The New York Knicks are in love with one point guard, but he still has not proved he’s ready to start at the position. So, why pay him the Mid Level Exception?
The Knicks are currently in the middle of a rollercoaster rebuilding phase in desperate need of talent, younger players and a few veterans to help mentor the youth. Since owner James Dolan fired team president Phil Jackson days before the start of the free agency period, New York has gone in a different direction.
Entering the offseason, the Knicks had two key issues to address: 1. What they are going to do with Carmelo Anthony? 2. Who will be the team’s starting and backup point guards?
The Knicks are still in the middle of answering question one, but partially resolved question the second by re-signing Ron Baker to a two-year, $8.9 million deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Restricted free agent Ron Baker's deal to stay with the Knicks: Two-years, $8.9M, including a player option, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 11, 2017
Baker averaged 4.1 points on 37.8 shooting percentage, 26 percent from three, 65.1 percent from the free throw line and 2.1 rebounds in 16.28 minutes per game last season.
The sophomore’s grit-and-grind style of play does not show on the box score but his performances towards the end of the season certainly helped solidify his spot on the Knicks rotation for the 2017-18 campaign. For example, in the game against the Golden State Warriors, Baker showed the world why he belonged in the NBA with his flashy passes and high basketball IQ.
Baker still has a lot areas in his game that are flawed and one in particular is developing a consistent jump shot. As a lead guard, Baker needs to find a way to improve his field goal percentage after shooting an abysmal 37.8 percent from the field. However, with all those unfilled areas on the Knicks roster, Baker’s intangibles were what ultimately allowed him to stay in the Big Apple.
When Jackson left the office, everybody thought decisions would be smarter. Contrary to popular, not much has changed so far.
Re-signing Baker for $8.9M was the wrong decision to make.
Why? What this means for other players?
According to Ian Begley of ESPN, the Knicks gave up all of their Mid Level Exception (MLE) to an unproven player.
With the Knicks signing Ron Baker to the full room exception, they have less than $1.5 million in cap space left & still need a veteran PG
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 11, 2017
With the Knicks signing Baker, they now only have $1.5 million dollars to sign a free agent and they still need a veteran to play starting point guard.
Head coach Jeff Hornacek wanted to keep Baker on the team since day one. In a game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Hornacek took Rose out in the fourth quarter and started Baker.
According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, Hornacek compared himself to Baker and continued to praise him as he made the roster:
When we sat down with Phil [Jackson] to let me know I made the roster, [Hornacek] said some things I need to improve on were the same things he needed to when he got in the league,’’ said Baker. “He kind of compared us. He said I was a better shooter than he was [out of college], but he made the relationship.’’
Here’s some more praise from the coach about Baker.
— Ed Easton Jr. (@EdEastonJr) April 10, 2017
Burgundy sign canceled out Derrick Rose’s return to The Garden and a potential appearance for Rajon Rondo or even Monta Ellis. The Knicks will now have to sign a veteran to a cheap, one-year contract for $1.5 million. Who will accept that?
But, there’s a way that the Knicks can get some cap relief and that’s answering question number one: “What are we going to do with Melo?” If the Knicks are able to trade Carmelo Anthony to another team, not only will they get some quality pieces back in trade, but it will also free up a lot of cap flexibility to sign new players.
There were reports that Melo is really considering Houston and that he will only waive his no-trade clause for the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers.
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) July 10, 2017
The Knicks paid Baker $8.9 million, but couldn’t pay to keep Justin Holiday who was the only 3-and-D guy off the bench and was the only player who could score at any means on the second unit. Phil Jackson or not, the Knicks organization needs to step up or step down.