Anybody the Knicks sign will have a short tenure.
Obviously the Knicks' goal is to save cap room for the summer of 2012 when Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams will be free agents. Of course if one of them is available via trade this season, the Knicks will try to make a move, but that's where free agency plays a big role this season.
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According to the roster on ESPN, the Knicks have 10 players on their team including Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson who have not officially been signed yet, but will likely make the team. If I'm not mistaken, the league minimum is 12 players on a roster, and the maximum is 15.
So far it is unknown whether Jerome Jordan, the 7-foot second round pick from 2010, will be invited to training camp, but let's assume he is. The next order of business would be to make a decision on unrestricted free agent Shawne Williams, and restricted free agent Derrick Brown. There is mutual interest to resigning Williams, so we'll assume he too gets added to the roster. That would give the Knicks 12 players, leaving three potential roster spots left.
There are lots of free agents that could play important roles for the Knicks this year, but how many of them will be willing to sign for only one year?
As far as money goes, they will have the full $5 million MLE to spend, as well the biannual exception, and veteran's minimum - $1.9 million and $1.4 million, respectively. If the Knicks are patient and smart about their signings, they could certainly obtain valuable players for this season, which could have another important impact on the season.
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This is why signing impactful free agents is important. If the Knicks were to sign players with actual market value (i.e. a Grant Hill-, Kwame Brown-, Anthony Parker-type), they could be included in a deal with the Hornets. Obviously they'd be attractive pieces for their on-court production, but also their one-year deals would mean lots of cap relief for next summer. Going this route would also mean that the Knicks would not have to completely strip their depth the way they did in the Carmelo Anthony trade.
Whether the Knicks use free agency to pick up valuable players for their team, or for a blockbuster trade, each signing will be very important.