At the end of David Crockett’s appraisal of the Jeffries signing, he states “So, numerous paragraphs later I’m still not sure how I feel about this. What about you all?” and Brian Cronin said in his Jeffries post “either Dave or Mike will be tomorrow to give us a more in-depth look at the signing.” So I guess it’s my turn. Like Dr. C, I’ll break it down on 3 separate issues.
1. Has Thomas overpaid for Jeffries? Personally I’d say yes, not necessarily in price but in years. In fact he’s similar to two SF that the Knicks had last year: Trevor Ariza & Matt Barnes. And neither has anything close to a 5 year deal (although Ariza’s deal wasn’t publicized it’s thought to be 3 years or less). Jeffries is young, but I don’t think his trade value will rise much over the next 5 years. Unlike most basketball players his weakness is easily seen through statistics, and his non-existent offensive game isn’t likely to become much better than it is now. GMs may not be able to determine a player’s defensive worth, but they’ll easily be able to see Jeffries offensive worth (or lack thereof) therefore lowering his trade value. For Isiah to hit the bullseye on this one, Jeffries has to start getting votes for the NBA All Defensive Team.
2. Do we need Jeffries? Again I’d argue no. With Jeffries on the roster I count 6 guys that can play small forward: Balkman, Q-Rich, Jalen, Lee, Malik, and Jeffries. Let’s assume that Lee & Malik Rose are more PF than SF, then the Knicks have 4 SFs. Consider that New York has 5 guards total for both guard spots and you can see a minutes crunch at the swingman spot. Additionally Jeffries skill set closely mirrors that of first round pick Balkman, so it will cut into Renaldo’s minutes and hamper his development. As Balkman does develop, having Jeffries on the roster will be redundant. Hence why the long contract (see #1) might not have been a good idea to begin with.
3. Does this make sense on a team level? I’m not a big fan of the “we’re already under the cap so this long term contract doesn’t hurt” argument. Let’s say Isiah is fired after (or during) the season and the next GM decides he wants to get under the cap. Jeffries contract will be yet another piece that needs to be moved. While it may be easier to move than some of the other Knickerbockers (Francis, Marbury, Jerome James, etc.) it’s still on the deficit side of the leger rather than the asset side. Any contract Isiah signs that is over the league value doesn’t help the Knicks regardless of the team’s salary cap status.
Secondly it’s hard to ignore that this decision comes on the heels of Jackie Butler’s departure. One week the Knicks don’t have the room or money to resign their 21 year old promising young center, and the next they’re paying more than double for a player with a lower ceiling. A year or two from now it would have been much easier to move Jackie Butler than Jeffries if for nothing else than Butler’s age & reasonable contract. In fact I would imagine some team might take a young, cheap, and talented player in Butler as a bonus for eating up a big ugly contract (Steve Francis). The Knicks’ roster doesn’t run deep at the center position, as the Knicks only have 2 true centers. When Curry is in foul trouble, Isiah Thomas may be forced into giving Jerome James substantial minutes which isn’t a palatable scenario. And on the nights that Curry and James are both in foul trouble, Frye will be forced to man the five, or heavens forbid Maurice Taylor or Malik Rose. Isiah should have been focusing on the team’s thinness at center rather than adding to the glutton at small forward.
So the Knicks overpaid for a player, that addresses a need that was already addressed in the draft, and in the process hurt themselves by not retaining one of their young prospects. For Jeffries to make this deal work, he’s going to have to become the lock down defender Isiah envisions or become a better offensive player. And I’m not banking on either.
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