The Summer of 2010 was filled with rumors about all the big name free agents, and ended auspiciously with the signing of Amar'e Stoudemire. But after the mid-season acquisition of Carmelo Anthony the Knicks are poised for a very bright future. Making the playoffs (and showing positive signs) was a huge step for New York basketball, despite being bounced in the first round by Boston.
For the first time in a decade, the off-season will be about "now", the present, instead of "building for the future". Instead of dumping salaries, New York will look to fine tune their roster for a potential Championship run in 2011-2012. The Knicks have until Friday to either waive Chauncey Billups or pick up the final year of his contract. His team option is set to earn him $14.2 million next season, but only $3.7 million is guaranteed. Waiving him would only cost the team that $3.7 million and allow Chauncey to be an unrestricted free agent.
Obviously $14+ million is an extraordinary price tag for a point guard on the downside of his career. Although he has shown signs of his "Mr. Big Shot" clutch gene, hitting late 3's in the latter part of the season, his lingering injury concerns are cause for worry. The one factor hindering New York from cutting ties with their point guard is the lack of available point guards this summer. Who would replace Chauncey? The options leave much to be desired: Andre Miller, T.J Ford, Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo. Many fans argue to keep Billups for one more season to "bridge the gap" until 2012 (Chris Paul/Derron Williams), but it's blatantly clear that the Knick's biggest hole is at the Center position. Picking up the option on their 34 year old point guard would leave little to no money to throw at a big man, or even add depth to the bench. They could always waive Chauncey and re-sign him after July 1st for less money, if he's willing to take a major pay cut. That would be similar to what the Spurs did with Richard Jefferson last summer. Billups knows he won't make anywhere near $14 million a season on the open market, but with the Knicks financial situation he could definitely find more money somewhere else.
Honestly, unless the Knicks can get Chauncey for $7 mill or under I would be fine with letting him walk. The teams till has Toney Douglas who has really redefined the term "combo guard". Douglas has been an offensive spark plug and the team's best perimeter defender (where Billups was a liability on the defense end), although his performance has been up and down all year. With Amar'e and Carmelo, scoring is not essential for this team's starting point guard so Douglas is capable of taking over the reigns for one season. One of the answers is currently on the roster, Anthony Carter. Sign Carter to a one year deal for around $1 million, he can split time with Douglas and be the back up in 2012. Anthony Carter was, in my opinion, the biggest surprise of the Melo-Trade. Seen as a throw in, Carter was thrown into late game situations and flourished on both ends.
Then use the draft as well as the free agent pool to find one or two "true big men", and possibly even a bargain point guard. Roger Mason, Shelden Williams, Jared Jeffries, and Derrick Brown all come off the books this summer: saving the team around $3.5 million. An intriguing option is Aaron Brooks, a free agent making just $2 million a year. Phoenix will surely part ways with him and if the Knicks could get him cheap then ideally he could run this offense.
There are a couple of big men who New York NEEDS to sign: Ajinca is only 22 and is 7'2, with a wingspan of 7'9". He doesn't have to score, he just has to get rebounds and block shots. Same with Deandre Jordan, who is a block machine down low. The team would still have $10+ million left to play with, either to get more talent or save for a play at Chris Paul. The only upside to taking Billups' option would be if come February New Orleans makes CP3 available. A trade where New Orleans gets Chauncey (and his would be expiring contract) would match salary-wise. But even without Billups, packaging: draft picks, Fields, Douglas, *the point guard* (say Brooks), and some young guys should be enough for the Hornets--a team in financial disarray looking to salvage something for Chris Paul.