The Knicks have 15 players under contract – a full roster’s worth when the regular season begins – but less than a third of them are definite Phil Jackson picks.
He drafted and signed Cleanthony Early and signed Carmelo Anthony, Cole Aldrich and Jason Smith. It’s possible Jackson also wanted Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington and/or Shane Larkin – players acquired in a trade with Dallas – but it’s also possible Jackson just needed to accept their salaries to facilitate the deal.
Everyone else is a holdover from the previous regime.
If Jackson wants to continue remaking the team in his image, he could easily waive Jeremy Tyler, whose contract is fully unguaranteed, and sign a replacement. But it seems Jackson wants to go further.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Wayne Ellington has a $2,771,340 expiring contract. Prigioni will make $1,662,961 next season, and his deal his partially guaranteed for 2015-16.
If this were just a case of wanting to dump Ellington – a quality 3-point shooter, at least when he’s open, who doesn’t contribute much else – why not just waive him? Sure, the Knicks would have to eat his salary, but they can afford it and they won’t have cap space regardless. Most importantly, waiving Ellington wouldn’t cut into 2015 cap space.
But it seems New York also views Prigioni as expendable.
Prigioni is an excellent passer who shoots efficiently due both to his stroke and his tight shot selection. He’s a minus defender despite getting a decent number of steals.
In Calderon, the Knicks have a better and younger version of that same player.
Of course, Calderon needs a backup. Even at 37, Prigioni can help next season.
It’s really a matter of how much the Knicks, who have their own 2015 draft pick, want to win now as opposed building to the future. Prigioni is better right now, but the 21-year-old Larkin has more long-term upside remaining.
If the Knicks clear a roster space, look for them to sign No. 51 pick Thanasis Antetokounmpo – another clear Jackson choice.