Hill and Kidd:
On Monday afternoon the NBA lost a highly respected veteran when Jason Kidd decided it was time to walk away from the game of basketball and call it a career. Kidd said that he decided while at a wedding over the weekend that it was time to step away.
The career arc of Kidd was very similar to another respected veteran who walked away recently in Grant Hill. The only real difference from Kidd was Hill’s inability to avoid the big injuries, missing only 119 games in 19 seasons compared to over 400 for Hill. Kidd, like Hill, dominated his position in the NBA. Kidd was a threat to go off for a triple-double every time he stepped on the court, finishing his career for third on the all-time list with 107. Kidd also finished second all-time in assists with 12,091 and steals with 2,684 behind John Stockton. Kidd was also named to the All-Star team 10 times and led the NBA in assists five times.
Much like Hill, Kidd was a winner wherever he went in his basketball career. Kidd Olympic Gold Medals in 2000 and 2008, adding an NBA Championship in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks. This goes right in line with what the 40-year old Kidd said when asked how he wanted to be remembered by, when he responded with, “The biggest thing is winning,” “No matter what percentage, no matter what my numbers say in the sense of points, assists, rebounds and steals, it’s always been about winning. And it will always be about winning … making my teammates better.”
It is fitting that both players will be going out of the league together as they came into it together as well and shared so many things throughout their careers. Both players are part of an illustrious stats list of at least 17,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists in a career and played for four franchises each; Hill the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers while Kidd suited up for the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks. They both also shared the ability to put the team first, something many NBA players cannot do. With their age increasing and skills diminishing, both players went from being franchise cornerstones to role players without any fuss. The biggest accomplishment they each shared though was the NBA Rookie of the Year award for the 1994-1995 season.
Kidd will retire with career averages of 12.6 points, 8.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game and after making the postseason for 17 consecutive seasons. The most impressive turnaround throughout his career very well could have been his three point shooting, as he could not hit water if he fell out of a boat when he first entered the NBA, but finished third all-time in three-pointers made with 1,988, behind only Ray Allen and Reggie Miller.
Kidd will be a pretty significant loss for the Knicks not only on the court but off of it as well. His veteran leadership and knowledge of the game is a big reason the Knicks got off to such a hot start to the season and also led to the improved play of many Knicks players such as Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton. Head coach Mike Woodson said that Kidd, “provided an incredible voice inside the locker room, and I considered it an honor to say I coached him.”
What are the Knicks options?
First, this impacts the Knicks directly on the court as the need for a point guard may now sit atop the Knicks to-do list this off-season. The Knicks were already in the market for a point guard with Pablo Prigioni’s status for next season up in the air and with Kidd now gone. Raymond Felton is the sole point guard left on the roster.
The Knicks could address this problem through the draft, armed with the 24th overall pick, or through free agency. Some names to keep an eye on for in the draft are Shane Larkin from the University of Miami, Dennis Schroeder from Germany, Nate Wolters from North Dakota State and Pierre Jackson from Baylor University. Larkin has declined meetings with any team drafting later than 19th in the draft though, so he likely will not be a Knick, while Schroeder has garnered interest from teams ahead of the Knicks as well, and Wolters is looked at as more of a second round pick.
Another way to address this problem would be through free agency, but they would have to find a player willing to take the taxpayer mini-mid level exception, as money is tight for the Knicks. The mini-mid level exception is a deal worth $3 million annually over three years, the same deal Kidd signed last year. If the Knicks do not use that they can hand out minimum contracts. Some names to keep an eye on here are Long Island native A.J. Price, Brooklyn native Sebastian Telfair, Will Bynum and former Knick Nate Robinson has said he is open to a return to the Knicks.
This is because Kidd’s retirement does not affect the salary cap numbers for the Knicks too much this offseason, even with Kidd’s $3.1 million coming off the books. The Knicks will be over the salary cap again going into this season, but with it off for next season the ability to execute a sign-and-trade for the Knicks becomes easier as the likelihood of getting under the tax apron increases.
Whoever it is that the Knicks bring in may be able to produce the same numbers as Kidd did this season, likely even surpassing him in production, but what they will not be able to produce is the same veteran savvy and knowledge that Kidd raked up throughout a 19-year career. The Knicks will lose a lot of wisdom and a great locker room presence, so it is to safe to say that the Knicks have lost quite an asset that will be tougher to replace than some people think.