[If you came here looking for Part 2 of “Five Stats The NBA Should Keep“, I apologize. KnickerBlogger.Net’s Official Trade Deadline Specialist, David Crockett, had an opinion that he urgently needed to share with everyone before the trade deadline. If pre-emptive scheduling angers you, David is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of South Carolina, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tomorrow Part 2 will be here, and that gives me extra time to speel cehck it.]
1. The Knicks have taken the crucial first step ? admitting it?s time to rebuild ? in their journey toward wholeness. But they could undo this progress with a foolish trade.
Of course any rebuilding will likely include some trades. Should the right move come along then by all means Isiah should make it happen. Unfortunately the right move rarely comes along for rebuilding teams at the trade deadline; particularly for capped out teams reduced to exchanging bad contracts.
Isiah has had to learn the hard way that although the NBA?s beautiful people can add a little makeup to cover up barely noticeable blemishes the league?s butt-ugly must take the time to work on their personalities. The Knicks are about as butt-ugly as it gets in the NBA. A little makeup here or there might not hurt but it isn?t gonna solve the problem.
2. Few if any great moves are out there
Q: If you find that you?ve dug yourself into a hole what is the first thing you must do to get yourself out of it?
A: Stop digging.
The Knicks must avoid taking on any more bad contracts. Most of the players widely rumored to be on the move (e.g., Baron Davis, Donyell Marshall, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Keith Van Horn, Michael Redd) simply aren?t what the Knicks need. They are either too old, too expensive, slowed by injury, or D ? all of the above. The Knicks need a shot-blocking, rebounding center, but who is desperate to get rid of such players? The Knicks need a defense-first backup point but cannot offer much in return without taking on a bad contract.
The answer to that question again: stop digging.
3. Roster-wrecking makes player assessment so much more difficult
This season, fairly or unfairly, is a referendum on the wisdom of building a team around Stephon Marbury. (If you have not seen this write up on Marbury in the New York Times (registration required) it?s pretty interesting and more balanced than is typical.) If management is committed to building around Marbury it must answer two questions about him based on his play the rest of this season.
First, can he lead? That is, what will he do to keep this team from disintegrating as the losses mount? How is he aiding in the development of Crawford, Ariza, and Sweetney? Second, will he commit to playing defense? The more roster fluctuation there is the more difficult it will be for management to truly make this assessment. Of course Marbury isn?t the only player for whom the stakes are high for the rest of this season. The informal ?no trade clauses? Isiah has attached to Sweetney and Ariza will no doubt expire this summer unless they continue to improve.
Having said that, I would like to see Isiah make a move to improve the end of the bench. With New York fading rapidly from Chicago?s rearview mirror I?d like to re-visit the possibility of re-acquiring Frank Williams to play the backup role he played last season. Brewer and Sundov for Chicago?s Williams and Jared Reiner seems a workable swap of 11th and 12th men. (Of the four only Brewer averages over 10 mpg.)
4. What the Knicks can offer in trade will have more value this summer.
Other than Kurt Thomas, the Knicks basically have contracts due to expire at the end of next season to offer in trade. I was hoping that Tim Thomas would play well enough this season to be a useful rental for a contender with an expiring contract after next season at the deadline. But alas, he?s having the worst season of his career and for all practical purposes cannot be traded. By contrast Kurt Thomas?s trade value may be as high right now as it will ever be. Still, Isiah is likely better off peddling his wares this off-season.
5. Draft position
I believe ? or at least I am sincerely hoping ? that the team?s slight momentum heading into the All-Star break foreshadows good things to come. Though the Knicks are clearly no longer serious contenders for the playoffs I do not think the team should be diving for ping-pong balls.
Still, it appears that Isiah already has an eye toward the June draft. The best centers in the upcoming draft appear to be Andrew Bogut, the Aussie who plays for Utah, and Brazilian Tiago Splitter. Both will likely be off the board in the top five picks. The Knicks, at their current pace, are looking at a pick in the 6-10 area. However this draft appears to be packed to the gills with players who could contribute immediately at backup point guard. Some of the defense-oriented guards (e.g., Deron Williams of Illinois and Mardy Collins of Temple) are likely to be available outside the top ten.