Free Agency or Draft: How Should New York Knicks Fill Biggest Offseason Needs?

how to fill demand draft

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With the New York Knicks receiving the No. 4 pick at the 2015 NBA draft lottery, previewing the upcoming offseason is as important as ever.

There will still be plenty of options for the Knicks despite the disappointing outcome, but now that we know exactly where they are selecting and which teams are ahead of them, it's easier to get an idea of what their plan could be.

New York has needs virtually everywhere on the court —the question now is how they should each be addressed, be that through the draft or the free-agent market.

In an ideal world, the Knicks would be picking up a franchise center in the draft in the form of Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor, but with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers picking at one and two respectively, those scenarios can be all but ruled out.

Unless the Knicks decide to trade the pick, their only real options at No. 4 are to address their need at point guard with Emmanuel Mudiay (or D'Angelo Russell if he falls past the Philadelphia 76ers ) or pick up a quality two-way forward in Justise Winslow.

Finding a center in free agency is going to be expensive, but not impossible. Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan are available, but the chances of them actually signing with the Knicks are slim. Greg Monroe, however, is a realistic option, who has already been rumored to be close to a "done deal," according to Frank Isola of the NY Daily News .

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Though they're sure to miss out on an elite center in the draft, Greg Monroe could be the answer to the Knicks' woes in free agency—albeit at a hefty price.

If the Knicks want a franchise center, Monroe is their only real option unless they're willing to wait until next summer. In all likelihood, he's going to demand a max contract with a starting salary of roughly $15 million, taking a huge portion of the $26.8 million the Knicks are projected to have available to spend after the draft.

Waiting until next year, the Knicks would technically have a shot at Al Horford and Joakim Noah. Both are clearly better than Monroe right now, but even in a year's time it's not particularly realistic to expect them to leave elite Eastern Conference teams for the Knicks. Cutting their losses and signing Monroe now would make more sense than going all out for a pipe dream.

The remaining $11.8 million the Knicks will have left if they sign Monroe is just enough to bring in a quality starter and, if they're lucky, a decent role player. Which position they go for obviously depends on whether they address point guard or small forward in the draft.

In all honesty, the Knicks and their fans should be happy with Russell, Mudiay or Winslow. All three appear to be great prospects and fill major needs. But, looking at things practically, it makes the most sense to go for a point guard right now.

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With the fourth overall pick, the Knicks' best options appear to be D'Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay and Justise Winslow.

As we know, point guard is the league's deepest position, and the Knicks have fallen behind starting the likes of Raymond Felton, Shane Larkin and Jose Calderon for the last few years. Even if running the triangle offense that doesn't emphasize the position, the Knicks need an upgrade, and Russell and Mudiay offer great upside at an affordable price.

There are options in free agency, but Rajon Rondo and Reggie Jackson are going to be very expensive,

and in the case of Rondo probably just out of the Knicks' price range if they want Monroe. Patrick Beverley is a cheaper alternative but still likely to be more costly than Russell or Mudiay. and isn't much better than Langston Galloway, anyway.

In their hunt for two-way wings in free agency, the Knicks would be foolish not to make a run at restricted free agents Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green. They're unlikely to be successful in any case, but it's worth a try.

More realistic options include Wesley Matthews, DeMarre Carroll and Arron Afflalo. Coming off injuries, Matthews and Carroll would be risky, but that could mean the Knicks get a sizable discount. Tobias Harris would be an option, but he's a little more one-dimensional and would only be available at a premium due to his restricted free agency.

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Despite his injury trouble, Wesley Mathews could be exactly what New York is looking for on the wing.

If they miss out on their primary targets or are scared away by the injuries, some cheaper (and more limited) alternatives include Khris Middleton, Corey Brewer and Jae Crowder. Not headline-grabbing names by any means, but the type of players you want around when building a deep roster.

On the surface, the smartest route would be for the Knicks to address point guard in the draft, and their needs on the wing and at center in free agency. Trading down in the draft, however, remains an option in theory, and if they can find a team willing to take Jose Calderon, that would further increase their flexibility.

Even at four, however, the Knicks will still have a choice between at least two elite prospects, and that's an opportunity they shouldn't pass up. This is the highest selection the Knicks have had in years, and since they've already traded their pick for next year, it's unlikely they'll get another shot this high in the near future.

Trading Calderon would be great, but they can't do it at the expense of the opportunity to pick up Russell, Mudiay or Winslow. If necessary, they should be comfortable in letting go of Tim Hardaway Jr. to get a deal done or even making use of the stretch provision, but that's as far as their desperation should go.

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Bringing back the likes of Alexey Shved would give the Knicks the foundation for a quality second unit.

Unfortunately, the No. 4 pick probably isn't quite enough on its own to bring in a major veteran. At one or two, they could potentially have made a move for DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. but it's unlikely they'd let go of him without a shot at Towns or Okafor. Any other offers they get are unlikely to have the upside or cap-friendly contracts of the aforementioned prospects.

As for their own free agents, the Knicks could start to build a solid bench by bringing back Galloway, Cole Aldrich, Lou Amundson and, if the cap allows it, Andrea Bargnani and Alexey Shved. Using the minimum salary and mid-level exceptions would allow them to return without eating into the Knicks' spending, but only if they're signed after the major moves have been made.

Disappointing as the draft lottery was, the Knicks still have an opportunity to make major strides in their rebuild this summer. They aren't quite spoilt for choice, but with the right moves, it wouldn't be surprising to see them bring in two or three quality starters at point guard, center and one of the wing spots.

If it all comes together, we could be looking at a borderline playoff team in 2015-16.


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