Will Leitch, of Deadspin fame, wrote in New York Magazine how the Knicks can survive the next 18 months. In the article he offers 6 steps the team should take:
1. Don’t match a multiyear offer for Nate Robinson.
2. Don’t sign David Lee unless the market forces you. If it does, trade him.
3. Call Eddy Curry to make sure he’s on the treadmill.
4. Draft Stephen Curry.
5. Trade for Tracy McGrady.
6. Stay patient.
So what would the team’s roster look like if they followed Leitch’s advice? Well let’s assume that the Knicks don’t resign Nate Robinson and allows him to leave as a free agent. And let’s also assume that another team is willing to sign David Lee to a large deal ($10M). According to Leitch, the Knicks should resign him, but then look to trade the young power forward. But what could New York get in return for Lee?
One option could be trading Lee to the Bulls for Tyrus Thomas. There are rumors that Chicago has been shopping their young forward around. To make the salaries match, Tim Thomas $6.5M expiring contract would need to be added to the deal. Tyrus is scheduled to make $6.2M in 2011 which means the Knicks would save about $4M in the swap.
The most controversial piece of Leitch’s plan is trading for Tracy McGrady. In light of the Rockets success without him, it’s possible that they would look to move their superstar. Leitch suggests Hughes and Mobley could do the trick. For Houston, losing McGrady could be addition by subtraction, and they would also gain about $7.5M because Mobley’s insurance would pay 80% of his salary. Personally I think it would take more to get T-Mac, but for argument’s sake let’s assume the deal would go through. So where does that leave the Knicks?
PF: Tyrus/Harrington/Tim Thomas/
Leitch’s 2010 Knicks will be more weak at the guard position than the 2009 version. After trading Jamal Crawford and Mardy Collins, exiling Stephon Marbury, and wasting a courtside seat on Anthony Roberson, last year’s team was starving for guards. Replacing Nate Robinson with Stephen Curry would make the position less stable for the Knicks. Robinson was a candidate for 6th man of the year, and it’s unknown if Curry can handle the point guard duties at the NBA level. An injury to Duhon would be disastrous for the team.
As for T-Mac, he has been in a steady decline over the last few seasons, isn’t very efficient even when healthy, and will be coming off a serious injury. The Knicks have a poor track record with former All Stars coming off knee injuries (McDyess, Houston). With McGrady, New York would take a major hit in shooting efficiency as T-Mac hasn’t posted a TS% above 53% in 7 seasons. The team would be losing their 1st and 4th most efficient scorers (Lee 59.0% TS%, Robinson 54.9%). Tyrus Thomas, albeit an athletic shotblocker that the Knicks sorely need, doesn’t help in this area either (52.5% TS% last year, 51.5% career).
As for the 2011 roster, New York would only have 5 players under contract. With Lee and Robinson gone, they would have about $9M more to spend in free agency. That could mean the team would have enough room for two major free agents, however the cupboard would be more bare. The core of the team would be filled with unproven players like Gallinari, Chandler, Tyrus Thomas, and Stephen Curry. The lack of depth could hamper their efforts to lure one or more top free agents.
There are situations where the Knicks could lose both Lee & Robinson and still be successful, but I think the team needs to tread carefully. I don’t think it’s a good idea to let Robinson leave without receiving something in return, even if they draft Curry. The two can co-exist, even if it’s just long enough until the Knicks can move Robinson mid-season. If Nate does leave, the team needs to grab another point guard, preferably one that will develop into the 2011 starter.
Moving Lee to save cap space isn’t a bad idea, but getting the right player(s) is pivotal. Lee is an above average player, the kind that you could insert into just about any team and quietly gain results. And he’s just entering his prime years. Maybe the Knicks could address their needs at guard and center by swapping Lee for Milicic/Conley. Milicic would help out with the center rotation (and blocking shots) in 2010 and have his contract expire that summer. While Conley would only cost the team $4.9M in 2011, and provide them a better long term solution at point guard.
Currently Lee and Robinson are New York’s two best young players, so the team would be worse in 2010 without the pair. But more importantly moving them without getting solid prospects in return could really hurt the Knicks in 2011 as well.