring back for $10 million per year if Knicks only attract one big-time free agent.