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New York Knicks retool roster, assume plenty of risk

The New York Knicks have had a busy offseason, to say the least.  One could argue that they are one of the more improved teams in the Eastern Conference.  If they stay healthy throughout the upcoming season, making the playoffs seems like a certainty.  That’s a big if, given the injury history of many of their top players.

Phil Jackson finally deserves some kudos after the moves he’s made this summer.  After two seasons of making terrible basketball decisions, Jackson and his front office staff have put the Knicks in position to win some games now.  They entered the offseason with just five players under contract and more than $30 million in cap space.  They did some great things with that money, but are also taking a huge risk in the players they brought in.

Adding Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee to the starting lineup along with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis looks great on paper, but things have to go well on the court in order for the Knicks to make their return to the postseason.  Rose and Noah have missed a combined 266 games over the past five seasons due to injury while playing for the Chicago Bulls.  Rose is in a contract year, so expect the point guard to play with a huge chip on his shoulder.  Another major injury could potentially derail what was once an extremely bright and promising career.

Noah’s best days are clearly behind him.  He was limited to just 29 games this past season, but was still given a huge contract offer from the Knicks.  Four-years and $72 million for a player past his prime may not seem like the smartest deal, but Noah brings value to the Knicks that goes far beyond the basketball court.  Sure, he can still play defense and is an excellent passer for a big man, but he will be a great locker room presence for young player such as Porzingis.  The Knicks should hope Noah’s passion for the game will rub off on his teammates in a positive way.

Four of the five projected starters for the Knicks are taking up a ton of salary cap space, so Jackson had to be creative when it came to filling out the team’s bench.  Reserve big man Kyle O’Quinn and wing Justin Holiday were already under contract, so that brought the roster total to seven players, with eight spots to fill.  Holiday was traded to the Knicks in the deal that also brought them Rose.

Jackson signed point guard Brandon Jennings to back up Rose.  Jennings is another dynamic player with a huge injury history, so there is plenty of risk there.  He took a one-year deal worth roughly $5 million and will try to prove to the Knicks and the rest of the NBA that he is fully recovered from a ruptured Achilles.  If both Jennings and Rose go down with injuries this season, the Knicks will be in some real trouble.  If he’s healthy, he will be the team’s sixth man.

Reserves Lance Thomas and Sasha Vujacic were also brought back on reasonable deals.  Undrafted rookie center Marshall Plumlee was given a small guaranteed contract.  International players Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Maurice Ndour were also brought in to compete for playing time.

As it stands right now, the Knicks have 14 players on their roster with guaranteed contracts.  They could wait until training camp to fill their 15th and final roster spot.

The Knicks as a whole are in a much better position than they were exactly one year ago at this time.  They have a great starting five, but if injuries begin the mount, their depth will be tested immediately.  They also have a new head coach in Jeff Hornacek.

They may have “won” the offseason by New York standards, but the real test for Jackson and company will come when training camp starts this fall.  Once the 2016-17 season is complete, the Knicks will either be a playoff team or a dumpster fire.  If it’s the latter, Jackson may have no choice but to pack up and head back to Los Angeles.



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Jason Goldstein is a co host of the Baseline Jumper NBA podcast, recording every Tuesday night along Ben McDonald. Jason has also spent time as the Basketball Editor at while also handling the Brooklyn Nets Lead Writer duties since October 2015.
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