Keith SchlosserIn the days and weeks to come, the Knicks will have their hands full while attempting to figure out how to retain the services of Carmelo Anthony. While the forward meets with other teams and weighs various offers, New York will have an opportunity to begin shoring up some holes as they target other intriguing free agents.
Such an attempt to improve the squad will surely be critical, as it relates to Anthony’s impending free agency decision. With that in mind, here are the free agents (not named Carmelo Anthony, of course) that the team should zero in on.
Pau Gasol, Lakers
Without as much money to offer as other teams, convincing Gasol to come play in the Big Apple may be all but a pipe dream. But as one of the more talented and versatile big men in the league, the veteran is a perfect fit for the triangle offense. His rebounding ability is something the Knicks sorely need, and his offensive prowess from around the perimeter would help spread the floor and open things up tremendously.
More importantly, Gasol’s presence would go a long way towards’ ensuring the return of Anthony. It would provide him with a legitimate star as second in command. The Knicks only have the mini-midlevel to throw Gasol’s way, but perhaps the opportunity to reunite with Phil Jackson, play for former teammate Derek Fisher and hit the hardwood with fellow Spaniard Jose Calderon will all collectively be too much for Gasol to turn down.
Jermaine O’Neal, Warriors
What you see is simply what you get with a player like O’Neal. More often than not, he represents one of the most oft-injured big men the game has seen in recent seasons.
But in the past two seasons, the Knicks have seemed to understand the value of having such a veteran in town anyway. The likes of Kenyon Martin, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and Marcus Camby, have all offered New York something desirable during respective tenures in the past two seasons. If offered the veteran’s minimum, O’Neal could be clutch in similar ways.
When he’s on the court, he’s an excellent rebounder who could help anchor the team’s defense when the starting center is getting a breather. What’s more, the 35 year old is a terrific locker room guy who can still manage to hit the mid-range jumper.
Ramon Sessions, Bucks
Whenever Sessions is available, it’s difficult to count the Knicks out so soon. The team has been intrigued by him dating back to Mike D’Antoni’s tenure, and have been known to inquire about his services often ever since.
Sessions is an underrated point guard. He’s intelligent, can run the floor well, and can pour in the points as well. He likes to drive to the basket, but can also take a step back and hit the long ball too. Though he may not be the most efficient scorer in the world, chances are the Knicks would rely upon him to be more of a facilitator off the bench. His defensive instincts would come in handy as well.
With Calderon in town, there may not be as much of a pressing need for a player of Sessions’ caliber. The mini-midlevel contract may be better spent on another player, but if New York could somehow convince the point guard to play for the veteran’s minimum, he’d be well worth it.
Boris Diaw, Spurs
It may sound funny at first, but Diaw could be an interesting “plan B,” if and when Gasol proves to be out of the Knicks’ price range. As versatile big men, the two do a lot of the same things on the court; Diaw has excellent court vision and even serves as a long-range shooting threat from beyond the arc.
One of the better passing big men in the game, Diaw can play both forward positions, as well as center a bit, too. He may not be able to score as efficiently as Gasol, nor would his signing create as much of a splash. Still, Diaw is a winner (a proven champion at that) who could still step in and fill a couple of voids. At the very least, he’d serve as a stop-gap for a season or two and help the Knicks remain competitive while doing some positive things on the court.
Steve Blake, Warriors
An experienced floor general in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, the veteran Blake may be the ideal backup point guard for the Knicks. Luckily for New York, they just may be able to reel him in at a bargain price as well.
After starting the season off with some of the best numbers of his career as starting point guard for the Lakers, Blake was minimized the rest of the way and had a dismal postseason after being acquired midseason by Golden State. That could prove to work in the Knicks’ favor.
In a perfect world, New York would sign Gasol and make enough of a splash to also retain Anthony as well. Should that happen, the team will be strapped for exceptions and/or cap space to offer. Reeling in Gasol, while convincing Blake to play for veteran’s minimum, should be considered a steal and well-done effort by Jackson at the end of the day.
Blake is one of the smartest guards in the league. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to recognize the potential for something special in New York when it comes time to sign.
The Wild Card: Patty Mills, Spurs
Originally expected to be a likely target for the Knicks this summer, Mills will be forced to undergo surgery for a rotator-cuff injury that plagued him during the season. He’ll reportedly be sidelined up to seven months, so it’s unknown if the market will remain the same for him moving forward.
But nevertheless…by acquiring Jose Calderon, the Knicks significantly upgraded the point guard position. Still, another floor general or two will undoubtedly be needed to eat up some minutes down the stretch. As someone who can run the floor and play well off the ball by serving as a threat from long range, Mills would be a nice fit.
Able to make an impact in different ways than Calderon, Mills could serve as an offensive spark plug off the pine. Bench points are something the Knicks are sorely in need of. The recently crowned NBA champion is someone who basks in the big moment and feeds off the bright lights a place like New York City could shine upon him. He’d thrive under pressure, as he’s proven to be able to do in San Antonio.