New York Knicks: Evaluating the free agency backup plans

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Without big-name free agents, who can the New York Knicks target as a backup plan?

There has long been speculation about how the New York Knicks will use their cap space in the summer of 2019. The general sentiment around the league was the Knicks would land at least one max contract free-agent, while many believed the franchise had a legitimate chance to acquire some combination of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving. Those hopes have taken a dramatic hit since the 2018-19 season ended.

Davis is now a Laker, and the Knicks may not be a top option for Leonard. The status of Durant and Irving is still up in the air, however, the two have met multiple times with hopes of teaming up and playing for the same team. The Knicks are still an option, but both have been linked to the Brooklyn Nets.

There is a real possibility the Knicks miss out on the marquee free agents in this year’s class. Other players like Kemba Walker would be a nice consolation prize, but the Knicks only have a select group they will pay the max to: Durant, Leonard, and Irving.

Walker can be an option, but only as an add-on to Durant. If New York is unable to sign one of those three players, they’ll shift their focus to upcoming free agent classes. However, they still need to round out the roster for this season. These are free agents the Knicks should target in the event they miss out on their ‘Big 3.’

4. Brook Lopez

The Bucks will have some tough decisions to make this summer as Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton are all free agents. According to SNY’s Ian Begley, the Knicks are inclined to sign players to one-year deals in order to retain significant cap space for next summer. These contracts will likely be slightly inflated in order to appeal to better middle-tiered players.

Lopez is an ideal fit with the Knicks. If Deandre Jordan walks, Lopez could step in and take over as a ‘mentor’ of sorts for the younger players. Mitchell Robinson is still a young, developing center who’d benefit a lot by learning from a veteran big man. Lopez is a seven-footer who shot a career-best 37 percent from three this past season. He also showed improved ability to take his man off the dribble from the perimeter and dish the ball to open teammates.

Defensively, Lopez is smart, disciplined, and very long, making it extremely hard on opponents to score around the rim. This past season, the Bucks held opponents to the lowest field goal percentage in the restricted area (56 percent), and Lopez was a big reason why. If the Knicks are somehow able to pry the big man away from Milwaukee, Lopez would provide an immediate boost to both sides of the floor.

3. JJ Redick

Last season, JJ Redick agreed to a one-year deal with the 76ers that paid him roughly $13 million. If he’s open to a similar type of deal, the Knicks should do everything in their power to sign him. Redick has drawn a lot of interest from around the league, as the Clippers, Nets and 76ers are all in the mix for the veteran sharpshooter. Redick’s skillset is exactly what the Knicks need. Last season, Redick shot 40 percent from deep and averaged a career-high 18 points per game. The Knicks ranked 27th overall in the league in three-point percentage. At age 34, Redick is still one of the league’s premier three-point shooters. His ability to space the floor would help open up driving lanes for players like RJ Barrett and Dennis Smith Jr.

2. Marcus Morris

The Knicks are reportedly interested in both Marcus Morris and his twin brother Markieff. Marcus is 29 years old and coming off a solid season with the Boston Celtics. Last year, Morris appeared in 75 games and averaged 13 points per game. He set career highs in rebounds (6.1 per game) and field-goal percentage (45 percent). The 6-foot-7 forward also shot a more than respectable 37 percent from deep.

Morris is a solid all-around player. Offensively, he does a little bit of everything, including scoring from the post but also step outside and knock down a jump shot. He is a strong slasher who is better in transition than he was able to show on the slow-paced Celtics offense.

Morris is an ideal fit for small ball lineups because he can guard the other team’s 5. His knack for rebounding would certainly help Mitchell Robinson as well.

The Kansas product is fresh off a contract that paid him $5 million annually, so the big man will almost certainly be looking for more this time around. If the pricing is right, the Knicks could have themselves a quality addition who will not only contribute on the floor, but also help stabilize and even lead a roster full of young players.

1. DeMarre Carroll

Just four seasons ago, DeMarre Carroll was one of the brightest up-and-coming players for the Atlanta Hawks, who quietly became one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference during Carroll’s tenure. Carroll is regarded as a quality “3-and-D” player, but his play fell off after leaving Atlanta.

Since his departure, Carroll has spent time with the Toronto Raptors and more recently the Brooklyn Nets, including averages of 11.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 2018-19. He shot 39.5 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from distance.

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If all else fails in free agency, the New York Knicks could potentially offer Carroll a one-year deal in the $8 million range. He’d likely come off the bench to provide valuable, experienced depth behind Kevin Knox. Interestingly, when asked about his upcoming free agency, Carroll said he’d likely let his wife decide what his next team will be. So it will be interesting to see how that impacts Carroll’s negotiations.