For the last few years many New York Knicks fans have looked past the teams performances with an eye on the 2015 free agent class. The Knicks are expected to have plenty of roster space and cap room next off-season. However, with many of the projected free agents re-signing with their current clubs, should Detroit Pistons' Greg Monroe emerge as New York's top target?
There were rumors earlier this off-season that the New York Knicks had offered a package including J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert for Monroe. Clearly, Phil Jackson wouldn't mind adding the young big man into the mix.
Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News reports that Monroe, unhappy with the offers he's received from the Pistons, could opt to play for the qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in the off-season.
While the Pistons big man has not pursued an offer sheet from another team, he has pursued sign-and-trade possibilities, and Monroe is “definitely” willing to take the one-year qualifying offer worth $5.3 million from Detroit in order to ensure his unrestricted free agency next summer, a source familiar with Monroe’s thinking told The Detroit News.
Part of Monroe’s thinking could be the Pistons’ likely stance of matching any contract offer, even if the max is well above their reported offer of four years and $50-plus million, similar to the deal Josh Smith signed last summer. Through his Twitter account, Monroe has disputed being offered a deal with that framework, or the five years/$60 million that has been reported by other outlets.
Clearly, there's a risk involved. What if he gets injured? It's a gamble. However, it's one he may be willing to take because the payoff is becoming an unrestricted free agent and he's been extremely healthy during his NBA career.
Monroe has until October 1 to agree to a deal or sign the qualifying offer. Leaking this option to the media also leverages Monroe against Stan Van Gundy and the Detroit front office. It forces them to either offer a maximum contract, risk losing Monroe after the season for nothing or accepting the fact they may need to put him into a sign-and-trade.
Apparently, Monroe doesn't like being part of a trio with Josh Smith and Andre Drummond. In hopes to get out of that situation he's playing the only cards he's got.
If the two sides aren’t able to reach an agreement, Monroe could play out the year and be one of the headliners of the 2015 free agency period. He'd almost certainly land a maximum offer in 2015 as he'd be one of the best talents available.
Many Knicks fans had their eyes on Kyrie Irving. However, he re-signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then, some thought LeBron James might be available. After leaving the Miami Heat to re-unite with the Cavaliers you can bet that James will remain there for the rest of his career.
Another popular target was power forward Kevin Love. Love was recently traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Cavaliers. Like LeBron, don't expect Love to leave Cleveland any time soon.
Portland Trail Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge would be a great target for the Knicks. However, it's very likely that Aldridge is also re-signed for the maximum. If not, he'll be a top target. That being said, he's expected to come off the market.
That pretty much makes Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol and potentially Monroe the top free agents on the market. There will still be good players such as unrestricted free agents Paul Millsap, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, David West, DeAndre Jordan and Rudy Gay or restricted free agents Kawhi Leonard, Ricky Rubio, Klay Thompson and Kenneth Faried. However, it's clear that Monroe would be a top-three free agent if that's how the scenario plays out.
Many have yearned for a point guard like Rondo. However, the triangle offense doesn't require a top point guard. No one would be mad to see Rondo come into the fold but he doesn't seem like his position should be a top priority.
That would seemingly leave the decision between big men. Gasol is extremely talented and a two-way player. He's 29 and a very good player. That being said, he doesn't come off as much of a game-changer.
Monroe is much more of an offensive threat than he is a defender. He's 24 and just coming into his own. He has the potential to be a superstar but could also be a liability on defense if he doesn't develop his skills.
Certainly arguments could be made for either player to be targeted by Phil Jackson. However, by the sounds of those trade rumors, Jackson likes Monroe. Could he emerge as the Knicks top free agent target of the 2015 off-season?
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