This summer was set to be a crucial factor in determining the New York Knicks’ fate for 2014. Despite re-signing two of their own impact free agents in J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, Mike Woodson’s roster is still riddled with holes throughout, and devoid of a key two-way player—that is, one that thrives on both offense and defense.
New York also desperately needs a third point guard—enabling Woodson to run out starting lineups consisting of two point men, which were extremely successful last season—and a starting small forward that complements Carmelo Anthony’s skillset at the 4.
The latter, prototypically a “3&D wing,” seemed to be a high priority for Glen Grunwald at the onset of free agency. But as the days passed, and negotiations ceased, the exception-strapped Knicks—they only have $1.75 million of their midlevel exception and veteran’s minimum contracts at their disposal—watched helplessly as their wing targets signed elsewhere.
Francisco Garcia re-upped with the Houston Rockets. Dorrell Wright inked a new deal with the Portland Trailblazers. Matt Barnes was offered $11.5 million from the Los Angeles Clippers, which the Knicks didn’t have a prayer of matching. Carlos Delfino joined the Milwaukee Bucks on a three-year deal, and just like that, the Knicks were out of options. (All links here.)
That was until Sunday evening at 5 p.m. ET, when it was announced that the NBA’s newest free agent would be hitting the market immediately—somebody who’s no stranger to the Big Apple.
Metta World Peace has cleared waivers and become a free agent, league source tells Y! Sports.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 14, 2013
Forty-eight hours after being amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers, forward Metta World Peace cleared waivers and is now an unrestricted free agent. The Knicks are reportedly “strong frontrunners” to sign the former Ron Artest, according to Yahoo! Sports.
World Peace will still receive the $7,727,280 he’s due from the Lakers this season, which means that New York’s lack of financial resources hardly comes into play. The Knicks could offer a minimum salary (roughly $1.4 million for World Peace), or the $1.75 million left of the MLE.
At 34, World Peace will hardly be in his prime by the middle of next season. The former Defensive Player of the Year and two-time All-Defensive first teamer will not be expected to play like it’s 2004, but will still heal a sore spot for the Knicks from last season.
The 2012-13 Knicks lacked a long, talented defender that could check wings from the three-point line and in—World Peace, even at his advanced age, brings that to the table.
In the table below, via 82games.com, you’ll see that New York struggled to keep opposing small forwards at bay all year long. Aside from rival point guards, which the Knicks were consistently torched by in 2013, small forwards were the next largest issue.
Opponent Production by Position
With this in mind, take a look at the performance of World Peace’s opponents at the small forward position last year in LA—again via 82games. A vast improvement over the Knicks’ 3s from a season ago.
Opponent Counterpart 48-Minute Production
The Mike D’Antoni-led Lakers’ struggles on the defensive end were well-documented last season, but LA allowed approximately two points per 100 possessions less when World Peace was on the court.
The 2013 Knicks were an incomprehensible disappointment on the defensive end, and another failed season in that regard will more than likely lead to an accelerated rebuild. Last year’s team finished 17th in defensive efficiency according to HoopData—the bottom half of the league.
As depicted below, New York’s lofty championship expectations for 2013 really couldn’t have been more delusional. The defense wasn’t ever close to championship-caliber—in 2013, or any year in recent history.
The Knicks need as much help as financially possibly on defense, and adding the St. John’s alum would be a couple of steps in the right direction.
On the offensive end, Metta doesn’t have a whole lot to offer these days, but nevertheless could slide seamlessly into the Knicks’ offense. At its best and its worst, the New York attack is funneled primarily through Carmelo Anthony, via isolations and post-ups.
As the team found out in playoff matchups against the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers, Anthony is unable to create much offense at all without space to work with. That space is created by shooters that open the floor, dragging defenders from the paint to the perimeter.
Without it, Carmelo Anthony—i.e. the Knicks’ offense—looks like this:
World Peace has shot a mediocre .328 from three-point range over the last two seasons with Los Angeles, which is bad. But what’s good is that Ron Ron (does that still work?) shot over 37 percent on corner threes last year, which is about the clip at which New York stroked it from there in 2013.
This is especially important since Woodson tends to stick his wing players in either corner, where they await open three chances. Just ask Iman Shumpert, who heaved more than one more three-pointer per 36 minutes last year compared to his rookie campaign. His 43 percent success rate from the corners played a gigantic role in the team’s late-regular-season resurgence, and displayed what the prototypical offensive accessory accomplishes in Woodson’s offense.
The Queensbridge native would further benefit from Woodson’s veteran-favoring coaching schemes, solely based off his 13 years in the league. The Knicks practically define “win-now,” and tossing World Peace into the fold for 2014—at the very least—wouldn’t do anything to hurt their chances in the short term.
Make no mistake: The roster is still messy. Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani may be in the starting lineup on a consistent basis. The way to avoid that terrifying scenario is to run both defensively challenged forwards out in the same second unit, which would be even more hilarious for opposing teams. Catch 22—or 77, maybe.
The team still needs one last point guard, even though Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Shumpert are already set to battle for minutes in the backcourt.
Fixing the Knicks for 2014 won’t be easy, and adding World Peace wouldn’t boost the Knicks into contention with the Miami Heat in and of itself. It does, however, patch a very important hole on the roster, while adding another battle-tested body that’s tasted the champagne before.
The signing could like set up a starting five of Felton, Shumpert, World Peace, Anthony, and Chandler. Smith would remain the team’s sixth man, and we can only hope that Woodson trusts Prigioni with at least a ~18 MPG role. With Smith, Shumpert, Metta, and occasionally Anthony all likely splitting time at the 3 spot, and the team’s backcourt already crowded, this could leave Hardaway Jr. primarily on the bench to open his career—not necessarily the worst thing in the world, in my opinion.
The Knicks still need a backup center to defend and rebound down low, but in the meantime, Stoudemire and Bargnani are both going to have to play. The way that shakes out will likely be a nightmare, but interesting nonetheless.
I should probably mention that MWP’s current jersey number, 15, is up in the MSG rafters twice. With Bargnani already rocking a strange No. 77, a World Peace signing could put the Knicks atop the weirdo jersey number preseason rankings.
And, c’mon. @TheRealJRSmith and @MettaWorldPeace in the same damn locker room? This, times, like 3245873df23f34333000. Do it for QB, Ron. Run with us.
In short, if we can squeeze one more of these pressers out of Metta, then we’re all winners.
Follow John Dorn on Twitter at @JSDorn6.
Stats from HoopData, Hoopsworld, 82games, NBA.com/Stats and Basketball-Reference.