Knicks sign Wesley Saunders

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The Knicks have signed SG/SF Wesley Saunders. Saunders, 22, graduated from Harvard in May and was not selected in the 2015 NBA Draft. The 6’5 Saunders played for Utah in the summer league. Saunders is one of two Ivy Leaguers under contract— the other is Jeremy Lin.

Saunders was the 2014 Ivy League Player of the Year and won the league title in all four of his seasons with the Crimson. Saunders led Harvard to first-round NCAA upsets as a sophomore and a junior, and the Crimson put a huge scare into UNC in this year’s tournament. Saunders averaged 17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals as a senior, shooting 45% from the field and 77% from the line. Saunders also saw a huge uptick in both volume and efficiency from beyond the arc, shooting 43% on 2.5 attempts per game.

The scouting report on Saunders? He has a tremendous basketball IQ (not surprising) and is a good ball-handler and passer with a good shot. However, he is not an elite athlete, so he will not threaten teams with his quickness.

Saunders was given a partially-guaranteed contract, meaning that he will have a chance to earn a roster spot in training camp. Maurice Ndour figured to get an invite to training camp, but instead signed a deal with the Mavericks after a strong Summer League performance with the Knicks.

The Knicks still have the $2.8 Million Room Exception to spend on Free Agents.

Knicks spend remaining Cap Space by signing Lou Amundson

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The Knicks have re-signed 32 year-old PF/C Lou Amundson to a 1-year, $1.65 Million deal. Amundson was acquired mid-season in the Smith/Shumpert trade and averaged 6 points, 6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 21 minutes per game for the Knicks. The veteran big man, who has played for 10 teams, is known for his hustle and grit, which helps him make an impact defensively and on the boards despite his lack of explosiveness. He is also a good passer for somebody his size, although he is not a threat to score himself and is a miserable free throw shooter. Amundson’s veteran leadership should help the team, although he is unlikely to play big minutes.

The Knicks have seemingly used all of their cap space, leaving them with the $2.8M “Room Exception” and unlimited Minimum Salary slots to fill out the roster. The Knicks have four roster spots remaining, although one of those will almost certainly be taken up by the partially-guaranteed contract of Langston Galloway.

Knicks sign Lance Thomas

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The Knicks have re-signed forward Lance Thomas to a 1-year deal with $1.6 Million. The 6’8 Thomas, 27, was acquired from the Cavaliers in the JR Smith/Iman Shumpert trade. Thomas averaged 8 points and 3 rebounds in 40 games for the Knicks last season, and won over Derek Fisher, who sees him as a good fit in the Triangle system.

The Knicks have around $1.5M left in cap space, as well as the $2.8M Room Exception.

BREAKING: Knicks sign Kyle O’Quinn

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The Knicks have acquired big man Kyle O’Quinn in a sign-and-trade deal with the Magic.

The 6’10 O’Quinn spends most of his time at the Power Forward position but can also play Center when needed. The 25 year-old Queens native will receive $16 Million over 4 years, with a player option in the fourth year. The Knicks will send the magic cash, as well as the option to swap second-round picks with the Knicks in 2019.

O’Quinn is a very solid rebounder and a pretty good defender who can block some shots. He is a strong finisher around the rim and a fairly viable scoring option once he is within 10 feet. He is a classic “hustle guy” who will create plays with his energy, and is a nice passer for a big man. O’Quinn averaged 6 points, 4 rebounds, a block and an assist in 16 minutes of play for Orlando. His career per-36 totals are 13 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2 blocks.

This is a great contract for the Knicks, as they will pay O’Quinn very little and have him for a few years if he blossoms. It is exactly the kind of deal they should have tried to set up when they signed Derrick Williams.

O’Quinn won’t be a stud for the Knicks, but he could be a very solid role player, and will certainly help out on the glass. NBA executives are saying that the Knicks made a good move, and I agree.

The Knicks are apparently out of cap space after this signing, although they still have the $2.8 Million “Room Exception” to spend before they fill out the roster with minimum salary players.

BREAKING: Knicks sign Derrick Williams

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The Knicks have signed PF Derrick Williams. Williams was the #2 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The 6’8 Williams, who played his college ball at Arizona, began his career with the Timberwolves before being traded to the Kings.

Williams possesses elite athleticism and great length. He is a very good finisher at the rim (70%) and is dangerous in transition, where he has the ability to blow by defenders and throw down highlight dunks (one of which is pictured above, against a solid defender in Bismack Biyombo). While he has the tools to be a good defender, he is mediocre on that end, due to inconsistent effort and faulty awareness. Williams is not a good jump-shooter, although, at 32% from 3, he could become a decent shooter for a forward if he can make a slight improvement (maybe around 37%).

Williams averaged 8 points and 3 rebounds per game in 20 minutes for the Kings last season.

Player Analysis: Williams has useful traits and obviously has upside, but he is by no means a bona-fide starter, and the Knicks could use more talent at the wing, preferably somebody who could shoot or defend, if not both. However, the Knicks do need players who can get to the basket, and Williams is one of those guys.

Contract Analysis: The Knicks will pay Williams $10M total over 2 years. Williams has a player option for the second year.

I really don’t like this contract. The Knicks had about $7.3M left in cap room, and they’re probably somewhere around $3M now, along with the $2.8M “Room Exception.” The Knicks needed another starting Forward (is this the guy?), a backup center, and probably a shooter and another PG. Williams gives them youth, athleticism, and slashing ability, so he has value. But they might have been able to do better with this money, or get Williams for less.

The thing that really bugs me here is the Player Option. Williams obviously has upside— he was the #2 pick in the draft just a few years ago. And the Knicks seemingly paid for that upside— overpaid, even. But let’s say Williams reaches that upside this year. Let’s say he plays well (not very well, but well). Let’s say he blossoms into a guy who can definitely be a starter. If that happens, Williams will opt out, and the Knicks will have to spend more than $5— perhaps well more, to retain his services next year.

That being said, the Knicks continue to acquire players who make this team better than it was last year. This roster is starting to shape up. It won’t be great, but it could be pretty good. There are still a few more moves to be made.

-Tommy Rothman

BREAKING: Knicks sign Robin Lopez

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Robin Lopez has committed to sign with the Knicks, according to reports. The 27 year-old center, twin brother of Nets star Brook Lopez, played for Portland the last two seasons, before which he spent one season in New Orleans and four years with the Suns. Lopez only played 59 games last season due to a broken hand, but only missed two games in the previous three seasons combined.

The 7-foot Lopez is a very solid defender and a pretty good rebounder. Offensively, he is not a force, but has a nice touch near the hoop and is sufficiently efficient. He can certainly give his team 10 points a night, even if he is not being featured much in the offense.

Lopez had per-game averages of 9.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks last year on 54% shooting in 28 minutes per game. Lopez saw little playing time in the first few years of his career, but has averaged nearly 30 minutes a game the past three seasons, and will certainly see at least that many in New York, where he should be the unquestioned starting center and the team’s anchor on the defensive end. Lopez has career per-36-minute averages of 14 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Lopez is a career 76% shooter from the free throw line.

Lopez’s contract will pay him $54 Million over 4 years. There is one caveat, however: Lopez has committed to the Knicks, but the Knicks have made it clear that they will only finalize the deal in the (likely) event that DeAndre Jordan turns them down. Once the Knicks finalize the Lopez contract, they will have somewhere around $7.5M left in cap space, although that number could go up to $11.5 if they waive José Calderón, and $15M if they trade him without taking back any salary.

BREAKING: Knicks sign Arron Afflalo

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The Knicks have signed SG Arron Afflalo, according to reports. Afflalo, who will turn 30 just before the start of the season, played for Denver and Portland last year. Afflalo had an excellent season as a key player in Orlando’s offense the year before, averaging 18 points and shooting 43% from beyond the arc, but had a down year in 2014-15, averaging just 13 points and shooting poorly from the field, which certainly hurt his value. The Knicks will reportedly give Afflalo a contract that will pay $16 million over 2 years, although Afflalo has a player option after the first year, in which he will earn around $8 million.

The 6’5 Afflalo is known as a “3 and D” shooting guard, although his defense regressed last season, which is why the Knicks were able to get him at a reasonable price compared to all the other free agents who have signed thus far.