After the NBA Draft, I wrote about how much I liked what the New York Knicks did on draft night, even if not many fans were thrilled with the selection of Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4. Porzingis may be a project, but the kid has a crazy high ceiling and the Knicks did well to snag talented guard Jerian Grant in a deal that saw the disappointing Tim Hardaway Jr. leave.
After a stellar draft, Phil Jackson and Co. entered free agency with a boatload of cap space. Dreams of big splashes like LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan, among other big fish, danced in the eyes of many, but those fantasies were never really all that realistic. The Knicks were an awful 17-65 last year with little NBA talent on the roster, so there was no reason for any of the top-flight free agents to make the move there. The allure of Phil’s rings and Madison Square Garden wasn’t enough to make up for the current basketball predicament.
Greg Monroe was a more realistic target, but the former Detroit Pistons big man spurned the Knicks for a three-year max deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. While losing a prime target to the Bucks may feel like a slap in the face, it actually isn’t the worst thing in the world. Monroe is a talented player, but overpaying a poor defender at the center position may have really backfired for New York.
Instead of getting some of those top targets, the Knicks have agreed to deals with two solid role players in Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez. While these aren’t splashy signings, they’re solid ones as Jackson tries to build a legitimate NBA roster around Carmelo Anthony.
Afflalo had a down year last season, but he’s not long removed from putting up 18 points per game with the Orlando Magic. His deal with the Knicks is only two years, $16 million with a player option for the second season. If the veteran guard has a strong season, he can opt out of his deal and either re-up in New York or go elsewhere. If he flops and opts in, his deal isn’t too much of a hindrance.
The Lopez deal is a bit pricey at four years, $54 million, and it may have been a bit of an overpay for a guy who doesn’t put up big numbers and isn’t an elite rim protector. However, the 27-year-old will bring some toughness to the New York front line and do a lot of the dirty work down low. There’s value in that, especially for a Knicks team that needs it.
With Afflalo and Lopez on board, you can start to see a decent team forming in the Big Apple. Not a team that’s going to be winning anything next season, but at least there’s some building going on here. New York still has about $7 million left in cap space, as well as the $2.8 million room exception. That could land two or maybe even three more decent rotation pieces, and as mentioned, that’s key for a Knicks team that needs a lot of help.
Look, if you went into this offseason thinking the Knicks could turn everything around in one summer, that was foolish. It takes awhile to fix a dumpster fire of a team, and Jackson has taken some steps in the right direction in both the draft and free agency. There’s still plenty of work to be done, and the next few offseasons will be huge when the cap rises and New York has a lot of cap space again.
A ton of other teams will have cap space as well, but with more of a foundation in place, the Knicks could be more attractive to free agents. Not having a 2016 first-round pick stinks (BARGS!), but perhaps one can be acquired. And even if that doesn’t happen, there will be an opportunity in free agency.
The Knicks may not be a playoff team next season, but the future is starting to look a bit brighter. That’s really all you could’ve asked for heading into this offseason.