Is Basketball Back at MSG? Grading the Knicks Offseason – Part 2

Written by Kevin Meng

Yesterday we broke down the first half of the Knicks offseason.  Now on to the rest of the moves the Knicks made so far this summer.

Signing Courtney Lee to a 4 year, $48 million dollar deal

Not quite sure why Lee chose to play here, but I ain’t mad. In a starting 5 with a scoring forward, a defensive-minded center, the best Latvian big man since Kaspars Kambala, and a penetrating guard with a shaky shot, the one thing this team was lacking was a consistent three ball shooter and wing defender.

Lee has been a positive on the defensive end his whole career, playing bigger than his 6’5, 200lb frame might suggest. He also averaged 39% from bomb territory on 3 attempts per game last season. He was the one of the best shooters on a team that hoisted up the 4th most attempts in the league. With all of the attention on Mr. Anthony, KP, and Rose, he should thrive.

Seeing the deals thrown around for similar players like Kent Bazemore, and the premium put on 3nD wings, signing him for 12 per on average is a great deal. One marker of a good contract is the backend of the deal. A player might be worth their salary in the first two years and grossly overpaid the final two(Luol Deng to the Lakers??), but looking at Lee’s deal, he might even be underpaid in year 3 considering the new cap.

Finding the perfect compliment to the surrounding talent, and doing so on a fair contract? Here’s a big fat A for you, Mr. Jackson.

Grade: A

Signing Joakim Noah to a 4 year, $72 million dollar deal

Not sure if PMFJ still thinks he’s on his hippy retreat in Montana or not, but we have a sinking suspicion that he was on some serious mind altering substances when he signed this deal. When healthy, Noah is a still a very effective defender, good finisher around the rim, and great passer. Add to that his chemistry to Rose and the fact that we didn’t have a center, and the reasons for signing him are obvious. But 4/72 for a guy who can’t stay healthy and is on the downside of his career with a skillset that doesn’t age well? Yeesh.

In this market, players are going to get overpaid. There weren’t many C’s left on the market to get, and even fewer that fit what we needed, but this deal seems more like Phil panicked, realized he needed a C that could pass and be mobile on the court, and blew away the first one he could find with an offer he couldn’t refuse. Noah is still a good player, but he seemed angry at how Chicago did him dirty. Expect a big bounce back from him, but don’t expect him to earn the deal he signed. At least he isn’t Eddy Curry.

Grade: C+

Re-signing Lance Thomas to a 4 year, $27.5 million dollar deal

Lance has been one of the few bright spots in recent Knick’s seasons. Born in Brooklyn, Thomas is a real NBA success story. Fighting through the D-league, multiple 10-day contracts, multiple instances of being waived, a stint with the Foshan Dragons in China(I hear the weather is nice though), and scrapping for minutes off the bench, all the way up to signing a deal worth 27 million dollars. Hard not to feel happy for him, even though he plays for the Knicks.

Thomas is a capable, big-bodied defender that can shoot the 3 ball. He can guard multiple positions and is, at least in theory, our best wing stopper. He gives us the ability to go small and still remain respectable on both ends. Getting him back into the lineup was a must.

Again, Thomas isn’t a very good player in the grand scheme of things, but seeing as how this team was capped out and in need of capable defenders and shooters, bringing back Thomas for probably less than he could have gotten elsewhere(I assume a wink wink deal is in place for his next contract) was a huge score for the team. It was either Thomas at that salary or a vet minimum guy, and there’s no way we could have found someone of equal caliber for that price. He shores up the bench big-time and gives us lineup flexibility. This deal should be an A, but I assume Thomas had no intentions of leaving. So it isn’t like Phil pulled any magic here.

Grade: B+

The best possible offseason for this team would have been to land Kevin Durant. We all knew that was never happening. If we look at this offseason through “win-now” goggles, then it’s hard to complain about any of the signings. Many Knicks fans, the writer of this piece included, believe the best route would have been to tank and build around GOATstaps BeastZingis, but that ship has sailed. Phil and Melo want to win, and playing meaningful playoff basketball will be better for KP than playing meaningless February games for 3 seasons.

These signings maximize our ability to win games this season considering the players available but still preserve our team’s ability to have maximum cap space next season when legit max-cats hit the board. PMFJ turned Lopez, Grant, Calderon, and around 30-something-ish million in cap space into Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings, and Willy Hernangomez. The best part? We aren’t maxed out in our potential either. This team’s vets might not ever get any better, but Kristaps Porzingis is just scratching his potential as a player. As it stands now, the Knicks are playoff bound. If KP heeds his call and ascends the throne atop the NBA that is his by blood right, things will get very interesting.

Overall offseason grade: B+.

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