Trade Deadline Math

Barely a week before the February 19th trade deadline, the Knicks are keeping a low profile.  Even though the team sits just 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, Donnie Walsh almost certainly won’t be bringing in reinforcements for the stretch run.  In fact, the biggest speculation is over whether he’ll trade his best player for a draft pick.  By all accounts, Walsh’s primary goal is to clear cap space in 2010.  This is an update on where that stands.

A few things have combined to squeeze the Knicks’ options. One is the strong play of David Lee and Nate Robinson, which has likely made their extensions more expensive.  Another is the collapsing economy. More teams than ever are desperately looking to dump salary, which makes moving Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries more of a pipe dream than ever.  And it gets worse.  Looking down the road, the salary cap has risen by $2-3 million each of the past two years, but some forecasters now predict it will stay flat or shrink.  The headline here is that if the Knicks extend both Lee and Robinson, they may not have enough cap room for even one max free agent, much less two.  Good as he’s been, that’s an argument for trading Robinson. However, even at a $6.5 million contract, he’s probably tradeable next year, so it’s not a make-or-break decision.

You can also see why it’s likely that the Knicks will try to move Harringon, Q and even Duhon – if not now, then by the 2010 trade deadline. When their contracts end in 2010, they linger as “cap holds” until the Knicks re-sign them or formally renounce them. Duhon’s cap hold, the smallest of the three, would still take up $7.8 million of that cap space.  On the other hand, as trade chips, each of those guys could be worth a (late) first-round pick, although those rookie contracts would take up a few million dollars of cap room.

So… here goes. Since the last overview, I’ve modified my cap forecast, and my guesstimate on the cost of extending Lee & Robinson.  Keep in mind that the Knicks can offer Lee a 6-year, $60 million contract by starting the deal around $8.5 millon and including maximum annual raises. I’m now projecting that the cap will stay flat this year, and grow by $1 million each of the following years.  All this math involves a lot of estimates and guesswork.  It also assumes that we don’t sign any new players between now and 2010.  No mid-levels!  These rosters include 12 players; that assumes we would reach the 13-player minimum by signing a (star) free agent. To find more cap space, our options include renouncing Lee and/or Robinson, trading them for picks or shorter contracts, trading Curry or Jeffries for players with shorter contracts or trading away the 2009 draft pick.

2010-2011 (summer of 2010)

  • Eddy Curry                     11,276,863
  • David Lee                         9,000,000 (est)
  • Jared Jeffries                    6,883,800
  • Nate Robinson                 6,500,000 (est)
  • Wilson Chandler              2,130,482
  • Danilo Gallinari                3,304,560
  • 2009 1st rounder             1,845,400  (at current #11)
  • 5 roster fillers                  2,368,020 (absolute minimum – 5 rookie FAs, paid the minimum)

total:       $43,309,125
                 59,000,000

2011-2012 (summer of 2011)

  • David Lee                          9,500,000 (est)
  • Nate Robinson                  6,500,000 (est)
  • Wilson Chandler               6,500,000 (est)
  • Danilo Gallinari                4,190,182
  • 2009 1st rounder             1,974,200  (est #11)
  • 2011 1st rounder             1,100,000 (est # 20)
  • 6 roster-fillers                 2,841,624  (6 rookie FAs – absolute minimum)

total:                             $29,606,006
projected cap                  60,000,000

*all numbers from ShamSports

 

A Knicksmas Wish List

A Reprint of My Letter to Santa

Dear Santa:

I haven’t been half-bad this year; good might be a stretch but definitely not bad. Perhaps on my own merits I’ve received far more than I deserve this year already. But Santa, I’m a Knicks fan since 1984. Times have been lean for my beloved Knickerbockers for a long time now–a really long time. I recognize that, although hard times never last forever, times are likely to remain tough around Madison Square Garden for the foreseeable future. So, I have this small wish list. I’m not asking you to change the fate of the franchise. For the most part the Knicks have made their own messes. I am asking for a few things that might really help me struggle through yet another season likely to be filled with lots and lots of losses.

1. Another Point Guard – we just need another guy (preferably on the cheap) to run the show adequately for 12-15 minutes per game, preferably a guy who can keep opposing guards from running right to the front of the rim (umm… not Marbury; that would just be cruel). Oh, and a three point shot would be nice;

2. The Return of Eddy Curry – I recognize it may be too much to ask for him to be in anything resembling basketball shape, but some efficient post scoring would be nice;

3. Value for David Lee – I’m not necessarily for trading Lee. My preference is to wait the market out, but I recognize that a salary cap-motivated trade involving Lee could well be on the horizon. If it is to be, Dear Santa, don’t let the Knicks get screwed. If we’re not going to get back comparable talent for Lee I want a replacement for our lost first rounder.

So that’s my list to the fat man. Is that really too much to ask? I mean, I didn’t even ask for LeBron. What’s on your list?

Curry To Go

With the Knicks finally poised for considerable salary cap space in 2010-11, the LeBron James countdown has officially begun. More than a year and a half before it’s possible, New York is already salivating at the chance to welcome James to the fold. But it’s no foregone conclusion that The King will join the Knicks. James says championship contention is his top priority, and we should take his word for it. If that’s the case, the Knicks have a long way to go to before they can secure James. Building a championship level supporting cast will be a difficult journey. And it’s one that must begin with the trade of Eddy Curry.

The Knicks will be expected to lure a second superstar to play sidekick to James. According to current salary commitments, the Knicks will have enough room under the cap to offer two free agents the max if they don’t re-up their current core of young players–Nate Robinson, David Lee–and pick up the team options on Wilson Chandler ($2.1M) and Danilo Gallinari ($3.3M). To keep their youngsters, and still sign two max FA’s, the Knicks must unload Eddy Curry’s contract ($11.2M) without taking on 2010-2011 dollars.

Curry has his flaws, but due mostly (or exclusively, really) to his scoring talents, he’s still an above average center in a league that starts Udonis Haslem, Zaza Pachulia, and Robert Swift at the pivot. Curry’s not playing right now, so a trade is highly unlikely. But we can dream of the day the Knicks’ league-leading pace will artificially inflate his per game numbers. Better yet, we can speculate on how exactly to get rid of him.

Mr. Curry to the Courtesy Phone
For the sake of argument, I’m assuming that teams that would want a player like Curry are in need of: (a) bench/low post scoring; (b) big man depth; (c) are playoff bound in 2008-09; (d) and won’t have cap space in 2010 anyway.

Also, for the sake of argument, I’m assuming that the Knicks are literally willing to give Curry away. If I were Donnie Walsh, I’d trade Curry for a sack of potatoes, as long as the tubers’ contract expired on July 1st, 2010. Of course, the Knicks could get lucky and find a team that’s willing to trade an unprotected first round pick for Curry, but for that to happen, they’d probably have to trade Isiah Thomas to the Clippers first.

None of the following deals are likely, but to prevent the absurd, I’ve omitted possible trades to teams like Chicago and Milwaukee that may need a player with Eddy Curry’s skill set, but don’t want Eddy Curry.

CHARLOTTE Nazr Mohammed & Adam Morrison for Eddy Curry
Off-court, Charlotte would prefer to unload Gerald Wallace’s contract. On-court, they need a center to move Emeka Okafor back to his more natural power forward position. Okafor’s defense can cover for Curry’s lapses, and vice versa. They’d be great platoon partners.

Charlotte won‘t make the playoffs this year, but they are looking to reorganize their team. Various rumors suggest they’re ready to give up on Morrison, and could use Curry’s scoring instead. The salaries match, but Nazr has 2010 money on the books, so the Knicks would only save about $4 million. The Knicks would decline Morrison’s option and renounce his rights.

With Nazr for Curry, they’d have an easier salary to unload in the off-season, and that $4 million in savings can help off-set the salary commitment for their 2009 first round draft pick.

NEW ORLEARNS Mike James & Hilton Armstrong for Eddy Curry
The Hornets are getting absolutely nothing out of James and Armstrong, with the former losing his rotation spot to Devin Brown and the latter doing his best impression of a lamp-post fifteen minutes a game. With front court depth a major issue heading into the post-season, the Hornets could jettison two players who don’t contribute for a third big man who can provide scoring punch when Tyson Chandler or David West take their breathers.

Curry has always been an embarrassingly bad rebounder, so it may come as a surprise that he could actually help the Hornets in that regard. Believe it or not, his career rebound rate is slightly superior to Armstrong’s. And Curry would do it while scoring twice as much. We focus on Curry’s flaws so often, we often forget how many teams play total stiffs just by virtue of them being the tallest guy in the gym.

The Hornets are playoff bound and will need some help to get past the Lakers. Curry doesn’t come cheap, but one wonders if they’d be willing to roll the dice with the man-child, picking him up to provide the front-court depth and second-team scoring they so desperately need.

DENVER Steven Hunter and Chucky Atkins for Eddy Curry
Like the Hornets, the Nuggets can trade two players who have spent most of the year in business suits for a productive big man. Considering they’ve played Renaldo Balkman at the pivot, they could use a center that puts the ball in the basket.

Hunter and Atkins come to the Knicks for blatant salary implications, while Denver gets another scorer. In fact, with Denver’s trade exemptions, they could acquire Curry without giving anything more than a 2nd round draft pick in return. But considering that Denver is reluctant to pay the luxury tax, the Knick could do them the favor of taking back some monetary flotsam in return.

Playing the Field
There are other deals that make less sense. Would Dallas trade Jerry Stackhouse and Antoine Wright for Curry? It would help their bench scoring, but eat up their 2010 salary cap flexibility. Maybe Atlanta could unload two unproductive point guards in Speedy Claxton and Acie Law for Curry. Washington could trade the Knicks two centers who don’t even play: Etan Thomas and Darius Songalia. But stuck in the Eastern Conference basement, and with a pair of intriguing, young bigs, would they bother? Would Sacramento shuffle about salaries, getting Shareef-Abdur Rahim and Mikki Moore off the books for Curry?

Knicks fans are dreaming of bringing James to New York in 2010. But unless the Knicks can unload Curry’s contract before then, it’s unlikely they’ll be in position to assemble the championship-level supporting cast James demands. Considering the cost of Curry, the Knicks will have to get creative to clear him in time for what could be a very special summer.

Crawford traded for Harrington

Rumors reported at the Knicks Fix and the New York Post. So what would these deals mean to the teams involved?

UPDATE: ESPN is reporting the deal is a Crawford for Harrington straight swap.

Crawford for Harrington

Does it work for the Knicks: Yes.

Walsh lavished tons of praise on Crawford when he arrived in New York, but who knows what he was really thinking. Obviously getting under the cap is a priority for the Knicks, so it’s possible that he’s willing to sacrifice Jamal for the greater good. Or it’s also possible that Walsh’s kind words were a way to increase his value so to trade him. Maybe watching Jamal’s inability to fight through anything resembling a screen up close soured Walsh on Jamal. The Knicks are deep at guard, and if they get desperate enough they can activate Marbury.

Does it work for the Warriors: Yes.

Harrington has been feuding with coach Don Nelson & has appeared in only 5 games this year, so the Warriors aren’t really losing anything by trading him. In Crawford they get another scorer, something Nellie can’t have enough of in his system. And Golden State is short a guard with Ellis’ injury. It’s possible that Nelson can get Jamal to improve his play, but even as-is he’ll help them out more than Harrington currently is

Malik Rose for Harrington

Does it work for the Knicks: Yes.

They’re not saving any cap here, since Malik’s deal runs out this year. But they’re getting a more serviceable player in Harrington. Rose is one of the smarter players in the league, but watching him trying to score in the paint with George Constanza’s ups has become almost comical.

Does it work for the Warriors: No.

It doesn’t make sense for Golden State other than slashing a year off Rose’s deal. Hoopshype has them at $39M next summer with Harrington, but they don’t have Ellis & Biedrins at $21M total. So they would be at about $50M next year – I’m not sure if that’s a big enough savings to dump Harrington. They would not benefit this year with this kind of deal. Unless the Knicks are sweetening the pot (and I don’t mean Mardy Collins), they could do a lot better than Malik Rose.

Quentin Richardson for Harrington

Does it work for the Knicks: Maybe.

Unlike Rose, Richardson is mildly useful, and the Knicks are paper thin at small forward. Richardson is actually shooting well (3P%: 38.6%, eFG%: 54.3%, TS%: 56.8) and can rebound (6.8 REB/36). However he seems to have lost his ability to create shots, and doesn’t score much (13.0 PTS/36). Harrington could play SF, but like his former coach Mike D’Antoni likes to play small, which means Harrington would probably see a lot of minutes at the 4 as well. Harrington would be an upgrade over Richardson, but it’s a lateral move.

Does it work for the Warriors: No, not really.

Richardson’s contract is almost as big, and just as long as Al Harrington. Is Quentin Richardson an upgrade over Al Harrington? So why is Golden State doing this move? Other than to dump Harrington for a semi-live body, beats me.

Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Clippers
Jamal Crawford to the Warriors
Cuttino Mobley, Al Harrington, and Tim Thomas to the Knicks

Does it work for the Knicks: Yes.

This would hurt the team this year, as the Knicks would be thin in the frontcourt. David Lee, Al Harrington, Wilson Chandler, Tim Thomas, Jared Jeffries?, Eddy Curry?, Danilo Gallinari?, and Jerome James? One thing is for certain – Lee’s rebounding would almost have to go up due to the lack of competition. The timing would be almost just right with Jeffries scheduled to come back from injury in the next week. And they would get enough players to offset the major minutes lost to Randolph & Crawford.

But from a salary cap perspective, this deal is nearly a home run. New York sheds nearly $29M in 2010 and the only overpriced contract would be Eddy Curry’s $11M (and perhaps Jared Jeffries $7M). It would be the first step toward respectability, and would be a major victory for Walsh to get rid of these contracts only a month into the season.

Does it work for the Warriors: Yes.

It’s the same deal as #1.

Does it work for the Clippers: Yes.

Los Angeles tried to extract a draft pick for taking Randolph’s contract off New York’s hands over the summer. It’s ironic that the Knicks appeared to be the desperate ones this summer, and the Clippers operating from a position of strength. However 11 games into the season, and the tables have turned.The Clippers are 2-9 with the league’s second worst offense. With their new acquisitions Baron Davis (29 yrs) and Marcus Camby (34 yrs) being on the downside of their career, the Clippers need to start winning now. Randolph will give Los Angeles some scoring and should compliment the defensively minded Camby & Kaman.

Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part IV

Part I here.
Part II here.
Part III here.

FRONTCOURT:

During the summer it was assumed that both Stephon Marbury and Zach Randolph would be playing for other teams once the season started. Yet somehow both managed to stay on the New York roster. Randolph was twice mentioned in trade talks, but both times it seemed that the other party wanted too much to take his contract off New York’s hands. Unable to move Randolph, it was thought that the Knicks would play him only to keep his trade value high.

But a funny thing happened on the way to salary cap freedom, Randolph has begun to fit into D’Antoni’s system. He has had the third most minutes in preseason, and was second in points per game. Like Crawford, Zach was fond of caressing the ball and pounding it into the hardwood for 10 seconds before shooting it. I thought that and Randolph’s lackadaisical running of the floor would make him a poor fit in the Knicks’ new offense. However Randolph has adapted his play and his efficiency in preseason has improved (TS%: 57.2%, eFG%: 53.9%).

The Knicks are still looking to move Randolph because he doesn’t fit into their long term plans. A good season (or half season) from Zach would benefit the team not just on the court, but in front office negotiations as well. As long as Randolph gives the same effort throughout the season that he has in preseason, and avoids any off the court incidents the Knicks should be able to move him to a team looking for scoring and rebounding. Already there are rumors that some teams are interested in acquiring him, and the season hasn’t even begun yet.

Randolph and Marbury weren’t the only two Knicks expecting to change zip codes. David Lee’s name was often named in trade talks, giving WOW loving Knick fans summer nightmares. It wasn’t that Walsh wanted to move Lee, but rather other teams saw him as the Knicks most valuable player. Lee’s skill set allows him to fit on just about every NBA team and make a positive contribution, hence why so many teams are interested in acquiring him.

A fan favorite, Lee doesn’t have many weaknesses on the offensive end. He’s great at finishing around the hoop, and he’s been able to slowly expand his repertoire away from the hoop. While Lee doesn’t have the bevy of moves that Zach Randolph does, he’s able to drive to the hoop from the mid post and finish with a handful of different moves. Additionally his jumpshot has come a long way since his rookie year, as Lee hit 40.5% from outside (compare to Randolph’s 38.9%). Critics of Lee’s low volume scoring (9.4 FGA/36) should note that his turnovers are low (1.5 TO/36) and his shooting percentages are through the roof (career: TS%: 62.1%, eFG%: 57.5).

Unfortunately Lee’s inspired play doesn’t translate to the other end of the floor. His blocked shots (0.4 BLK/36) and steals (0.8 STL/36) are low, and his man to man defense is suspect. Lee’s only contribution to defense is his tenacious rebounding (11.1 REB/36). If Lee were above average in any defensive aspect, he’d be an All Star. His mediocre defense will keep him on the caliber of NBA starter, albeit a very good one.

Afro-Samurai Goes to Greece

Sekou Smith, the excellent Hawks beat writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is reporting that the man with the maddest ‘fro this side of the Afro-Samurai will sign with Olympiakos, and for more than the above-the-mid-level contract Atlanta was offering (rumored at $33 million). Atlanta retains his NBA rights for two years, and the contract contains opt outs at the end of each season.

Considering Childress’ deal alongside Brandon Jennings’ recent deal with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma raises the question of whether this is a trickle in what could become a steady stream of players leaving the NBA for other pro leagues under the FIBA umbrella. It is difficult to know, but any seasoned NBA fan can tell you that the path from the NBA to overseas leagues is already well-worn; but mostly by foreign-born and US-born fringe NBA players (e.g., Carlos Delfino and Anthony Parker respectively). Jennings and Childress represent a somewhat different (though perhaps not categorically different) kind of US-born Euroleague signee. They are highly-regarded talents who walked away from two entrenched institutional practices that have quasi-legal status: the NCAA’s virtual monopoly on entry to the NBA for US-born players and the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement (specifically restricted free agency). Although a direct comparison between Jennings and Childress to baseball’s Curt Flood would put too fine a point on it, their their willingness to move outside–way outside–the NCAA/NBA nexus could ultimately take on similar significance. (Rather than challenging a clear violation of the law as Flood did Jennings and Childress have exposed a clear point of vulnerability for both the NCAA and NBA: competition.)

Since KB has already written about Jennings I’ll limit my remaining comments to the Childress signing. First, globalization doesn’t just work for the US. Legitimate competition for US-born athletic talent is to my mind a good thing. In fact, sports may be one of the very few arenas where it’s possible for those who labor to gain enough leverage to negotiate salary and working conditions on a vaguely equal footing with management. When one of these guys wins at that game I can’t help but root for him. Second, at the risk of engaging in some Schadenfreude, this couldn’t have happened to a more deserving ownership group. The Atlanta ownership situation continues to be an embarrassment. Their players, to their everlasting credit and Mike Woodson’s, have developed in spite of the considerable obstacles created by ownership. As a Knicks fan I have complete empathy for Atlanta’s fans who think, “What did we ever do to deserve this?” Or, my personal favorite, “What else can go wrong?” Third, I hardly anticipate a mass exodus of US-born players to the various European leagues beyond what we currently see. The culture shock is considerable, and at the risk of stereotyping, many athletes are if nothing else creatures of familiarity and habit. If anything, I expect to see even fewer European stars jump across the pond to the NBA. The dollar is just too weak. If the structural weaknesses in the US economy aren’t the sort of thing you pay attention to, consider the Childress signing as yet another indication that the economy will probably get a lot worse before it gets better.

I eagerly anticipate the owners’ response to this and then Billy Hunter’s. This isn’t just about losing Childress, who may not be worth what he’s getting. (I’ll leave that to another post.) The bigger issue is that Childress and Olympiakos exploited the NBA’s failure to really consider that talent pipelines can travel in both directions. Olympiakos works without salary cap restriction and Atlanta has no “right” to match Childress’ offer (the essence of restricted free agency); a point of vulnerability that had up to this point only impacted foreign-born draftees and fringe players. Now you can bank it that the owners will use this issue to push for any number of unrelated concessions in the CBA under threat of lockout; it’s what they do. More to the point however, I expect that some teams will now look to place buyout clauses in player contracts where possible.