Shortly after ESPN announced Zach Randolph was traded to the Knicks, a commenter named Harlan said
“are we really getting upset by dumping frye and francis and getting someone who put up 26 and 10, we have a huge lineup now who can score, they cant double team either and randolph has an outside jumpshot.”
Yes, Harlan. Some of us are really getting upset.
If you asked Knick fans what their team’s main weaknesses are, I would suspect most would say: defense, turnovers, injuries, and cap space. Unfortunately for New York, Zach Randolph doesn’t address any of these issues. Randolph is an awful shot blocker, his 0.2 blk/40 last year made Eddy Curry (0.6 blk/40) look like Raef LaFrentz (1.2 blk/40). As for turnovers, Randolph’s 3.5 to/40 would be second on last year’s Knick team behind only Eddy Curry. There’s no doubt that injuries sunk the Knicks late in the season, and Randolph won’t address that need as he has missed an average of 17.5 games each season over his 6 year career. Finally Zach’s large contract will haunt the Knicks for years to come. Next year he’ll make a little over $13M, and it escalates to $17M in 2011. New York could have conceivably been under the cap in 2009, but notions of signing a free agent have now gone out the window for 4 years.
As for what was given up, it’s no secret that I’ve soured on Channing Frye this year. Frye seemed to be uncomfortable on the court, and it’s uncertain exactly what caused it. However he did flash some talent his first year, and trading him this early in his career could haunt the Knicks in the future. Only last year did Isiah make a “no-brainer” trade involving a young player for a seemingly better veteran that is eerily similar to this deal. Lamentably Trevor Ariza blossomed for the Orlando Magic, while Steve Francis wilted in New York.
On the court this upcoming year, I’m dubious that this trade will make New York better. I imagine Randolph will start next to Curry, relegating David Lee to the bench. This is unfortunate since Lee was arguably the Knicks best player last year. Randolph is a strong scorer and rebounder, but Lee is more efficient and one of the top rebounders in the league. Neither Curry nor Randolph pass well out of double teams, so expect the Knicks’ to cough up the ball even more next year. Additionally one has to wonder if Randolph will make Curry less effective, since both players are post up players who require the ball to be effective. Lee’s “low usage plays away from the ball” game seems to better complement Curry. Of course this trade doesn’t address New York’s defensive weakness, their greatest liability, at least in any positive manner.
In the end, I’m saddened that Isiah didn’t address New York’s most crucial needs at the power forward spot with his trade. Isiah Thomas makes the same mistakes over and over again. He sacrifices young talent (sometimes in the form of draft picks) for overpriced players who show little aptitude on the defensive end. As a friend remarked, Thomas seems to be a fantasy basketball GM, getting players who have flashy offensive per-game numbers with little thought of how they fit together. Unfortunately, New York needs an NBA GM with a cohesive plan on building a team.