Looking at Isiah Thomas’ trades one-by-one, it’s hard to find many that I’d throw in the ‘losing’ pile. It’s hard to argue with getting a talent like Stephon Marbury, especially considering what New York gave up. Trading Keith Van Horn was an unpopular move, but Nazr Mohammed’s development made the deal a steal for New York. While trading him a year later looked bad in the short term, the Knicks received two draft picks to potentially rebuild upon. I’m sure there wasn’t a wet eye in the house when Clarence Weatherspoon was sent to Houston, Shandon Anderson was bought out, or Slavko Vranes was cut.
On the other hand, there are few deals Isiah Thomas has done that I would disagree with. I wasn’t crazy about the Crawford deal (although I was more upset of Frank Williams being included in the trade) and I called the Maurice Taylor trade “a head-scratcher“. If you’re scoring at home, Isiah’s seems to come out with the long end of the stick more often than not. So why haven’t the Knicks shown improvement over that time?
The answer is simple; while Isiah Thomas has done well deal-to-deal he hasn’t had a overall plan with New York. The most comprehensive scheme I’ve heard from the Knicks president is that he wants to get “younger and more athletic”. Undoubtedly the Knicks are younger & more athletic than they were when he arrived, but last year they finished 4 games worse than 2003, Scott Layden’s last full year.
It’s because “younger and athletic” doesn’t mean better. If you look back at the 1994 team, how many of these players would you call young & athletic out of Ewing, Oakley, Starks, Anthony, Davis, Mason, and Harper? Chris Anderson may more nimble than Tim Duncan, but “the Bird Man” has trouble scoring even when he’s got the court to himself for 60 seconds. Physical ability is important in sports, but in the NBA, you also need skill and talent as well.
As far as I can tell, the Knicks have two major problems: defense and money. The Knicks were 26th on defense last year, and they had the highest team salary in the league. The Kurt Thomas for Quentin Richardson trade may be a good deal on it’s own, but it really doesn’t address either of New York’s major issues. In fact it typifies Isiah’s reign as New York GM. Get an athletic guy in his mid 20s who’s available because we’re willing to take on a lengthy contract.
Just observe Isiah’s 4 biggest acquisitions. None of Marbury, Thomas, Crawford, or (if the rumors are true) Richardson are even passable defenders. While Stephon is a legitimate offensive force who makes up for his deficiencies on the other end of the court, the same can’t be said of the other three. In regards to the ledgers, Tim Thomas’ contract mercifully ends after next season, but the others will be around for at least 4 more seasons. Pundits will call this trade a good deal for New York, because Richardson is younger, his contract is only a year longer, and they need a small forward more than a power forward. To me, this deal is more of the same. The Knicks won’t improve until they fix their defense and get smarter with the books.