COMMENTARY | The New York Knicks are usually one of the last teams in the NBA to be associated with the idea of finding a good value.
As evidenced by their past overvalued contracts for the likes of Allan Houston, Stephon Marbury, Jerome James, and Eddie Curry, and even today's deals for current Knicks Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire, overpaying for underachievement has all too often been an unintended staple of the organization's management.
So, it's ironic that during an offseason in which New York has once again been hampered in free agency by bad contracts and limited salary cap room, the Knicks have managed to reverse that trend this year.
While New York hasn't exactly pulled off the NBA's version of the Oakland Athletics' "moneyball" era this summer, the cap-strapped Knicks have successfully filled out their roster with some valuable pieces on a limited budget.
New York's best offseason value fell into its lap after forward Metta World Peace was amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers. That move allowed the Knicks to right an old wrong, as they made up for passing on World Peace in the 1999 NBA draft, when he was Ron Artest.
Although it took 14 years for the Queensbrige, New York, native to finally return home, snagging World Peace for a cheap price should pay handsome dividends for the Knicks.
Coming off of a productive 14th year in the league, during which he averaged 12.4 points and five rebounds per game, the 33-year-old still has plenty left in the tank at both ends of the floor. He'll provide the toughness and defense that New York sorely needed at the small forward position, while allowing the Knicks' best player, Carmelo Anthony, to be even better offensively (at power forward) and expend less energy defensively (since World Peace can handle the power forwards that Anthony would have to guard in the past).
All of that for the economical price of $3.25 million over two years should keep the Knicks from feeling any sort of buyer's remorse for bringing World Peace back to his roots.
After World Peace filled a major need in the Knicks' frontcourt, another top priority, in the backcourt, was also nabbed on the cheap by New York with the addition of point guard Beno Udrih.
At 31 years old, Udrih will play a younger version of the role vacated by retired guard Jason Kidd, as a second or third point guard alongside full-time starter Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni, whom the Knicks also did well to bring back for two more years at the same $3.25 million they offered World Peace.
Although he's significantly younger than Kidd, Udrih brings nine years of solid NBA experience to New York, during which he averaged 8.2 points, 3.6 assists, and just 1.5 turnovers per game.
Udrih fails to offer a solution to the Knicks' problem of lacking a point guard that can stop the ball defensively. And the Yugoslavian guard shot only 40.8 percent in 27 games for Orlando after being traded from Milwaukee last year.
But he also scored 10.2 points while handing out 6.1 assists, with just two turnovers during that stretch. And over his career, he's shot a respectable 46.2 percent from the field overall and a decent 35.2 percent from 3-point range.
To get that type of productive player as a third point guard who earned over $7 million last season on a one-year deal worth just over $1.27 million next season, is about as economical as it gets to improve a team's bench.
When labeling the re-signing of J.R. Smith a bargain, it should be noted, in fairness, that it was Smith's own poor play against Indiana in last season's Eastern Conference semifinals, as well as his penchant for late-night clubbing before playoff games and his inability to keep from getting suspended (for an elbow to Boston's Jason Terry), that kept Smith's own market value down.
That said, Smith is the NBA's reining Sixth Man of the Year, and he was a major factor in helping New York to its first division title in 19 seasons.
And considering the fact that Smith had career highs of 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last year, the Knicks did very well to get their second-leading scorer back for just under $18 million over three seasons, especially when comparing that deal to that of a player like O.J. Mayo (15.3 points, 3.5 rebounds per game last season), who joined Milwaukee as a free agent for three years and $24 million.
Jeremy Tyler and C.J. Leslie
If a team can find one useful piece in the NBA Summer League, it's a success. To find two players in Las Vegas who could very well give New York significant minutes in its frontcourt was a boon.
Not only did the Knicks grab center Jeremy Tyler for just $1.8 million over two years and C.J. Leslie for less than $1.2 million over two seasons (with a club option in a possible third year), but Tyler also comes with good size (6 feet 10 inches, 260 pounds) and nearly a full season's worth of league experience (63 games with Golden State and Atlanta over two years). The athletic Leslie -- who was listed on many mock draft boards -- might prove to act as an extra draft pick for New York this year.
Prigioni wasn't the only one-year tryout in his mid-30s from a year ago whom the Knicks brought back for a reasonable price.
Forward Kenyon Martin provided some key minutes as a late-season signee last year. For a new one-year deal at less than $1.4 million, it was well worth New York's risk to see if Martin can get through the grind of an 82-game season and perhaps deep into the postseason for the first time in several years.
Lastly, there's the big trade the Knicks made this summer. On the surface, picking up the remaining $22.25 million on forward Andrea Bargnani's contract hardly sounds like another frugal move, especially when New York gave up a future first-round pick to land the Italian former overall draft pick.
But he's an upgrade over the departed combination of Steve Novak and Marcus Camby. Plus, when Bargnani's contract expires in two years, the Knicks will have their other encumbering contracts off of the books as well, and they'll be in position to drastically overhaul their roster if they need to, without Bargnani's contract standing in the way of that possibility.
That trade also, obviously, didn't hinder New York's ability to complete all of the other aforementioned moves. So, that in itself, while still being able to take a chance on Bargnani, was worth the Knicks' price in the deal.
Will the Knicks' Offseason Bargains Pay Off?
It remains to be seen whether New York's core will continue to consist of highly paid players who in many cases might under-perform their big contracts. But, at least for this summer, the Knicks, even while being forced to do things more cheaply than they're used to, have done a good job at getting deeper and better.
Jonathan Wagner is a regular Knicks contributor for Yahoo! Sports, a Knicks beat writer for New York Sports Day, and a co-host discussing the Knicks and many other sports topics on the New York Sports Geeks internet radio show. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanJWagner.
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