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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2009 Report Card: Donnie Walsh

It was with fanfare befitting a peaceful transfer of power from despotism to enlightenment that Donnie Walsh inherited Isiah Thomas’ job as New York Knicks president of basketball operations in the spring of 2008.  But as with so many European monarchs, African generals, and Spinal Tap drummers before him, the excitement surrounding Walsh’s arrival soon gave way, at least in part, to the grim realization that the pitfalls of previous years had not all departed with his predecessor.  An impossible cap situation, a meddling owner, and a frequently unmotivated core of players were all holdovers from the Isiah era which Walsh has been forced to address, with varying degrees of success.

Walsh’s first Knicks team finished with a record of 32-50, worse than three of the five Knicks squads that Isiah oversaw.  But Walsh’s job was never about 2009 and, unlike Isiah, he immediately proved willing to accept that short term failure was a necessary and acceptable side effect of true progress.  To this end, it is undeniable that the poker-faced Bronx native has moved a dysfunctional franchise in the right direction, but his advances have not come without missteps.  That these mistakes have come with little popular backlash is cause for gratitude to Isiah – critics of Walsh would be far more vocal had his hiring not come on the heels of such unmitigated failure.

If Walsh’s patience and indecipherability are his greatest qualities in negotiation, they may also be his best assets in avoiding the kind of criticism that is typicaly heaped upon New York pro sports executives by media and fans.  His stern demeanor and unshakable calm suggest to observers, even at moments of seeming misjudgment, that he knows more about the situation than they do and so deserves their trust.  A move-by-move analysis of Walsh’s Knicks tenure reveals a well-reasoned overall plan that has been tarnished by some truly baffling decisions.  With the belief that the moves a general manager doesn’t make are as important as the moves he does make, I offer this chronological assessment of Walsh’s first season-plus on the job:

May 10, 2008: In his first, and thus far best, major move as Knicks president, Walsh signed Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to a 4-year, $24 million contract.  D’Antoni’s hiring has resonated with fans (seen in the sense of pride that came with a prized coaching commodity choosing the Knicks over a handful of other suitors, as well as the entertaining brand of basketball to which they are treated each night), Knicks players (seen in the career years put up by David Lee, Al Harrington, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, and, for the first 50 games, Chris Duhon), and players around the league (D’Antoni’s relationship with soon-to-be-max-contract-signers LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Kobe Bryant may prove to be his most important asset as the Knicks’ coach).

Grade: A, and if LeBron’s affection for D’Antoni leads him to New York, it becomes an A-plus.

Draft Night, 2008: With the sixth pick, Walsh chose Danilo Gallinari, whose struggles with back trouble and flashes of promise have both been well-chronicled on this and other sites.  While the jury remains out on Gallo, we have a better idea about some of the guys Walsh could have taken.  Of the lottery picks remaining on the board at #6, Eric Gordon (chosen 7th, 14.98 rookie PER), Brook Lopez (chosen 10th, 17.94 rookie PER), and Anthony Randolph (chosen 14th, 16.94 rookie PER and an absolute monster of a summer league) have looked the most promising thus far.

However, simply lining Gallo up against these three doesn’t quite create a proper lens for evaluating Walsh’s choice.  Looking back through Chad Ford’s archives reminds us that Gordon and Joe Alexander (chosen  8th, 10.19 rookie PER) were the two most likely Knicks picks had they passed on Gallinari, and the early returns suggest that Walsh may have dodged a bullet by passing on Alexander’s unique, but extremely raw, skill set.

Grade: C-plus.  We all love Gallo and it’s tempting to give Walsh an incomplete here.  It’s also probably unfair to criticize Walsh for passing on Lopez and Randolph, as the former was universally regarded as low on upside and the latter as a potential bust.  Still, it’s impossible to ignore how well Gordon, Randolph, and Lopez would all fit into D’Antoni’s system, and one would be hard pressed to find a non-Knicks fan who would put an unproven 21-year-old who already has back problems on the same level as any of these three.  I think there are decent odds Gallinari will prove this grade wrong but at the moment this looks like an OK, but not great, pick.

July 4, 2008: Walsh signed former Bulls PG Chris Duhon to a 2 year contract at the full mid-level ($12 million).  The price tag here looks high now, given the lower salaries being handed out this offseason and the incredibly frustrating second half to Duhon’s 2008-09 season.  Still, the Knicks have never minded paying out  luxury tax dollars and Walsh brought in a point guard who generally stays out of his own way and makes his teammates better on the offensive end.  If Duhon’s ability to create easy baskets can turn Curry into a tradable commodity this season (it’s a long shot, but hey, a guy can hope), it becomes a great signing.  Until then, Duhon is a player who doesn’t set his team back on the court, creates reps for a young core in need of development, and doesn’t set the franchise back in its hunt for prime talent in 2010.  Pretty good move for the mid-level in a lackluster free agent summer.

Grade: B.

November 21, 2008: Walsh put on his Kevin Pritchard hat for a day and swung two trades that cleared up $27 million in 2010 cap room.  In sending Zach Randolph to the Clippers and Jamal Crawford to the Warriors in exchange for a useful forward in Al Harrington, a useless forward in Tim Thomas, and a soon-to-retire combo guard in Cuttino Mobley, Walsh dismantled the slim playoff hopes of what was then an above-.500 team.  More importantly, however, he overhauled the team’s long term cap position, picked up a trade chip in Mobley’s tax-free contract, and rid the team of two shoot-first players who were almost certainly stunting the development of their younger, more promising counterparts.   A complete no-brainer.

Grade: A-minus.  It’s a move any good GM would have made if it was available but, what can I say, it’s a good career move to succeed Isiah.

February 19, 2009: An unstoppable force (the Bulls’ desire to trade Larry Hughes) met an immovable object (Jerome James’ contract) and the unstoppable force won as the Knicks flipped James and Tim Thomas for Hughes.  Largely seen as a garbage for garbage deal, the move was supposed to make the Knicks slightly better in the short run without helping or hurting their long-term cap situation and, mainly, sparing their fans the nightly sight of James smiling and joking around on the end of the bench during 20-point losses.  A mostly useless move in the long run and maybe a net negative, as Hughes took some minute that would likely have gone to Nate and Chandler otherwise.  Hughes also brought back some of the poor shot selection and general grumpiness that had mostly departed with Crawford and Stephon Marbury, respectively.  In the end, the trade’s impact, positive or negative, was minimal and we stopped having to listen to Jerome James jokes.

Grade: C (in a one-credit class with little effect on overall GPA).

Trade Deadline, 2009: The Knicks engaged in a well-chronicled negotiation with the Sacramento Kings, who asked for Nate Robinson and Jared Jeffries in exchange for Kenny Thomas’ soon-to-expire contract.  With the Knicks still loosely in playoff contention, Walsh turned down the offer and chose not to rid himself of the nearly $7 million committed to Jeffries in 2010.  A puzzling, disturbingly Isiah-esque move whose questionability has been compounded by the complete disinterest that Walsh has displayed in re-signing Nate this offseason.  If Robinson is truly so expendable, and it’s likely he is, then why endanger the future for only a few months of his services?  This inaction made little sense at the time and makes even less sense now.

Grade: D-minus.

2009 Draft, Lead-up: Another instance in which Walsh seemed to contradict his general mission statement of financial flexibility, as he reportedly rejected an offer of the #5 pick and some expiring contracts for Wilson Chandler, Jeffries, and Hughes.  This rumor always seemed a bit sketchy from the Wizards’ side, but if this offer was truly on the table, I can’t imagine Walsh’s resistance to it.  Trading Jeffries is a desirable goal, Hughes has no long-term value, and Chandler, while a promising young player, is more likely than not to become an effective wing who is generally indistinguishable from any number of other small forwards in the league.  The negligible , if even existent, talent drop off from Chandler to the #5 pick in the draft (which turned out to be Ricky Rubio, though no one would have guessed it at the time) seemed a small price to pay for the disposal of a considerable financial obstacle.

Grade: D.  It’s worth noting that a few different versions of this trade were bouncing around during draft week, some of which would have been less of a windfall for the Knicks.  None of them, however, seemed particularly logical to reject as the Wizards displayed genuine interest in both Jeffries and Hughes.

Draft Night, 2009: Walsh played the hand he was dealt at #8, picking Jordan Hill after watching Rubio and Stephen Curry disappear in rapid succession.  An uninspiring, but far from disastrous, summer league performance has left Hill as a general mystery to Knicks fans at this point, but he’s big and athletic and he got enough numbers in college (although his FG% leaves something to be desired, considering his layup-and-dunk-heavy shot selection) to suggest that he’ll be a useful role player at the worst.  Walsh’s bigger coup on draft night was the effective purchase of Toney Douglas’s draft rights from the Lakers, just the kind of low-risk, solid-upside maneuver that the Knicks never seem to make.  If Douglas develops into a serviceable back-up point guard with a jump shot and an above average defensive skill set, which seems likely, this pick is a success.

In a final draft night move, Walsh acquired Darko Milicic from the Grizzlies by sending Quentin Richardson off on the first leg of his summer-long tour of NBA mediocrity.  Another low-risk move that might suit D’Antoni’s system well.  Given what he had to work with, a sound if unspectacular draft night for Walsh.

Grade: B-plus for draft night in a vacuum.  However, if you consider that Walsh could have had Rubio or Curry at five had he made the Wizards trade, it’s a C-minus.

Free Agency, 2009: I don’t know.  Do you?  I think Walsh was right not to pay for Iverson.  I would have loved a year or two of Nash at the mid-level, but I get the feeling that was never as close to a reality as we all were hoping.

If Walsh wins his ongoing staring contest with Ramon Sessions (17.65 PER, 23 years old) and signs him for two years at a low 2010 cap number, it will be a way better long-term move than signing Jason Kidd (16.95 PER, 36 years old) would have been, as the Knicks will acquire a young, affordable point guard who can defer to his teammates and can wait until after the Knicks make their big free agent splash to receive his long-term payout.

Additionally, Walsh has done well not to give in to unrealistic demands by either Lee or Robinson in a depressed market, but until their situations are resolved (ideally with Nate walking or taking a cheap one-year deal and Lee staying on for something near the mid-level), it’s hard to get a read on Walsh’s current plan or his level of confidence in the LeBron/Wade/Bosh sweepstakes next offseason.

Grade: Incomplete.

All told, Walsh’s tenure got off to a promising start but has suffered from several moments of seeming hesitance to take the final plunge and commit to any one comprehensive strategy.  Walsh has clearly leaned toward building for the future at the expense of the present, which is a welcome change from the Isiah era, but his unwillingness to part with anyone of value as a pot-sweetener in the unloading of bad contracts has stunted the Knicks progress toward an ideal 2010 cap situation.  As it stands, the team has a top-flight coach and more young talent and long-term financial flexibility than anyone could have realistically expected 16 months ago.  But one worries that Walsh has hedged his bets a bit too much and will fall short of a free agent jackpot next summer.

Overall Grade: B

68 comments on “2009 Report Card: Donnie Walsh

  1. Rashidi

    Part of the problem with grading the moves Walsh doesn’t make is we don’t know about the other offers he’s received. For all we know, other teams have expressed interest for Jeffries but would rather make a deal closer to the trade deadline. This is Walsh maximizing value.

    You left out one major trade rumor. Last summer the Grizzlies were trying to steal Zach Randolph for Darko Milicic and Marko Jaric’s abominable contract. Walsh didn’t like the deal and took the one for Thomas and Mobley since neither player hurt 2010 flexibility. He then proceeded to get Darko in a swap for Q-Rich without having to take on a bad contract The Grizz then ironically traded Q-Rich to get Randolph – notice how Jaric was not included in that trade?

    The article also does not list the Stephon Marbury saga which was a huge part of Walsh’s year. The front office’s decision to hand Duhon the starting job made Marbury immovable, and the team had no desire to buy him out.

  2. Kevin McElroy Post author

    Rashidi,

    Good thoughts:

    “Part of the problem with grading the moves Walsh doesn’t make is we don’t know about the other offers he’s received. For all we know, other teams have expressed interest for Jeffries but would rather make a deal closer to the trade deadline. This is Walsh maximizing value.”

    A valid point, although this is the kind of sentiment I was referring to when I mentioned his capacity for instilling confidence even when moves don’t make sense on face. You could be onto something or you could be wrong, time will tell, but at this point it seems like a negative that Jeffries is still on the team and most GM’s wouldn’t be given that benefit of the doubt.

    “You left out one major trade rumor. Last summer the Grizzlies were trying to steal Zach Randolph for Darko Milicic and Marko Jaric’s abominable contract. Walsh didn’t like the deal and took the one for Thomas and Mobley since neither player hurt 2010 flexibility.”

    Didn’t mention that rumor (the article is pretty long as is), but I hope the high grade on the Randolph trade implicitly credits Walsh for making the Thomas/Mobley trade rather than any other.

    “The article also does not list the Stephon Marbury saga which was a huge part of Walsh’s year. The front office’s decision to hand Duhon the starting job made Marbury immovable, and the team had no desire to buy him out.”

    At least the way the media portrayed it, it seemed like benching Marbury was as much D’Antoni’s call as the front office’s, if not more so. I agree that what Walsh did with him thereafter is on him, but at the point that Marbury had no trade value and wasn’t even travelling with the team or sitting on the bench, this was basically an accounting issue with little effect on the present or future quality of the product on the court.

  3. Mike Kurylo

    I think it was long enough without grabbing every move. You could add Von Wafer and the end of the year pickups/drops as well. I think Walsh did a good, but not perfect job with year 1.

    I think this upcoming year will just be as critical. Can Walsh resign Nate/Lee past this year? Can he pickup Sessions for long term & keep him? Can he free up more space for 2010 (Jeffries/Curry)? He had a good year, but he’ll need to be just as good next year to bring respectability back to New York.

  4. Caleb

    Welcome Kevin – nice piece!

    I would just quibble with a couple of things – I would rather have Gallinari on board than Eric Gordon, and even if Gallo is just a decent pick that probably merits more of a B than a C.

    I also think you’re being too harsh on the pre-draft maneuverings. I don’t think there’s even a 1% chance that Washington actually offered the #5 pick for Wilson Chandler and salary crap. To me those news bits are evidence of something else — Walsh demonstrating an ability to plant stories that help him. Before the draft I don’t think any GM thought of Wilson Chandler was worth a #15 pick, much less #5. Now, maybe there are a couple of guys thinking, “hey he almost went for a #5, I can get him for a 10-pick and call it a steal!” Maybe not so simple as that – but in general Walsh seems to be a good leaker and I think in general has helped nudge up the value of our roster.

    Of course it’s hard to grade a GM because you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. What were the real choices? Walsh said earlier this summer that he had something up his sleeve — maybe there’s a team out there he knows wants Jeffries, or would consider Curry if he gets on the court. Or maybe he’s bluffing.

    I’ve said before that Walsh’s strengths are on the less glamorous side of being a GM — he’s not daring or a great judge of talent — but he’s a savvy businessman who always drives a hard bargain and squeezes value out of each asset. In the long-run, that’s a pretty good platform for building a team.

    Talent-spotting: C+
    Getting Value & Maximizing Your position: A-

  5. Captain Merlin

    Quite a satisfying piece there, Kevin.

    I would be tempted to give Donnie a slightly lower grade, perhaps a C or C+, mostly for how there has yet to be any actual realized improvement outside of the cap situation. Sure, Lebron, D-wade or any of a host of others could be on there way in 2010, but that’s hardly a sure thing or a tangible success at this moment. What I can say about Donnie thus far is that last year he did not manage to pull any sort of colossal fuckuppery like the ones we’re used to, and really, isn’t that what last year was all about?

  6. Rashidi

    Well the thing with the Jeffries trade is you need to look at what Washington DID get for the fifth pick. They got Mike Miller, Randy Foye, and shuffled some unwanted pieces.

    Nobody here would pass that up for Jeffries and Hughes.

  7. Kevin McElroy Post author

    Caleb-

    Thanks. I agree with your skepticism regarding the Wizards intrigue; still, it seemed like there was a way to unload jeffries salary there and it was puzzling to see him turn it down. Even if there was no pick and chandler wasn’t involved, turning down expiring contracts for hughes/jeffries is still a C-/D+ move, don’t you think? I’m really skeptical that we’ll get anything of value back for JJ; the best case scenario seems to be dumping him for expiring contracts which is what Walsh (at least seemingly) turned down.

    Also my heart agrees with you on Gallo; I never wanted Gordon because he seemed like a replication of all the other not-quite-PGs we’ve had over the past decade. On the other hand, Gallinari and Alexander are the only high picks from last year’s draft whose teams have any cause to worry about them (although I guess you add Beasley to that list after this week) and I thought the grade needed to reflect that. I look forward to that grade looking ridiculous in the not-so-distant future.

    CM-

    My feeling is that 2008-09 and 2009-10 are meaningless years; if Walsh had done everything with in his power to make them the best possible team for those two years, maybe we win 40 games last year and 42 this year. MAYBE. Either way we’re missing the playoffs or getting smoked by CLE/ORL/BOS in the first round. So who cares if we win 30 instead and clear up some cap space? Even if LBJ/DW don’t bite next year, we’ll be able to save some cap room, likely have an outstanding pick in the 2011 draft (we’ll be bad if no max guy signs summer 2010), and have cap space for two potential max guys between the summers of 2011 (‘Melo?) and 2012 (Dwight Howard? Al Jefferson?). That’s only 2 years away and still a quicker turnaround than most thought Walsh to be capable above upon his hiring. So I definitely think a C or C+ would be too low.

    That said….

    I could not in good conscience go any higher than a B given that stated objective #1 was luring LBJ or Wade to the team and, right now, you couldn’t give that even 50/50 odds of happening. He’s done a really good job but it seems like theyve had opportunities to get themselves closer to that point and balked at them, and Walsh can’t get an outstanding grade if that’s the case.

  8. chastrio

    First off, I’d like to say upon my first entry that I read this blog often and always look forward to the next installment. One of the few blogs I read that really does have intelligent conversation and feedback from an insightful group of fans. Kudos!

    Now… I’d like to comment on your grading of Kenny Thomas trade that didn’t happen. The one common thing people seem to focus on about this trade was the fact we would be getting back an expiring contract and ridding ourselves of Jeffries and his contract at the same time by throwing in Nate. However, the fact remains that at that time the Knicks had virtually no guard depth (not that they really have a lot now). At the time, Duhon was worn down and Nate was really they only guard left to take the point. Trading him for yet another small power forward would have put us at an even greater disadvantage.

    Also at some point, you have to stop trading players for expiring contracts as eventually that’s all you will have on the team. Nate is obviously expendable, but I believe Walsh may be looking at it from the standpoint of if he gets rid of Nate, either a pick or talent in return will be needed. There are only so many free agents available and we can’t expect to fill our roster that way. Just like any good team, several of the core players are often grown from within.

  9. TDM

    Kevin, I have to join Caleb and Capt Merlin in the kudos. Great analysis.

    A few notes:

    First, I think the Duhon signing may be worthy of an A- / B+. Duhon was exactly what the Knicks needed in a pg at the time, especially considering what was going on with marbury at the time, and considering that the team was stacked with shoot-first, second and third guards. In my opinion, Duhon : Marbury :: Walsh : Isiah (did I do that right?).

    Second, the Zach and Crawford trades were in part meant to give the Knicks a starting sg in Mobley, not his contract as a trade chip. Were it not for the fact that Mobley had a bad ticker, the trade for Hughes may not have gone down. That said, I still agree with your grade of A-. However, the JJ and TT for Hughes, I would grade slightly lower, maybe a C-.

    Third, at the time, I think most would have thought it would have been impossible to trade Zach and/or Crawford – yet Walsh found a way to do both and improved the Knicks cap situation. Because of his past moves, I feel somewhat confident that Walsh will eventually (before the summer of LBJ) rid the team of both Curry and Jeffries without jeopardizing the team’s long term goals.

  10. Kevin McElroy Post author

    Chastrio-

    Thanks for reading but I need to disagree with you. I believe if you view every single aspect of Walsh’s tenure independently, and assume that the general media portrayal of the important events has been reasonably accurate, turning down the Kenny Thomas trade was the worst moment of Walsh’s Knicks career. Frankly, its hard for me to believe that Dolan didn’t have a hand in it because it reeked of the kind of Scott Layden/Isiah Thomas/Larry Brown shortsightedness that was supposed to be a thing of the past.

    I really do like Nate and think that you need to watch the Knicks on a nightly basis to fully appreciate the things he does for the team. But it seems like Walsh and D’Antoni don’t particularly want him around and certainly aren’t willing to invest in him for the long term. Did I enjoy watching him for the last two months? Absolutely. Would I have constantly griped about how much they sucked if Hughes and the ghost of Chris Duhon were playing every minute in April? Sure. But there’s a reason that Walsh’s job is hard, and this was a tough decision that absolutely would have benefitted the team in the long run. As i mentioned earlier, the best case scenario for jeffries is dumping him for an expiring contract and Walsh has (possibly twice, given the Wiz rumors) decided against such an opportunity. Right now Jeffries salary is the difference between having enough cap room for 1 or 2 maxes in 2010, and that dropoff is not worth 2 months of slightly better play (2 months, by the way, in which the Knicks went only 10-19 anyway).

    TDM-

    1. No problem with going a little higher on Duhon; he was just so painful to watch from Feb-April. There’s gotta be a ceiling for a guy who hit the bottom of the rim on layups more than once, doesn’ there?

    2. You’re right on Mobley; that said, they didn’t make any effort to nullify the trade based on his heart issue, so it seems like they were fine with getting the trade chip, and I would say they’re considerably better off now (with Hughes and a trade chip) than they would have been with Mobley taking minutes from Douglas/Chandler and Jerome James requiring two chairs on the sidelines. Frankly, I’m not convinced we can’t attribute Curry’s weight loss this offseason to the absence of Jerome James as companion to hit Denny’s for 1 AM Grand Slams

    3. As much as we were all fed up with Zach/Jam, they are still undeniably useful players in their primes (who, interestingly, have each been successfully traded AGAIN since leaving the Knicks). You can’t say the same about Curry and Jeffries. I’m rooting hard for Curry; I think he’s a fundamentally decent guy whose had a brutally difficult and complicated career and really seems committed to getting it back on track, but I don’t see a team willing to take him on barring a complete transformation this year; even at his best, he had obvious flaws that may not have made up for a limited skill set. (Note to any NBA front office people reading this: I’m just joking. He’s unguardable and in the shape of his life! Getting him for an expiring contract is a bargain!)

  11. Captain Merlin

    Kevin–
    You make valid points, and really, now that I’ve thought about it a bit before writing, instead of the other way around, I’ve found that it’s impossible and just a complete waste to attempt to grade Mr. Walsh before the end of the vaunted 2010 summer. You can’t really grasp the effect that will be had of a move before that time, since the team’s transactions are almost exclusively directed toward the goal of luring a big fish then. An Incomplete makes the most since at this stage, with that being changed to either an A or an F depending upon how next summer pans out.

    At the very least we’ll have an exciting year on our hands, especially if both Nate and Lee vanish (though I believe the latter will be around). Just think of the potential starting lineups we could run through before the end of year–especially if injuries occur and the team offers up a nauseating merry-go-round of 36 year old has-beens, 27 year old never-weres, and 23 year old D-League never-shall-be’s. What remains of my basketball soul is just salivating in anticipation for that mystery meat special headed our way come January when things become seasonally abysmal.

  12. NateRobinson

    Regarding the deal. I read on ESPN (Insider maybe) that the deal which would send Washingtons 5th pick for Chandler, Hughes, and Jeffries was shot down by Walsh.

  13. NateRobinson

    Washingtons part of the deal did include Songaila and Ethan Thomas if its worth noting. And just maybe the great Oleksiy Pecherov.

  14. slovene knick

    Knickerblogger – grade A+:great site and now with the latest added assets to the team – perfect!!

    Mr. Walsh: A- – deserves the highest grade among the Knicksarians in the narrow sense of the word – Almost perfect: Has a vision, has a goal, good strategy,…..some mistakes in the field of what ifs and we don’t have enough information….
    I’m not sharing my view with captain M – future is always ahead of the now about knowing the histories ways,rights and wrongs – it easier to wait and then be correct.
    Well guess there’ s a line between a clairvoyant and a historian, one is usually wrong and the other is almost always right.But a clairvoyant with lots of experience and a good memory witch i hope Walsh is makes me a believer.

  15. Ted Nelson

    Good post. A few devil’s advocate thoughts.

    -I like D’Antoni a lot, but I don’t think his signing had no downside. D’Antoni’s alleged insistence on jump shooters who play “his way” and a strong PG who dominates the ball may hamper Walsh’s ability to improve the team and prove a poor fit if the Knicks ever land a good player who doesn’t fit the D’Antoni mold. The D’Antoni signing has also lead to a clear preference for offensive talent. The Suns decline started when Bryan Colangelo left for Toronto and D’Antoni took over personnel decisions, I would like to see him distanced from personnel matters with the Knicks.

    -Left out Balkman. Bad move on its face value. Douglas could be the saving grace (the pick they got for Balkman was used to get him), although another 2nd rounder likely could have been used to get Douglas.

    -I don’t think it’s fair to include the back injury in an evaluation of the Gallinari pick. At the time of the draft I believe you could say there was as much a chance Lopez, Randolph, Gordon, etc. would blow out their backs in preseason before their rookie season (maybe I’m wrong there). It’s inevitable that the pick will be based on Gallinari’s career compared to the others drafted around him which includes time and ability lost to injury), but I just think it’s a little unfair.

    -Way too much speculation in the non-moves category. The media was reporting that the Kings would do a Robinson/JJ-for-Thomas deal, but without hearing it from Petrie or a Maloof or Walsh himself it’s hard to say if it’s true. In hindsight that does look really bad if it’s true, though. You may be right that Dolan stepped in to screw things up yet again…
    I agree with Caleb that it seems highly unlikely that the the Wiz would take any offer including Jeffries and/or Hughes and/or Chandler over the Miller/Foye package they got from Minni. I really don’t think Walsh turned down a chance to move Jeffries this offseason, he would have to be the dumbest guy in basketball if he did that.

  16. Caleb

    In the category of “non-moves” I think you have to give Walsh an incomplete. One thing we’ve seen for sure is that he doesn’t move quickly – he gambles in that sense, never takes the first offer, always holds out for a better deal. (or tries)

    If he can’t unload Jeffries this year, then turning down the Sacto offer was a huge blunder. If he moves Jeffries anyway, then it’s a non-event. If he moves Jeffries and actually gets an asset for Nate, then his patience was a brilliant move. Just one example…

    And another incomplete… on reflection I think Mike had it right with Gallo’s grade. If his back is a permanent problem then obviously there were many better choices. If just a glitch – well, I think Gallo has a good chance of being one of the top-6 players in that draft, right where he was picked.

    Ted makes some good points — how could we forget Balkman?!?! Still a big mistake, IMO — although he did get booked for DUI this week, which lends support to the theory that Walsh didn’t trust him for off-court reasons.

    I still share the concern about D’Antoni’s personnel moves. He is not good in that department — just look at the Shaq trade! The saving grace is that Walsh hired him and Walsh is in a strong position — he’s not gonna get steamrolled by Mike D.

    p.s. we bought Douglas from the Lakers… Balkman was swapped for a 2nd rounder that we haven’t used yet, right?

  17. Caleb

    Nate,

    Here’s how it works —

    1. Walsh calls Chad Ford (or whoever) and says, “Hey, I’ve got a nugget for you — the Wizards offered me the #5 pick for Chander. I turned it down, because Wilson looks great this summer (on crutches), he’s gonna be an All-Star, yada yada.”

    2. Chad spreads the word to his “Insiders.”

    3. Chandler gets the message that his team loves him. He feels love.

    4. GMs get the message that they better not send Walsh any lowball offers.

    Of course this only works if Walsh can convince Chad Ford that there’s some slim chance the nugget is true — but it’s not a high bar. If he limited themself to realistic rumors, all we’d hear in the offseason are crickets…

  18. Frank O.

    I’m sorry. I think grading trade by trade, move by move, non-move by non-move is interesting and I think the grades for most of them are fine, but…

    We all need to keep an eye on the ball, the ball being the Knicks cap flexibility, and on that front Walsh has done well. Remember, this was a team many thought was hopeless because of the contracts it held.

    The so-called 5th pick offer from Washington is an unknown. I would have favored the move because it would have cleared even more space and given the Knicks greater flexibility today, but who knows how accurate that story was? A vast number of New York sports reporters’ stories on the Knicks are filled with fantoms or flat-out misinformation…

    I’d give Walsh a B+ or A- for his handling of the Knicks’ once horrible cap problems. It’s all about flexibility…

  19. steveoh

    “Frankly, its hard for me to believe that Dolan didn’t have a hand in it because it reeked of the kind of Scott Layden/Isiah Thomas/Larry Brown shortsightedness that was supposed to be a thing of the past.”

    Of all the analysis of Donnie Walsh I’ve read in this thread, this might be the most salient point, mostly because the non-Kenny Thomas trade seems like an outlier (assuming as we all do that the Washington deal was just a fabrication).

    Nice job, Kevin.

  20. Ted Nelson

    “One thing we’ve seen for sure is that he doesn’t move quickly – he gambles in that sense, never takes the first offer, always holds out for a better deal. (or tries)”

    Even this involves some degree of speculation. If he just leaked the Kenny Thomas rumor there might have been no initial offer at all.
    Generally the point is well taken, though, although I would assume he’d take the first offer if it were great (say expiring contracts and the #5 pick for Jeffries and Chandler…).

    “p.s. we bought Douglas from the Lakers… Balkman was swapped for a 2nd rounder that we haven’t used yet, right?”

    As I recall the Balkman pick was included along with $3 mill to get Douglas… I could be wrong though.

    Frank O,

    Good point. We always used to say that if you graded Isiah move by move he looked alright, but when you put it all together he looked terrible.

  21. Kevin McElroy Post author

    Ted-

    The pick from the Balkman trade was a 2nd rounder in 2010; The pick the Knicks sent to LA was a 2nd rounder in 2011. Not the same pick — but maybe the Knicks would have been less willing to part with it if they hadn’t had the 2011 pick?

    I left Balkman out because I though that it was a pretty meaningless move long-term; I don’t really get why they did it, I kind of wonder if he was grumbling about expected minutes with the organizations clear emphasis on developing Chandler and Gallo and the Knicks just wanted to sell before it became a problem. My thought in excluding it, though, was that they would have let him walk this summer anyway and, in two years, none of us will either be applauding or regretting the move.

    Frank O.-

    I agree with you’re entire lead-up but disagree with your conclusion. If we believe the Sacto rumors are true then he can’t get an A-minus for cap management. It’s a huge missed opportunity.

    Of course, rumors are rumors and it’s hard to know exactly what was on the table, but if we don’t look at trades he turned down (and only look at trades he executed) we’re missing half of his job. I think we can all agree that IF either of those offers were on the table (SAC/WAS) and the Knicks declined both of them then somebody (Walsh? Dolan? D’Antoni?) made a pretty odd decision.

  22. Caleb

    “I think we can all agree that IF either of those offers were on the table (SAC/WAS) and the Knicks declined both of them then somebody (Walsh? Dolan? D’Antoni?) made a pretty odd decision.”

    re: Washington, not moving Chandler and Jeffries for the #5 would be one of the worst non-moves in NBA memory… if true, which I doubt.

    Sacto, he’s gambling that he can do better… risky, but we’ll see.

    Balkman, if he’s not busy getting DUIs is a big missed opportunity… but I won’t rehash that whole debate.

  23. chastrio

    Kevin-

    I wasn’t refering to Nate as though I didn’t value what he did for the team. I actually was complementing his value saying that while I know JJ is a must to have gone and either he or Curry’s contract must be removed to offer two max contracts (or at least have more flexibility) that throwing in Nate to JUST get an expiring contract feels like a wasted asset. Walsh must be looking at it this way too otherwise the deal would have been done.

    Walsh’s patience is his strongest asset. A better offer will present itself for both or some other combination.

  24. ess-dog

    In reference to the “non-move” which was the Sacto trade, Nate has a higher PER than pretty much any player mentioned this summer. A shade below Lee. Better than Sessions and many other players in the league. You can debate the accuracy of PER, but regardless of our unusual 2010/contract stalemate with Nate and his agent, he IS a valuable player. Perhaps Donnie didn’t want him to leave for nothing but cap space? We could still give Nate a very fair (5 mil) one year offer in the hopes that he will come back in 2010 after LeBron signs for the right price. There is a chance that we could have 7 mil in space after LeBron (if the economy continues to return) and we could still trade either Jeffries or Curry… OR we could agree to a buyout with one or both of those players to clear as much as 5 mil more in cap space. Donnie still has a lot of options, although, If we want Lee and Nate, Sessions is out of the question until we move someone. I wonder if there is a way around the 2 year min. contract offer we have to give Sessions? Some sort of out clause for the 2nd year so we can get him for a year and potentially re-sign him next year?

  25. BigBlueAL

    In his latest chat John Hollinger continued his man-crush on Ramon Sessions, talking about how he is the most underrated player in the NBA and how if the Bucks keep him they could make the playoffs but if they lose him they are back in the lottery guaranteed.

  26. Z-man

    3rd request, folks! I had asked in 2 previous threads…no response yet (is it that dumb a question?!): Suppose Nate and/or Lee are signed to one-year deals or QO’s. If Jeffries and/or Curry are traded in mid-season, can either or both of Nate/Lee’s contracts be renegotiated into multi-year deals in midseason with the newly acquired cap space?

  27. Frank O.

    Kevin:
    I agree, but that is a big if. Often what we know is a rumor, and an overly simplistic one. There may be all kinds of variables affecting a decision not to make a move.
    It would have been great to shed those contracts. But it is unknowable. As it stands right now, the Knicks are in a position to get at least one max FA in 2010, which coming from where the Knicks were seems great to me.
    Meanwhile he has played the Lee/N8 situation like a maestro.

    I think Duhon was a very good pick up that was masked by the Knicks overusing him when they were short guards.
    I’m not sure any guard can go 40+ minutes a night for two or three weeks straight without break downs in D’Antoni’s system.
    Nash never did more than 35 minutes on average with D’Antoni’s. Last year, Duhon averaged more than 36 mpg, and that was after they drastically reduced his playing time when he started to fall apart.
    There was a period between Nov.14 and January 16, about 60 days, where 20 of the 30 games played he put in at least 40 minutes and as many as 48 minutes.
    That is utterly grueling.
    I think he’s going to be very good this year, and maybe the Knicks best player when accounting for everything he brings to the table.

  28. Caleb

    Z-Man,

    I’m pretty sure the answer is no — that you can’t offer an extension on a contract shorter than three years.

    if they sign one-year deals, next summer they will stay on the cap (“cap hold”) of 150% of their 2009-2010 salary, unless/until we sign them to new deals.

  29. Z-man

    Thanks Caleb. Seems like a dumb rule on the surface. The only reason Lee is not being signed is the weight of the Curry and Jeffries contracts. It would seem to benefit the team and the player, and not hurt the league, to allow this.

  30. Caleb

    Personally, I agree – I generally support changes to loosen the cap and encourage player movement.

    But from the league’s point of view, this rule closes a loophole — otherwise the Knicks could give Lee a wink n nod contract, say, 1 year for $3 million, with an understanding that next summer they would extend him for $50 million…

    of course they could amend the Basic Agreement to limit raises on extensions (I think the current limits only apply to the original contract) which would accomplish the same thing.

  31. Z-man

    What about if they made the deadline for offering extensions the day after the February trade deadline? This way, a player could only be extended with existing cap room or cap room acquired via traditional trades. In the case that the trades don’t happen, Knicks could either up the ante with Lee or keep things statud quo, but would have to establish that in February.

    The cap works best when it allows maximum maneuverability without unfairly advantaging or disadvantaging any team. It also works best when players can have options involving calculated risks. Lee clearly prefers NY and the Knicks prefer to keep him. The current structure forces decisions that neither party likes based on incomplete information about the following year’s cap.

  32. Z-man

    Also Caleb, even with the wink n nod scenario you mention, wouldn’t Lee get screwed if he got hurt? Or if the team fired its GM/coach and the guy coming in didn’t like his game?

    On the other hand, there’s also the Boozer-Cleveland situation a few years ago that backfired for Cleveland, and more recently the Brand scenario. Not exactly the same, but illustrative of the perils of less than firm agreements/assumptions.

    I see nothing wrong with a scenario where GM could say “Look, we really want to sign you long term, so we are going to try like hell to create cap space before the deadline. Can’t promise you anything, but…”

  33. Rashidi

    On the PER note, Nate also has a better PER than Ramon Sessions.

    I’m not sure why people around here want Sessions so badly, as he isn’t a great fit in a D’Antoni offense due to his poor shooting. Ramon’s PER and age is always brought up as a reason why it’s a buy-low deal, but how is he anything but a downgrade from Nate?

  34. bbbb00123

    I know its just barely off topic I suppose, but I don’t know where else I’d really say this. I read an article on espn.com that told about Stephen Jackson wanting to be traded to a contender, and it mention New York. I was thinking of a trade to get him, and I just want to know what people think.

    We trade away: Eddy Curry and Jordan Hill
    We receive: Stephen Jackson and Speedy Claxton

    We would do this because we get Stephen Jackson, a good player, and we cut off some of our cap room.

    I’m not totally sure Golden State would do it though. I think they might be up for it. They get rid of Stephen Jacksons long contract, and pick up a shorter one of Eddy Curry. They get rid of Jackson, who kind of has an attitude and wants to be traded anyway. And they add Jordan Hill to their promising young core. Maybe they go for it? I dont know.

  35. Captain Merlin

    I would be fairly dismayed with a deal like that. Jackson’s contract is not miles better than Curry’s, and also, I don’t thing he’s too valuable of a piece on the court, regardless of his offcourt shits and giggles. Not to mention, we would be dumping our fresh first round pick who may yet amount to something. Surely there’s got to be a better way, both financially and basketball-wise, to unload Double-D Curry.

  36. Z-man

    Caleb,

    “I’m pretty sure the answer is no — that you can’t offer an extension on a contract shorter than three years.

    if they sign one-year deals, next summer they will stay on the cap (”cap hold”) of 150% of their 2009-2010 salary, unless/until we sign them to new deals.”

    Hahn’s latest entry closed with this:

    “Getting back to Lee, I’m still leaning toward the belief that the end result will be a 1-year deal at an agreeable price (just a guess, but I’d say $9M should get it done…note that it’s basically the Mobley salary slot). The sides could still negotiate an extension during the season and also, obviously, in July.”

    Confusing…

  37. TDM

    ESPN is reporting that Rubio has been traded to FC Barcelona and that he won’t be able to come over to the nba until the summer of 2011. Not for nothing, but that is a real f’n shame.

  38. Count Zero

    Agreed TDM — you can’t blame Minny for drafting him, but you sure can blame them for their stupid refusal to trade him away. They’re going to end up trading his rights yet, so all they really accomplished was keeping a charismatic, talented kid out of the league for two more years.

  39. ess-dog

    11th hour reports of the Knicks (refuted by Hahn) making a play for Rubio are interesting, but seem ludicrous. Lee, Nate and a 1st rounder? That’s a little steep. You have to consider it without the 1st rounder though, as long as you also get the cap relief. Then he’s basically trading Miller and Foye for Lee and Nate… a pretty good deal that’s saves a bit of face.

  40. Captain Merlin

    Considering how a number of board contributors have been advocating just letting Nate and Lee walk for salary, in their eyes that trade wouldn’t amount to much more than the 2012 first rounder for Rubio. I’d be game for that, however the point is a bit moot now.

  41. Caleb

    For Knicks fans grasping at any straw of hope, it hurts to have Rubio out of the picture.

    But look – this is an example of good GM’ing. Kahn lucked into a great asset when Rubio slipped to #5, but he made his own luck after that — didn’t sell cheap. Now he still has Rubio locked up for four-plus years — except he’ll be two years older and two years better when he comes over. Kahn doesn’t have to pay Rubio for the next two years when he’s too young and skinny to make a big impact.

    In effect he basically traded his 2009 pick – a project – for a 2011 pick – ready to play. For a rebuilding team, that’s no loss.

    Kahn is a Walsh protege – you can see the same approach. Patient.

  42. Caleb

    That would hurt. At least he’d be counting his blessings he didn’t pay the big buyout before being crippled.

  43. Ted Nelson

    “What if Rubio blows out his knee ala Jay Williams?”

    I don’t really see your point. What if he came to the NBA and blew out his knee?

    Every NBA player is at risk of getting hurt at any time. A GM can’t make decisions thinking someone might randomly get hurt, unless there’s some evidence (injury history, predisposition to a certain type of injury, behavioral pattern, etc.) that a certain player is more likely than usual to get hurt.

    By the way, Jay Williams didn’t randomly blow out his knee. He took a huge risk by riding a motorcycle. He was also in the NBA when it happened…

  44. ess-dog

    I’m glad the Rubio hype is over for now, thank god. I’m also glad we didn’t make a play because I think he’s overrated. Where are the stats? He’s an atrocious shooter, doesn’t seem to be that good of a finisher (probably better than Duhon though) and his PER wasn’t off the charts or anything. Sure he’s only 18, but that’s not so different from a college freshman leaving for the NBA. I think the Wolves would’ve been better off trading down for a real 2 guard (DeRozan) and getting a future pick, or packaging the pick for a star (Amare.)
    Now they have a guy (Flynn) who already feels like a placewarmer right after being drafted, a waste of space at the other guard spot (Ellington) and two big men with suspect post defense. I think Kahn is really, really stupid. “A bird in the hand” and all that… You don’t necessarily have to worry about a blown knee, but maybe Rubio wilts given more playing time? Maybe his shot doesn’t improve after 2 years? Maybe defenders discover a “tell” on his no-look passes, in other words, figure out how to defend him? There is a lot that could go wrong with this pick after 2 years of someone else coaching him.
    And even if he’s doing great, and Flynn’s doing great, really all you can get is another high draft pick for one of them, something they would get anyway for their poor, poor play. The odds are that his value is highest now. So then do you keep Flynn and Rubio and start a lineup with 2 point guards and 2 power forwards? Their roster is a mess.
    Kahn could easily rebound from this, but it smacks of the Golden State front office: always accruing “assets” but never actually putting a real team together and winning. At least Donnie “checks in” with his coach on player decisions. I know Kahn didn’t have a coach, but that exposes his preferred approach which seems to be gathering players as movable pieces instead of getting the best players for a system.
    It’s nice to not feel like we have a front office like that anymore.

  45. jon abbey

    “But look – this is an example of good GM’ing. ”

    holy cow, absolutely not. Kahn never should have gone near Rubio, as it was obvious he was never going to go to Minnesota. by the way, if Rubio sits out a season after this two year deal expires, Minnesota loses his rights and he goes back into the draft. the threat of that should be enough to get Minnesota to deal his rights, he’ll never ever ever play in Minnesota.

  46. Rashidi

    “by the way, if Rubio sits out a season after this two year deal expires, Minnesota loses his rights and he goes back into the draft.”

    Why would he sit out a season?

  47. Rashidi

    “Their roster is a mess.
    Kahn could easily rebound from this, but it smacks of the Golden State front office: always accruing “assets” but never actually putting a real team together and winning”

    I dunno about that, Golden State is pretty inept and they have no plans on turning that around. They give out their share of bad contracts and make plenty of questionable trades. Their organization is so toxic that the best player they’ve ever attracted in free agency is Corey Maggette, and he doesn’t even start for them.

  48. Caleb

    none of the slams on Kahn are convincing…

    The odds of Rubio sitting out a year, sans paycheck, just to avoid Minnesota are about 100-1. Kahn knows this and called the bluff.

    He might be overrated and not turn out to be worth a #5? I disagree, but in any case how is that risk any different from other draft picks?

    There’s the perennial debate on whether you draft for need or best available, but that has nothing to do with Rubio’s decision to stay in Spain for two years. If anything it minimizes the conflict because they get two years to see if Flynn can play, before making a decision.

    fwiw, teams that pick the best available player do well, and teams that draft for need are full of regrets. Kahn – correctly, IMO – didn’t see any great prospects at #5, and bet on the upside. Time will tell if his talent evaluation makes sense, but his handling of the contract situation is dead-on.

    p.s. I don’t think Golden State’s draft strategy has much to do with their problems…

  49. Ted Nelson

    ess-dog,

    With all due respect, WTF are you talking about???

    Rubio’s stats are bad, so they should have drafted DeRozan??? DeRozan was a statistical nightmare of a lottery pick (maybe he turns out to be good, but it won’t have been reflected in his college stats). Rubio’s stats are pretty good. He only played a few Euroleague games last season due to injury, but the season before he actually shot quite well in pan-European competition (not Euroleague, but the league for teams that just miss qualifying for Euroleague) and he’s obviously a very good playmaker. He was Defensive Player of the Year in Europe’s most competitive national league, even though he missed a chunk of the season.

    What if Jason Kidd’s shot didn’t improve for his first decade plus in the NBA??? Oh, yeah, it didn’t. A strong jumper would really benefit Rubio, but I think he’ll still be a good NBA PG if he’s not a scorer.

    Somehow the Spurs managed to wait two years after drafting both David Robinson and Manu Ginobili… Should they have traded those guys for the first Wilson Chandler who came available rather than waiting??? Rubio will be playing on one of the best teams in Europe, where his PG skills should improve surrounded by NBA and borderline NBA talent. He won’t necessarily be as good as Robinson and Manu, but if not I don’t think staying in Europe will be the reason why.

    I can’t argue with your take on Kahn’s overall job, and don’t really have any reason to stand up for the guy. We’ll have to see how he does.
    I don’t see the parallel with GS, though. GS is not only a disfunctional organization, but also has a coach who will not play anyone over 6-7 and whose own son doesn’t trust him. Kahn just took over one of the worst run front offices in the NBA a few months ago. He’s not expecting to win right away, and has publicly said as much. I don’t think a strategy of stockpiling talent is such a bad idea: you can trade good players for a lot more than you can bad players.
    I feel like a lot of the GMs who “check in” with their coaches fail. I’m very uncomfortable with D’Antoni having a hand in personnel decisions for the Knicks. Talent is what it’s all about. The Suns didn’t win because they had player who fit a system, they won because they had very good talent that happened to fit D’Antoni’s system. The system might have helped them win as many games as they did, but it was icing on a cake of talent. As soon as Colangelo left they started to go downhill because first D’Antoni and later Kerr couldn’t find talent if it smacked them in the face.

    Jon Abbey,

    If Rubio continues to improve on the same learning curve he has been on, then this will be great GMing. In that case Kahn will be waiting for a Manu/Robinson type. If he’s waiting for a Sergio Rodriguez (unlikely since Rubio is already better than Sergio today) or a Fran Vazquez (who never comes… Waiting for Godot basically) then he’ll look bad.

    Maybe he doesn’t want to go to Minnesota, but I don’t necessarily get that impression. He’s saying that the NBA is his priority, but the difference between Barca buying him out and paying several million of his own buyout kept him in Europe. That makes a lot of sense to me, and if the NBA is his goal then he’s going through Minnesota. I think he may benefit from playing for Barca at least as much as he would by losing 60 games in Minnesota.

    Caleb,

    “Kahn – correctly, IMO – didn’t see any great prospects at #5″

    He saw one, goes by the name of Ricky Rubio :)

  50. Mike Kurylo

    One thing to think about with Kahn: Minnesota isn’t competing in the next 2 years. Is there a more fit team to draft an 18 year old? As for grabbing 2 PGs, it could work out in a lot of different ways. It’s probably better that Rubio doesn’t come over to the USA now. It gives the Twolves some time to see if Flynn is their guy. If he’s anything other than an All Star, trade him to shore up another spot. Then bring Rubio over to be the PG. If Rubio doesn’t want to come over, you keep Flynn and get what you can. Whoever wants Rubio now, will still want him in 2 years with a little more experience under his belt.

    The worst that can happen is that Rubio gets hurt, declines seriously (hard to believe if he’s competing as an 18 year old), or really puts his foot down to never go to Minnesota. But consider that if Minny drafts someone else at #5, there are other problems to consider. Almost better to not know if you have a bust, than know for sure that you do, perhaps.

  51. Caleb

    There are two issues:

    Is Rubio good value at #5? — Time will tell.

    Is Kahn screwed because Rubio stayed in Spain for two years? — Not at all. If he never plays for Minnesota, it’s because Kahn gets a good trade offer instead of the junk he passed on this summer. The odds of Rubio sitting out are close to nil.

  52. Caleb

    ps Ted, I basically agree with you on Rubio — he’s a legit 2 or 3 prospect, a bargain at #5. I do think his awful shooting numbers and weak finishing ability are cause to worry.

  53. Thomas B.

    Ted Nelson,

    “I don’t see the point.”

    Dont worry about it, I rarely have one. What I was trying to say is that Khan could just as easily be making a mistake here. Sure, Rubio could play in Europe for the next 2-3 years, become all-world, then play in Minny. If that works out then sure Khan did well. But how often does that happen. For every Tony Parker and Dirk Nowitzki–young euro players that became something really special–there are a ton in the Darko, Tskitishvili, Sergei Kovalev catergory. I still don’t know where Rubio will end up.

    Now I would have thought Khan would trade Rubio, but if no decent offers came by, he might as well wait it out and see what develops. See my problem with folks saying Khan is shrewd is that it is not shrewdness when you are forced to do the right thing out of a lack of options. I dont know of a decent trade offer for Rubio, so Khan has no choice but to wait. He didn’t turn down a top five next year with a very strong player for Rubio did he? Rubio was included as part of a deal to bring in an all star right? So short of those deals, sure let Rubio sit. Thats not a master planner. That just him not being our former GM. Which is still really good.

  54. Kevin McElroy Post author

    Another nice aspect of Minny’s maneuvering: they will be paying Rubio rookie scale money into (presumably) the early part of his prime and will pay him zero for the next two years, which will likely be the two lowest-income years for the NBA in the foreseeable future. And if he truly turns out to be a bust (unlikely), that should manifest itself while he’s in Spain and Minny can flip him for a low draft pick without ever paying him a dime.

    People are talking about the price they paid to get him like Foye and Mike Miller are Parish and McHale. T-Wolves save some money in a down year, replace Foye with a cheaper, younger, guard who likely has a comparable ceiling (Flynn), lose Miller (who would have walked after this year anyway), and make a zero-cost, long-term investment in a potential stud (Rubio). And they shouldn’t have made that trade just because Rubio won’t debut until he’s 20 (STILL younger than either Stephen Curry or Jordan Hill is right now)?

    Isn’t this the kind of move we’re always imploring the Knicks to make on these boards?

  55. Thomas B.

    “ps Ted, I basically agree with you on Rubio — he’s a legit 2 or 3 prospect, a bargain at #5. I do think his awful shooting numbers and weak finishing ability are cause to worry.”

    Caleb you are a smart guy. Help me see what I am missing on Rubio. I really thought he should have gone 5-7 based on the shooting numbers and finishing. He can also be turnover prone. I don’t get it, why are you high on this guy?

  56. Thomas B.

    Rubio: A point who can get into the paint, can’t finish there so he passes.

    Duhon: A point who can get into the paint, can’t finsh there so he passes.

  57. Ted Nelson

    Thomas,

    “For every Tony Parker and Dirk Nowitzki–young euro players that became something really special–there are a ton in the Darko, Tskitishvili, Sergei Kovalev catergory.”

    Darko, Tskita, and all the other Euro busts never accomplished anything near what Rubio has in Europe. They didn’t have an impact at as high a level or hang with adults in international competitions. Darko was at least universally praised, but has just been a bust. Tskita was a huge reach.
    By and large the guys with size, athleticism, and defined/developed skills who excel in Europe, especially at a young age, can play in the NBA. I can give a million examples.

    “Help me see what I am missing on Rubio.”

    He’s a very good basketball player. When you watch him every week in the Spanish league he stands out, age aside. When you factor in his age there’s a huge wow factor.

    Comparing Rubio to Duhon is ridiculous… They’re just not similar players at all. Duhon camps out around the perimeter and is not half the playmaker Rubio is.

    Rubio’s scoring ability is a question mark, but not a clear negative. He’s been pretty inconsistent. He played a grand total of 66 Euroleague minutes last season, and the last time he played at that level before was at age 16. So his Euroleague numbers are pretty useless, but that’s what people like Hollinger have been using to rate him.
    In the ULEB Cup (below Euroleague) in 07-08 he put up a TS% of 63.3% and a 3P% of 36%. He hit 43% of his 3s in 500 Spanish league (ACB) minutes last season.

    “I don’t get it, why are you high on this guy?”

    I’m not Caleb, but I’ll take a stab at this one. Watch him play. He has ungodly court vision, ball handling skills, and playmaking ability. He’s 6-4. He’s a strong defender against grown men with incredible hands. He’s accomplished everything he has at such a young age that his ceiling is very high.
    What was the big deal about Jason Kidd anyway? I mean the guy was a terrible scorer… obviously not a very good basketball player. Why were people so high on Magic Johnson again? What’s the difference between Chris Paul and Sebastian Telfair? They’re both quick, little, young PGs…

    “See my problem with folks saying Khan is shrewd is that it is not shrewdness when you are forced to do the right thing out of a lack of options.”

    When Kahn drafted Rubio he was very aware he might not come over this season. He said as much in a press conference right after the draft: basically he said if any team can wait, it’s us. As strange as it was for him to take 2 PGs, he obviously realized he was doing so and had some reason/plan. We’ll have to wait to see if it is judged as shrewd, crazy, or somewhere in between.

    “He can also be turnover prone”

    Jason Kidd and Steve Nash annually post terrible TO-rates.

  58. Ted Nelson

    “http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/steve_aschburner/09/02/wolves.rubio/index.html?eref=sihp”

    Not really sure what this proves. Other, maybe, than this author is an idiot.

    Again, Robinson and Manu waited 2 years and didn’t miss a beat when they hit the NBA.

    Just as some Americans have been huge successes straight from high school (say KG or LeBron) and others have spent time in college and still succeeded (say TD or Wade), some Europeans have come over young and succeeded (Pau, Dirk, Parker, etc.) others have marinaded after being drafted or going undrafted and succeeded (Manu, Scola, Kukoc, Calderon, Rudy, Marc, etc.).

    “Potential vs. a lot more than that, perhaps, from Flynn.”

    First of all, Flynn may become a great, untradable asset. Chances are much higher, though, that he’s a solid NBA PG but replaceable. The Wolves can keep a close eye on Rubio playing against the stiffest competition in Europe, and should have a good idea of how he’s developing.
    How did guys like Calderon and Manu ever manage to adapt to the “man’s game” of the NBA after pussy-footing around with European fairies until their mid-20s???????????????? Their vaginas must have been really soar when they got to the NBA. What a nationalistic prick.

    “There are so many things that could happen in the next two years,” Kahn said. “You can’t even pretend to predict.”

    This is very true. But would you be able to predict the next two years with them both on the Wolves’ roster?

  59. Ted Nelson

    My main point is that it’s just a matter of how good Rubio becomes. If he hits the best case then 2 years in Europe won’t hurt him. If he doesn’t develop at all then coming over earlier probably wouldn’t help him.

  60. ess-dog

    Since none of us has a crystal ball, it’s hard to say how good anyone will be from any draft.

    I don’t have such a problem with Kahn drafting Rubio (although it was a big risk to trade two solid players for the #5 in a weak draft that kind of magically worked out when Rubio fell), but if Rubio’s the guy you want as your future point, I believe it makes more sense to then look at another position with the next pick- anything but a point guard.

    Does anyone believe Kahn when he says that he can see playing the two point guards together? Isn’t Jonny Flynn on the same tier as at least a few other players from that draft? I’m sick of defending DeRozan, but he was a top 5 high school player who plays strong defense and played very well in the last half of the season and carried USC in the tourney. AND he fills a need. AND you could’ve traded down, gotten another pick or player and gotten him.

    I just believe leaving Flynn in limbo doesn’t create trust in the organization. It smacks of a guy that’s never been in a locker room. Again, I’m not against Rubio per se (although I think he’s a bit overrated), but more the way Khan created this issue.

    Also, if he didn’t have a plan for the buyout, he shouldn’t have selected Rubio. Assuming that Rubio was going to play for free for his rookie contract so that he could be in the NBA is absurd. No one would choose that. So I hope he knew this was going to happen.

    Maybe after two years, Rubio has been playing great, with a smaller buyout. That’s a best case scenario for Kahn. But even then, either Flynn has also played great and you have to let him go, taking a chance on Rubio before he hits the NBA, or you keep them both and play them both… Flynn gets demoted to 6th man? Rubio comes off the bench? It will be hard to get full value for one or the other at that point, because neither has won anything in the NBA yet, and other teams know that you HAVE to move one of them and will underbid.

    I just think signing a vet pg (Sessions? White Chocolate?) for two years and addressing another position and/or getting extra assets/picks would’ve been the smarter way to go.

    *I have to also admit that I’m kind of like the blackjack player who gets pissed at the dumb player ahead of him that hits on a pair of Jacks and takes my 3 of hearts in the process… he really did screw up the draft for a few teams.

  61. Ted Nelson

    “Since none of us has a crystal ball, it’s hard to say how good anyone will be from any draft.”

    True. My point is that if Rubio is as good as Kahn (and a lot of others) think he is then Kahn could look very smart and in 10 years no one will even remember the 2 year wait.

    “although it was a big risk to trade two solid players for the #5 in a weak draft that kind of magically worked out when Rubio fell”

    I thought it was a fairly even deal for both sides, both got what they wanted. I like Miller a lot, but he was out of Minni after this season and will probably retire before they contend (then again they could have moved him in another deal). Foye might be a solid reserve. One of Songaila and Pecherov could make the Wolves’ rotation and make up for the loss of Foye.

    “but if Rubio’s the guy you want as your future point, I believe it makes more sense to then look at another position with the next pick- anything but a point guard.”

    It definitely does, unless you have Flynn in a tier ahead of the other prospects available.

    I don’t really think so much in terms of filling positions as rotation spots. Once he matures Rubio has the length to guard 2s, and Flynn might be a deadly 6th man. Having too many good players is a very nice problem to have (not that the Wolves necessarily have that problem at PG, they just might).

    “Does anyone believe Kahn when he says that he can see playing the two point guards together?”

    I sort of do… why else would he have drafted them? Plenty of teams were rumored to love Flynn and might have moved up or in to get him.
    I think Kahn knew there was a good chance Rubio would be in Europe next season, so he was in a position where
    1. Flynn could play for 1 or 2 years before they Rubio even came over
    2. they could play together (if you figure a rookie is going to play 30 mpg even if he does really well, then they’d have only been on the court 6 mpg together)
    3. you double down and figure that statistically at least one is probably not going to meet expectations

    “I’m sick of defending DeRozan”

    I don’t hate DeRozan, I just would have hated to draft him 5 or 6. Then again, I wasn’t extremely high on Flynn either. This was a really wide open draft, where some GMs will probably look like geniuses and others like idiots.

    “AND he fills a need.”

    I’m not about drafting for need, especially because the Wolves needed just about everything besides a 4.

    “I just believe leaving Flynn in limbo doesn’t create trust in the organization.”

    Could be true. Flynn seems like a very, very high character guy who won’t be particularly impacted by it, but maybe it sets a bad tone. Again I don’t really think Flynn is in limbo, but Kahn has to do a very good job of communicating with his players.

    “Also, if he didn’t have a plan for the buyout, he shouldn’t have selected Rubio.”

    I think he was willing to take the chance and wait a year or two. This is why I keep harping on the David Robinson, Manu Ginobili, Toni Kukoc, Luis Scola, etc. examples of players who waited two or more seasons after being drafted to come to the NBA. Would you really be mad at your team’s GM in the long-run for taking a Robinson, Manu, or Kukoc #5 and waiting a couple seasons? Even Scola wouldn’t have been a terrible #5 pick compared to some who have actually been taken there. The year Scola was drafted (second to last in the second round) Skita went #5: two European forwards, one comes straight over and one waits a few seasons, which one would you rather have on your squad today?
    There’s really nothing he could do about the buyout. Kahn had to figure there was AT LEAST a 50% chance Rubio was in Europe next season (maybe a 90% chance). The Thunder hired a Barcelona law firm to bone up on the issue, and maybe Presti and/or ownership would have taken Rubio but weren’t willing to wait.

    “I just think signing a vet pg (Sessions? White Chocolate?) for two years and addressing another position and/or getting extra assets/picks would’ve been the smarter way to go.”

    In a vacuum I agree. But Rubio was easily the best player available on the majority of draft boards. Flynn was apparently a player the Wolves were high on from day 1.
    To give an obvious example, the Blazers passed on MJ to take Bowie because they already had Clyde Drexler at SG. Would you rather have an MJ/Drexler log-jam at SG or Sam Bowie on your team???
    I would still be looking to sign Sessions if I’m Kahn, even with Flynn. Ease Flynn into the league and either sign Sessions for two seasons or trade him before Rubio comes. The bidding for Sessions is so low that the Wolves should get in on it, unless they’re completely broke (the money they’re saving on Rubio would go $3+ mill of the way towards signing Sessions).

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