After a quick lockout-shortened season, we're once again back to that time of year; that time filled with multiple trade and free agency rumours, and unfortunately, no actual Knicks basketball.
Still, the 2012 offseason is as important as ever for the Knickerbockers, as they'll look once again to build around Carmelo Anthony and company. Of course, I hesitate to mention Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler along with 'Melo, because depending on who you believe, they themselves could be used to bring in another superstar. That said, this preview is going to be written assuming that no major trades are going to be made - meaning that from this point in, no trades including any of the big three are going to be mentioned.
So, without further ado, I bring you the offseason preview:
The New York Knicks have a number of players who'll be out of contract this summer - some important and some not so important - and by the looks of it, they could struggle to keep a hold of all of them. June 13th will likely be the most influential date of the offseason in that regard, because it is on that date that there will be an arbitration hearing for the Bird rights of waived players. What this essentially means is that if the arbitrator rules in favour of the player's union, the Knicks will have Bird rights for both Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak - making them easily signable, and more importantly, meaning the Mid-Level Exception will be free to use on another free agent in addition to Lin and Novak.
Beyond Lin and Novak, the most important player for the Knicks to re-sign is J.R. Smith, whose player option of $2.5 million is shockingly affordable for a player of his quality. Smith is the sixth man for the Knicks when everyone is healthy - which is essential in itself - but with Iman Shumpert set to miss the early portion of the season with an ACL tear, his value suddenly increases. The Knicks simply will not be able to find a player of J.R.'s quality for that price, so they'll be hoping he opts not to hit free agency this summer - where he'll undoubtedly receive bigger offers.
Outside of the "big three" of Knicks free agents we have Landry Fields, Josh Harrellson and Jared jeffries who'll almost certainly all be signed, along with Baron Davis, Mike Bibby and Dan Gadzuric who probably won't.
Fields, Jorts and Jeffries will likely find themselves under very affordable contracts, and the Knicks would be stupid to miss out on resigning such cheap depth. There's an outside chance that Bibby could also return, especially considering his relationship with head coach Mike Woodson. As for Diddy, his injury will keep him out of action until the 2013-14 season, meaning he definitely won't be resigned until then.
As I mentioned, the June 13th arbitration hearing will have a huge bearing on the Knicks' activity in free agency, as the result could create one of two scenarios - one with an MLE and one without.
The importance of the MLE should not be ignored by Knicks fans, because if you're dreaming of bringing in Steve Nash, I can tell you he ain't coming for the veteran's minimum. Even if the Knicks opt for someone other than Nash as their main incoming free agent, the MLE is still of great importance.
Bringing in Nash to start with Lin behind him will be the perfect situation for the Knicks, as the two-time MVP brings so much to the table with his outside shooting and veteran experience... and just the fact that he's still an elite point guard; one of the few that can play alongside STAT and Melo.
Without the MLE, the Knicks still have the chance to bring in Steve Nash, but in order to do so they'll have to let Jeremy Lin go - something which they'd rightly be reluctant to do considering his age and potential. If we assume that Lin will be re-signed regardless of the arbitration hearing, there are still a number of key free agents who could be willing to come to New York for lesser contracts.
One such player is Lamar Odom, whose struggles away from LA this season have received more than their fair share of documentation. The forward's value has plummeted greatly, and he will not get another big contract this offseason, and instead will be looking for a one or two year deal for him to showcase his talent and prove that he still belongs in the NBA.
As a Queens native and a Knicks fan growing up, an offer from New York would be one that Odom would be happy to receive, and NYC is likely the only city he'd be comfortable playing in other than LA.
That sets things up perfectly for the Knicks, who could really use each of the many skills he offers. Odom could act as a back-up to not only Amar'e Stoudemire, but to Carmelo Anthony and even Jeremy Lin as well, because he's such a good ball-handler and playmaker for his size. If Odom hits free agency and doesn't require a trade to get out of Dallas, the Knicks should jump on him immediately.
More notable and realistic free agency options include former Knicks T-Mac, Marcus Camby and Nate Robinson (who could be perfect off the bench behind Lin), Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Delonte West, Andre Miller, Ben Wallace, Goran Dragic, Kenyon Martin, Raymond Felton, Grant Hill, Kris Humphries, Boris Diaw and resident good luck charm Brian Scalabrine.
At this point, the NBA Draft appears to be very low on the Knicks' hierarchy of priorities, with the team currently holding only the 48th pick. Most Knicks fans can agree that somehow the team needs to get their hands on a first round pick in this year's deep draft, and this could likely be done by trading away someone like Toney Douglas.
There are a number of teams with more picks than they likely want to use - in particular Golden State, Boston and Houston - and all three could be interested in a swap of TD for one of their later picks.
I imagine the Knicks will be looking primarily at guards, and possible a back-up for Stoudemire in the draft, but again that depends on the June 13th hearing and whether or not the Knicks will make a run at Steve Nash or Lamar Odom.
One thing the Knicks probably do need in the draft regardless is shooting guard depth, because Shumpert is out injured, Smith could be on the way out, and Landry Fields just isn't made for that position.
If no first rounder is added, the primary prospects you should be looking for the Knicks to draft at 48 are Jared Cunningham and Scott Machado, the Queens native who worked out with the team last week.
No matter what happens, this is going to be an eventful offseason, and with only six players under contract for next season right now, we could see a very different Knicks roster heading into 2012-13.