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Should the New York Knicks Avoid Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire?

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The vast majority of our commenters are always thoughtful, conscientious and passionate. I enjoy 99% of their comments. Today Jake commented on my initial take in favor of the possibility of the Knicks signing Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire (in fairness, two players that I have been consistently down on over the last year or two). I started to reply in a comment but then decided the exchange was worthy of its own post. Here is what Jake had to say, followed by my reaction.

I’ll be incredibly disappointed if the best the Knicks end up with is Joe Johnson and Amare Staudemire. While Donnie and co haven’t said anything specific regarding their pursuit of Lebron, Bosh, and Wade over other other free agents, its been painfully obvious that they were confident they’d land at least one of those guys . Here are my reasons why a Johnson and Amare combo fails miserably:

1. Age- Joe Johnson turns 29 tomorrow, and Amare 28 in November. Keep in mind Amare has been in the league sine he was 19, has had the dreaded micro-fracture knee surgery, and has already missed the majority of an entire season. Shooting guards like Johnson decline faster than a strasburg fastball. Look at Vince Carter. Are the Knicks telling me that four years from now a 33 year old Joe Johnson will be worth nearly 40 million dollars with two years left on his deal? He’s probably got one or two years tops left in his prime, and his skill set isn’t even elite to begin with. Out of all the possible free agents this is the oldest combo.

2. Suns- While the two were successful playing under D’antoni in Phoenix, they had a certain Canadian point guard distributing the ball. His name was not Toney Douglas. Unless the Knicks can somehow land Chris Paul, the team will be nothing more than an older, significantly stripped down 2005 Suns team. Even those teams were knocked for playing zero defense, and never made a serious dent in the playoffs. Add five years, and subtract all-stars Nash and Marion (I’ll admit Gallinari is an improvement over Quentin Richardson), and you are by no means an elite team, and maybe not even a playoff team.

3. Skill- Let’s face it– these guys simply aren’t that good when you consider they’ll be making as much (or in Amare’s case more) as Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. And it isn’t even close. Amare is an undersized center who doesn’t play defense, rebound, or give a damn. Neither he nor Johnson appears to have the competitive will or desire to take any team to the next level, let alone the promise land. Look at Johnson in the playoffs against the Magic. Would Wade get swept with the supporting cast Johnson had? WOuld he disappear like a freaking magician for the entire series? Doubtful.

If the Knicks are seriously committed to winning, and building a contender over the next few seasons, they’d be seriously crippling their chances by overpaying for these two guys. And adding JJ Redick or Raymon Felton is not the answer. The Knicks either have to swing for the fences (Lebron Bosh or Wade) or save their money and become an elite team the way almost everybody else does: through the draft, scouting, and smaller signings and trades.

Here is my reply:

Jake you make excellent points. I would depart from you that the Knicks wouldn’t make the playoffs. I think, depending on how things shake out they could be a top 4 seed. Would they contend for titles? Maybe if they got Chris Paul. Maybe if they got Collison and Okafor and Gallinari continued to develop.

I do agree that Joe Johnson isn’t a max level player and isn’t a guy who is going to take you very far. It’s all about the team. And so I wouldn’t pay him the max. And I’d hope the Knicks wouldn’t give him six years. In fact, I’d pay him more if he took 4 years.

Look, if LeBron and Bosh somehow join up or if either joins with Wade it’s unlikely that the Knicks are going to win a title no matter who they sign. The bottom line is that if the Knicks didn’t embark on this plan they would be entering the season with Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford. Is that any better? The Knicks will be better off than they otherwise would have been. Sure they would have whoever they would have drafted in ’09 (no guarantee it’d be Hill because they might have had a different record and thus a different slot in the draft), and some picks the next two years that are as of yet indefinable in value.

The likely outcome of a Joe/Amare tandem is a team that will be good for several years until its time to rebuild again. Hopefully the next rebuild will be through the draft where the Knicks can get their own LeBron. If the Knicks didn’t embark on this plan, I guess you could argue that they could have started that whole process sooner. I can’t really say that’s wrong.

If the Knicks preserve their space as you suggest, they can try to build through the draft, though remember that their pick next year is only protected if it’s the first overall pick. Otherwise the Rockets get the Knicks’ pick. The Rockets get the Knicks pick in 2012 unless its a top 5. Some might say that that’s reason enough to fire Donnie but I stand by my guns that just the chance to get LeBron was a worthy goal and the Knicks did what they had to do to get it done.

You might disagree that the chance to sign LeBron and/or Bosh and/or Wade was a worthy goal but you can’t go back. And right now the choices are to try to compete, or preserve your space and hope your lottery pick this year is the first overall pick, and that your lottery pick next year is a top 5 pick.


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