Four key questions for free agency

ESPNNewYork.com's free-agency primer explores the Knicks' summer spending, answers some key questions and examines what lies ahead for the team's free agents.


The Knicks have several options to explore this summer:

• They can lock up J.R. Smith for $4.9 million using their early Bird rights (if not, that money can't be used for another free agent)

• Use their taxpayer mid-level exception of $3.18 million to bring in someone

• Sign their late-first-round draft pick

• Use veteran's minimum contracts to fill up their roster

There could be more options if Jason Kidd and/or Marcus Camby retire (see more below).


1. What are the Knicks' biggest needs?

First, upgrading their frontcourt. As one NBA scout said, "If [Carmelo Anthony] and J.R. are going to win, it's with young, athletic bigs who do the dirty work, protect the rim and finish." With Melo, Smith and the Knicks' perimeter-based offense, they need more lively rebounders.

A few affordable attractive options are: Al-Farouq Aminu, Lou Amundson and Dante Cunningham. A dark horse is Gani Lawal, who played with Iman Shumpert at Georgia Tech. Lawal, who's playing well in Europe, is an elite athlete and rebounder and will have multiple NBA offers.

The Knicks could also use an explosive backup point guard to help them establish a faster pace. A few affordable attractive options are: Will Bynum, A.J. Price and Sebastian Telfair. A draft possibility could be Shane Larkin. Also, Chris Smith, J.R.'s younger brother, will likely play on the Knicks' summer league team.

In addition, the Knicks could use a power forward who can defend and stretch the offense. Chris Copeland developed well this season on both ends of the floor and could be the answer.

2. Will they re-sign Smith and Kenyon Martin?

Smith will likely opt out, so the Knicks can sign him for $4.9 million. That will likely be around his maximum price tag. League insiders still view him as an inconsistent scorer, which he was in the playoffs.

"Other teams will be skittish because he is still a wild card," one agent told ESPNNewYork.com. "With the new CBA [collective bargaining agreement], I think he will be good for $5 million."

Smith said he wants to re-sign. He's also better as a complementary scorer to a great scorer (like Anthony), which is why the Knicks are the frontrunners.

Regarding Martin, one source told ESPNNewYork.com that he'll be in the market again for a midlevel deal. But he favors the Knicks, and they want him back. When Kidd said in late April, "he saved our season," that's all you need to know.

3. Can they move Amar'e Stoudemire or make any trades?

Stoudemire would be off the books only if a physician selected by the league and players' association determined that his knees had career-ending implications. But he will play next season. Also, a trade with his uninsured $21.68 million contract won't happen.

Any other trades are unlikely. The Knicks are not taking calls and they're already over the cap, so they won't receive much value back.

4. If Kidd and/or Camby retire, will that clear space under the salary cap to perhaps go after Chris Paul?

First of all, Kidd, 40, hasn't confirmed his plans to play next season. Camby, 39, would like to play. Camby's agent, Richard Kaplan, told ESPNNewYork.com, "He has been healthy for a while now. He's under contract, and there is no question they can use him."

But if Kidd and/or Camby forfeited their salary, the Knicks would be below the $74.31 million apron. Then, they would regain the full midlevel exception ($5.15 million) and the biannual exception ($2.02 million). Paul could take the full midlevel exception, but that would obviously be a big pay cut. (A sign-and-trade is unlikely). However, if the Knicks used those two exceptions, they would be hard-capped at the apron, suffocating future roster movement.


J.R. Smith

Due: Potential unrestricted free agent

Outlook: Likely to be back

Kenyon Martin

Due: Unrestricted free agent

Outlook: Likely to be back but will weigh higher offers

Chris Copeland

Due: Restricted free agent (if he doesn't accept a qualifying offer of $988,872, the Knicks would have to match a higher amount)

Outlook: Likely to be back if he doesn't accept more money (value: $3-$5 million)

Pablo Prigioni

Due: Same as Copeland

Outlook: Same as Copeland (value: $1-$2 million)

James White

Due: Unrestricted free agent

Outlook: Knicks still like him for his defense and could sign him to the veteran's minimum, but if he gets a higher offer with the opportunity for more playing time, he likely won't be back

Earl Barron

Due: Unrestricted free agent

Outlook: Knicks need more youth in their frontcourt, and Barron is a skilled scorer and rebounder (his return is 50/50)

Quentin Richardson

Due: Unrestricted free agent

Outlook: Likely won't be back

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