While the New York Knicks have been selling the promise of a free agent spending spree in 2015, this coming summer is of equal importance. Carmelo Anthony’s free agency decision looms large over the franchise, and with Phil Jackson and a forthcoming coaching staff in place, the Knicks are going to look to reshape their roster.
The Knicks may look to even reshape their roster before Anthony makes his decision. ‘Melo has stated that winning a championship is his priority and that he doesn’t have time in his career for a full rebuild. We’ve discussed the possibility of trading Tyson Chandler in order to clear up cap space and get other assets back in return. But one option could be buying out players.
For the Knicks — and moreover, James Dolan — buying out someone like Amar’e Stoudemire and his remaining $22-million salary probably isn’t wise. Stoudemire’s solid play last season and expiring contract might even be tradable this season. Andrea Bargnani is owed $12 million and likely won’t fetch any offers, but again, his contract is expiring in 2015, so buying him out may not be a wise business move either.
Instead, the Knicks could look ahead to players whose contracts extend beyond 2015. Currently, that leaves Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., Raymond Felton, and J.R. Smith. The latter two are the most likely candidates in this scenario.
J.R. Smith is owed $6.4 million in 2015-16, which is a player option, but given Smith’s lack of success on the free agent market, he likely won’t opt out. Shumpert and Hardaway will still both be on the team (presumably), and if they develop as projected, Smith’s presence could be redundant. However, Smith also is nice supporting depth to have, depending on how the Knicks do in free agency that summer.
Felton, on the other hand, is more expendable. He’s owed $4.5 million in 2015-16, and given his awful season and his legal troubles, the Knicks will probably look to part ways with him. Recall that at the trade deadline, however, teams wouldn’t accept Felton in a trade unless another player or pick was attached to him. That’s how low his value was.
For the Knicks, they would just need to find another point guard. Pablo Prigioni isn’t capable of running the point as a starter, but the Knicks do have a draft pick in 2015 and they have the mini-MLE this summer to try and find a target. Although they won’t reel in any big names, Felton was arguably the worst starting point guard this past season, so finding a better replacement might not be too hard.
And again, the buyout would be to better the roster more quickly. The Knicks want to build a contender and they’ll also need players who fit the offensive system that Phil Jackson and the coach-to-be decide to install. If the Knicks really think that buying out a player early to clear up cap space is beneficial, it could be an option.