The Knicks on Thursday agreed to a deal with Arron Afflalo, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who should help bolster the team’s depleted backcourt. The Knicks’ frontcourt remained a concern, as meetings came and went without commitments from the front office’s top targets.
The deal with Afflalo is for two years and $16 million, with a player option for the second year, according to a league official who was briefed on the discussions. No deals can become official until July 9, when the league’s moratorium on signings and trades ends. The terms of Afflalo’s deal were first reported by ESPN.
Given the spending frenzy that began at the start of free agency Wednesday, Afflalo’s relatively modest contract ensured that the Knicks would have the flexibility to also pursue frontcourt help. But that task dragged along Thursday after the 6-foot-11 center-forward Greg Monroe, who had met with Knicks officials in free agency’s opening hour, agreed to a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Still in dire need of a center, the Knicks were scheduled to meet Thursday with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan, two of the top post players available. Aldridge, though, canceled his meeting with the Knicks, according to multiple reports, and Jordan was considered a long shot to jump to a team that won 17 games last season and is in the early stages of rebuilding.
Phil Jackson, the Knicks’ president, maintained in the run-up to free agency that he viewed the team’s overhaul as a longer-term project, one free of shortcuts. That was among the reasons the team drafted Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-1 forward, with the fourth pick last week in the draft. It is unclear how quickly Porzingis will be able to contribute, but Jackson said he believed Porzingis had the most upside of anyone in the draft. So the Knicks will be as patient as possible.
Still, the public spectacle of swinging and missing on several top-tier free agents was less than ideal. Jackson had indicated that he would sell the triangle offense as catnip for stars who wanted to share the ball and play the game the right way. But the Knicks have a lot of question marks, and the franchise has not been a model of stability.
The Knicks also set out in free agency hoping to be judicious with their salary-cap space, a stark change from the free-spending ways of past regimes. General Manager Steve Mills said recently that the team was also eyeing next summer, when the salary cap is expected to jump by about $20 million, not that fans — or Carmelo Anthony, who is 31 and would prefer to win sooner rather than later — necessarily want to hear that message right now.
The agreement with Afflalo put the Knicks roughly $19 million under the current cap, but Jackson declined to offer Monroe a full maximum contract, which would have started at about $16 million in his first season, according to a league official briefed on the negotiations.
Monroe pursued meetings with other teams, and the Bucks offered a reported $50 million over three years. Monroe, 25, averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds a game last season with the Detroit Pistons, but is an average defender.
Afflalo, who will turn 30 in October, averaged 13.3 points and 3.2 rebounds a game last season for the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers. He had his finest season in 2013-14, with the Orlando Magic, when he averaged 18.2 points while shooting 42.7 percent from the 3-point line.
Several players were still available who could help fill the Knicks’ frontcourt. The team was believed to be interested in Robin Lopez, a 7-footer and the twin brother of Nets center Brook Lopez. Robin Lopez, 27, averaged 9.6 points and 6.7 rebounds for Portland last season.
The Golden State Warriors were looking to find a trade partner for David Lee, the 6-9 forward who was relegated to the bench this season. Lee, a former All-Star who spent the first five seasons of his career with the Knicks, is a solid scorer and passer, but is not known as a particularly strong defender.
Tim Duncan told The San Antonio Express-News that he was staying with the Spurs, and Dwyane Wade announced he had agreed to a deal to remain with the Miami Heat. The contract is for one year and $20 million, according to The Associated Press.