The Knicks weren't able to land any high-profile free agents this past summer, which led to now ex-team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry signing a group of veterans to short, expendable deals.
Now, with a new vision in the front office with Leon Rose the team president, those players -- and even some others -- might be on the chopping block.
In this series, we'll look at whether or not the Knicks should let these players stay -- or let them walk. We'll focus this time on center Taj Gibson...
CONTRACT: Two years, $20 million ($9 million guaranteed). Gibson's contract contains a $9.45 million option for the 2020-21 season, with just $1 million of it currently guaranteed.
Why should Gibson stay?
Gibson's stats with the Knicks won't jump off the page at you, but much like Elfrid Payton, it says a lot that the Knicks have used Gibson as a starter for most of the season, even with the up-and-coming Mitchell Robinson continuing to develop as the team's center of the future. After coming off the bench early for David Fizdale, the 11-year NBA vet then moved into the starting lineup, and he never gave that spot up, making 56 starts for New York.
For the season, Gibson has averages of 6.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks in just 16 minutes per game. Robinson has still been getting the majority of minutes for the Knicks, but interim head coach Mike Miller has previously said that he likes the way Gibson plays as a starter and likes the way Robinson has embraced the role of bringing energy and defense off the bench.
A former member of the Bulls, Thunder, and Timberwolves, Gibson is also well-respected in the Knicks' locker room, bringing a veteran presence to a very young team. He's also been a great mentor to Robinson, who has praised Gibson's leadership and ability to teach the game.
At 34 years old, Gibson may not have the same burst in his step and raw athleticism that many other younger NBA centers possess, but he plays with a grit and toughness to his game that New York fans can get behind.
Why should Gibson go?
While Gibson has started all but 10 games at center for the Knicks this season, he's been playing out of position the entire time. At 6-foot-9, Gibson is severely undersized for an NBA center today. While he'll never back down from a taller opponent, all of the other starting centers in the Atlantic Division -- Joel Embiid, Marc Gasol, Enes Kanter, and Jarrett Allen -- have a sizable height advantage over Gibson. Even if he's only playing 16 minutes per game, it's a clear defensive mismatch that other teams can take advantage of with Gibson.
Gibson has been a pure power forward for most of his NBA career, and the Knicks currently have Julius Randle as the starter there, and he likely isn't going anywhere forr next season. And while Randle might be the only true power forward on the roster right now, there's a chance the Knicks could look to develop Kevin Knox into more of a stretch four to best utilize his athleticism, length, and three-point shooting. The Knicks could also choose to bring back Bobby Portis, who can play both the four and five spots while offering better shooting.
That brings us to another flaw in Gibson's game -- his shooting. He is a career .515 shooter, but just about all of his scoring now comes either in the paint or on mid-range jumpers. The NBA is quickly turning into more of a three-point shooting league, and that's just not Gibson's game, as he's shot just 22.0 percent from the three-point line during his career. Three-point shooting shouldn't be the main focus for centers, but it should at least be a small part of their repertoire to keep teams on their toes. Gibson just doesn't have that in his game.
Meanwhile, though Gibson plays with energy and can come up with a tough basket or rebound when called up, he's just not going to stuff the stat sheet on a nightly basis. He doesn't put up the points, rebounds or blocks that NBA centers should in today's game.
What's the right move?
On one hand, the Knicks would love to keep Gibson as a "glue guy" in the locker room. In an ideal world, Robinson can take another leap forward in his game and truly become one of the top centers in the NBA, with Gibson helping to mentor him.
But a $9 million contract for a backup, undersized center just doesn't seem like money well spent for the Knicks. Leon Rose will likely look to shape the team the way he wants it to be. While that might not mean a complete overhaul right away, it could mean getting rid of some of the short-term contracts that Steve Mills and Scott Perry took on last offseason after striking out on bigger names.
At his current contract, Gibson should not be brought back. But perhaps a compromise could be reached, where the Knicks choose not to pick up Gibson's option, but re-sign him to a new, one-year deal at a lower price (maybe around $4-5 million).