Leitch’s Knicks

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?

PG: Duhon/S.Curry
SG: Chandler/S.Curry
SF: McGrady/Gallinari
PF: Tyrus/Harrington/Tim Thomas/
C: E.Curry/Jeffries/Sene

PG: S.Curry
SG: Chandler
SF: Gallinari
PF: Tyrus
C: E.Curry/Jeffries

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.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

29 thoughts to “Leitch’s Knicks”

  1. You hear this line of thinking all the time. , that the Knicks can’t afford to keep Robinson and/or Lee. The thing is, trading these guys to save money isn’t long-term thinking; it’s the complete opposite.

    One problem is basic: you can’t build a team by giving up assets for nothing. Problem two: it underestimates the value of these players. If you have an extra $10 million from not signing Lee, who can you sign bethat’s better? Next summer there probably won’t be half a dozen better players on the market, and probably not more than two or three switching teams – with a dozen or more teams bidding. So it’s a huge gamble. Not to mention, the upgrade from Lee to Free Agent X (unless it’s LeBron or Wade) isn’t nearly as good as the upgrade from Lee to Lee + Free Agent Y in 2011 or 2012. You could say the same things, to a lesser degree, about Nate.

    That said, everyone has a price and neither of these guys is going to be an incredible bargain any more. I don’t think Conley/Milicic is worth it for Lee, but it’s not crazy. Maybe if they threw in their other first round pick (#25?) or a future pick.

    re: McGrady, New York is one of the few teams that can afford to pay $23 million to a guy who’s going to be injured the first half of the season (at least) and half-speed the rest of the way. Having said that, what’s the point unless you dump salary or grab an asset in the process? Houston needs a shooting guard – maybe we could move Jeffries, along with Hughes. In reality, they’ll get much better offers from a team that wants to dump long-term salary. If logic ruled the world, the Nets would swap Carter for McGrady.

    I like Tyrus Thomas and we could certainly use a defender but I don’t think he’s a better prospect than Lee or Gallinari, necessarily.

  2. With regards to Lebron to the Knicks, Marc Berman said the best thing that could happen for the Knicks was the Cavs losing to the Magic, Frank Isola said the worst thing that could happen for the Knicks was the Cavs losing to the Magic.

    Lets hope Marc Berman is right…

  3. It’s hilarious how no one really knows which result would be better for the Knicks, regarding the Cavs winning or losing.

    Anyhow, I loved T-Mac but he is absolutely d-u-n done right now, so I wouldn’t want any part of him that does not involve dumping a 2011 salary. I’d gladly take him if it was for Curry or Jeffries (and better stuff, of course, just that the Rockets would have to take Curry or Jeffries).

  4. We should have traded Stephon at the deadline for TMac and a future pick. Save the Rockets $20 million, get a marketable player to defray the cost to us for the extra year, and pick up a future asset.

    As it is now, I agree with Caleb and Brian: if we don’t get something besides TMac, what’s the point? But if the Rockets are set on dealing him, there probably aren’t many other partners other than the Knicks, which could help sweeten any deal.

    Of Leitch’s steps, I think #6 and #3 are the two most important.

  5. About McGrady – just look at his stats for a second (per 36 minutes/advanced).


    Look how bad he has declined, and look how bad his efficiency numbers are (TS%, eFG%). He’s been an atrocious scorer for 4 seasons now. And he’s coming off another big injury. Look at him compared to 2 other players:


    Now tell me, do you really want T-Mac in 2010? Is he going to make the team better?

  6. I guess the question is, do you want Hughes or T-Mac? They are both crappy shooters, but Hughes is more likely to make it all the way through 2009/2010 injury free, so I pass on T-Mac, as much as I dislike Larry on the offensive end.
    Everything really came together for Orlando. And you have to give the coaches credit. Look at Turkoglu’s improvement, Rashard Lewis’s improvement… (playing with Howard helps their %’s I’m sure.) Ewing has to get some credit for Howard showing up big in this series. And Pietrus! I don’t know if that’s more of a shout out to V.G. or proof that Nellie’s system blows. They’ve built a team of great shooters that is a blend of great athleticism and ‘heady’ players.
    I think Curry would be a great addition for us, but with Lee and Gallo, that would give us 3 less than average nba athletes on the floor. Obviously a beast in the middle would help tremendously, but they are so hard to come by! That’s why I think trading Blake G. is so foolish. It’s really hard to find a quality big man.
    But at least with Curry we’ll have two good shooters in him and Gallo (if Gallo is healthy.) Now that I have big man envy, I want us to buy a late pick around #20 and try to grab Mullens. I think he has long term potential.
    As for the Lee / Nate debate, I think that’s been pretty fleshed out here. Sure we would love them here, but if they want/get too much make the trade/let them walk. It’s up to Walsh now.

  7. “Ewing has to get some credit for Howard showing up big in this series.”

    what about Perkins and Davis abusing him in the previous series? Howard showed up big because the three Cleveland big men were terrible matchups, and he gained confidence every game culminating in last night’s domination. I wouldn’t give Ewing any credit at all, personally.

    Howard is the most talented young C since Shaq, and until this series, he was getting by on how good an athlete he was, with very few signs of an actual post game. if Ewing had actually been doing a good job, he would have looked a lot better against Boston (especially with no Garnett in there).

  8. I would go so far as to say that Howard’s post moves aren’t that much better than big Eddy’s, but I think the improvements on his positioning down low and post defense are obvious. But offensively, he pretty much just bulls the ball into the hole.
    The Bynum/Gasol/Odom matchup will be really interesting to watch. As much as I like Dwight, I think this will be too much for him.

  9. ‘I would go so far as to say that Howard’s post moves aren’t that much better than big Eddy’s, but I think the improvements on his positioning down low and post defense are obvious.”

    I think that’s a good comparison, Howard’s offense is about equivalent to Fat Eddy’s 2 years ago, but of course he cares about rebounding and defense a little bit more than Eddy.

    Going back to the Lebron discussion, I think next year is as crucial to the Cavs as it is to the Knicks. If they don’t upgrade and fall again in the conference semis or finals, I really think he’s gone. If he sees the Cavs as getting older and slower and more reliant on him than ever at the end 2009-2010, I really believe he’ll take a serious look around the league to figure out where he has a chance to win a title. All the hometown loyalty stuff goes out the window if he sees himself stuck on a team with declining talent. Donnie’s challenge is to make our roster appealing to Lebron or any other big name FA’s, plus sell the D’Antoni angle.

  10. I would go so far as to say that Howard’s post moves aren’t that much better than big Eddy’s

    Yeah but he can actually pass the ball. And he hasn’t been bowling over other players (at least not in the games I’ve watched.)

  11. Eddy Curry Twittered or Tweated or whatever that he’s working out twice a day and that Walsh or D’Antoni stopped by the gym to check in on him recently.
    (I don’t think comparing someone’s post game to Eddy Curry’s is an insult, it’s actually a complement. Mike is right that one big difference is in TOs/passing, along with the obvious: millions of miles between the two in def/reb, b-ball IQ, and conditioning. Offensively Dwight might set a key screen, get in good post position, keep a possession alive with an OReb, get down the court on the break, or pass out of the post to the right guy, little things that differentiate, well, a lot of players from Curry.)


    Haven’t read the article, but I have to assume–based on #1 & #2 being just get rid of Nate and Lee–that this is another Lee is your run-of-the-mill “energy” guy who isn’t very valuable and can be replaced and Nate is your run-of-the-mill combo-guard who is too short to win, blah, blah, blah superficial analysis. Advocating landing T-Mac as a must drives home the point.

    I don’t know exactly what the answers are with Lee/Nate, but Leitch’s view of them seems very pessimistic on their abilities and optimistic on the slash-and-burn rebuilding style (young players with upside and free agents).

    My version:

    1. Go after a quality big with 1 year, full MLE: Birdman, Gortat (restricted), Sheed are at the top of my list.

    2. Trade for Mike Miller.

    3. Take an intelligent approach with Nate and Lee, fully aware of ramifications of resigning/losing them.
    a. Send the signal that you’ll match any offer for either. If teams view this as a credible threat they’re less likely to give an offer sheet that the Knicks can take two weeks of precious free agent signing time to match and more likely to come to the Knicks with a sign-and-trade offer.
    b.See what the market is for them. With Ben Gordon, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Ramon Sessions, Flip Murray, Mike Bibby, Raymond Felton, Von Wafer, Stephon Marbury, Juan Dixon, etc. available in the back-court and Boozer, Odom, Millsap, Sheed, Okur, Villanueva, Birdman, Gortat, Joe Smith, Varejao (?), Brandon Bass, Ryan Hollins, Drew Gooden, etc. available up front and the economy still down Lee and Nate will have plenty of competition.
    c. Get value for them, either by signing them to reasonable deals or trading them, assuming they don’t just take their qualifying offers if there’s no market.
    d. Only walk away if either is absolutely blown out of the water with a ridiculous deal.

    4. Draft the best player on the board.

    5. Keep the trade lines open, burn up the lines looking for trades, whatever Donnie’s decades of experience tell him is a good way to look for good trades.

    6. Stay patient.

  12. I would give Stan Van Gundy credit for a good coaching job, but I’d give more credit for the Magic’s success to Otis Smith and the front office.

    Hedo, Lewis, and Pietrus all shot the ball better last season than this season. They’ve all shot well before playing with Dwight Howard, he open up good looks but he’s not the reason they’re good shooters. It’s really a case of putting together a roster of good players who fit well together.

    Van Gundy deserves credit for coaching a somewhat unconventional line-up, but Smith has distinguished himself a strong GM. He inherited Howard, Turkoglu, and Nelson, but Lewis, Pietrus, Lee, Gortat, Alston, and Van Gundy have all come in on his watch, plus he moved Francis for Penny and Ariza. Some of his mistakes include drafting Fran Vazquez and Redick #11 (I’d call Redick a mistake), the Billy Donovan fiasco, and trading away Ariza (which he basically made up for by signing Pietrus). It makes your job pretty easy to come into a situation with Howard period, Nelson and Turk are icing on the cake. However, Smith is still the reason the Magic are in the NBA Finals.

  13. Ted,

    the thinking on Lee and Nate that I keep reading is very superficial. So, really well put and definitely agreed on 3a-3d.

    The other thing I hope Donnie does is pick up an extra player at the end of the first our second without giving up much. I read today that he offered Memphis cash for their late first, which they turned down. There may be some others willing to sell. I suspect Minny and Portland will be looking to deal a pick, or maybe even more. That’s one of those situations where Cablevision’s dollars could help a lot; just buy our way into another first or second round pick. Although this draft lacks some star power it’s chock full o’ players that can help if you know what you’re looking for. It is a bit like the 2006 (Bargnani/Aldridge/Morrison) draft, which is littered with abject busts but also some 1st round gems outside the top 5 (e.g., Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, Ronnie Brewer, Rajon Rondo, Jordan Farmar, Sergio Rodriguez).

    The one thing I kinda disagree with is #4. I think the NBA draft is much more transparently about filling needs than, say, the NFL draft. That’s especially true in this draft, where I don’t see a lot of high ceilings — even on the underclassmen. I think your best bet is to find a player with a specific skillset that your team needs rather than taking a guy who probably won’t be much better than an average NBA player.

  14. I do have to say, I’ve been impressed with Stephen Curry thus far. His interview on draft express was much more confident and on point than other lottery picks like DeRozan or Evans. And apparently he was impressive in the skill drills. Holliday might be a better pure point (maybe another Rondo?) but Curry’s skill set is pretty unique. My updated draft order for our #8 spot is:
    1. Curry/Holliday (tie)
    3. Jennings
    4. Lawson

  15. DC,

    Good call on buying a pick, I would definitely add that to my list. You probably wait until draft night to sell a pick, to see if it can be useful in another trade first. So definitely a good sign that Donnie is feeling out which picks might be for sale.
    I like the analogy to the draft class of 2006. The top of this draft (Griffin, Rubio) might be stronger, but overall you’re right on.

    I advocate generally taking the best player/prospect available, but that’s obviously not a comprehensive draft strategy. I like the “Tier System” Chad Ford reported on a couple years ago (2007 draft), that he claims a lot of teams use. You still have to evaluate what it means to be a good player/prospect and which players qualify, but it seems like a good way to organize your thinking. Basically, you break the draft up into tiers of players with similar projected NBA potential. You have to take a player from a higher tier over a player from a lower tier, but within the same tier you differentiate by need/system/etc.

  16. Mr. Hollinger reported that the Nuggets are planning to sell their pick, fwiw. They have serious cap issues.

  17. I agree with a point above, the more I see/read about Steph Curry the more I hope we draft him. Look at how important shooting is to the Magic, and I envision having both Gallo and Curry on the court not only because of their shooting but their excellent court awareness and passing (see how well the Magic move the ball and make the extra pass something only Gallo and Duhon do for the Knicks).

    Obviously the biggest worries is the defensive abilities of Gallo and Curry but I wouldnt be that worried about it. DEFINITELY hope the Knicks buy a 1st-round pick late in the 1st round, this is something I hope Walsh jumps on (granted I also hope they make a good pick with it).

  18. Vecsey said today a number of teams will be trying to sell their pick. is there a limit to how many we can buy? I’d certainly feel a lot better letting Nate and/or Lee go if we had three or four first round picks this year…

  19. Donnie is actually trying to buy picks?

    Oh thank goodness. We’ve only been suggesting the Knicks do this for how many years? So it’s great to see him finally do it. It just makes so much sense that it’d be foolish for any team with money not to do it.

  20. “I agree with a point above, the more I see/read about Steph Curry the more I hope we draft him. Look at how important shooting is to the Magic, and I envision having both Gallo and Curry on the court not only because of their shooting but their excellent court awareness and passing (see how well the Magic move the ball and make the extra pass something only Gallo and Duhon do for the Knicks).”

    The outside shooting is so important to the Magic because of the guy they have in the middle. It’s similar to the Nellie-ball the Warriors have run. Spread the floor with three point shooters and attack the middle. The Magic run it by getting the ball into Howard, the Warriors used Baron Davis to drive. And not everyone needs to be able to shoot from the outside. You can have someone that can score from the inside be included as well (GS with Biedrins).

    The guy commanding double teams has to be able to identify the open man – and get the ball out cleanly. That’s why it never worked with Eddy Curry, or Al Harrington. Both guys can get the opposing team to double/triple them, but neither can get the ball to the right player. I agree that it’s important to have guys with good court awareness & passing, especially in D’Antoni’s offense. That’s more important than being able to knock down the trey.

  21. Adding outside shooters would help Eddy Curry. (I would contend that the lack of shooting around him when he was Isiah’s go to guy is vastly overstated. Those Knicks had bigger problems than 3-point shooting.)
    Do you really predicate your draft strategy on complementing a player you are trying to trade mid-season, though? It’s possible that Stephen Curry’s polish, b-ball IQ, and NBA ready skill (shooting and maybe scoring more generally) make him effective as a rookie, but the odds are stacked against an average athlete coming from low-level NCAA competition stepping in and running an NBA team full-time as a rookie.
    I’m hoping the Knicks can get Eddy traded this season as much as anyone, but I think in the draft you take a player on his long-term potential not his first half rookie year contributions. Maybe Steph’s that guy, but I wouldn’t factor Eddy Curry into my decision… you pass on that guy who ends up being a steal mid-lotto to mid-first, and next time you have a shot at that guy the price will be a whole lot steeper.

    Danilo’s back is another huge question mark, so you may end up with both he and Steph Curry sitting on the bench.

    You can add outside shooting to your rotation through free agency and trades, getting some proven NBA players in the process.
    If I’m Walsh I’m definitely targeting Mike Miller, who is an important player to Minni but misused and probably not a long-term piece in their rebuilding project.
    Wally Szczerbiak is a FA who probably re-signs, but might take the chance to come home to NY and play more minutes under D’Antoni over an end-of-the-rotation position in Cleveland. Cleveland might not even want to re-sign him…

  22. The comments that I was largely responding to there seem to have disappeared…

  23. this is the only viable plan to bring greatness to the garden. We pick up wilson chandlers option; sign david lee to around 10 million a year; pick up gallinari’s extension. draft stephen curry. trade nate robinson and someone else eway for a good draft pick. then we have enough for 2 17.5 million max free agents. Now this is where it gets interesting…

    pippen has better 3 pt shooting numbers and rebounding than d wade. his assists per game are comparable. if you give wade a supporting figure whose BETTER than him his ppg would be precisely the same as pippens. you need 2 good teammates to win the nba thats for certain. no individual can win. dwayne wade is not durable. he cant put up those numbers for every game of his career. he will get hurt more often later in his career hes a fucking bowling ball. he knows he wants greatness and lebron is his BEST friend.

    the knicks will team lebron and dwade with stephen curry and david lee. gallinari will develop. hopefully we pick up another draft pick in 09. they will be UNSTOPPABLE. talk about imagination how many chances do you get in a lifetime when 4 free agents in one summer are top 10 in the league. NEVER.

  24. Theres so much that can happen for the Knicks if we play our cards right. I dont think there are definite right now impact players but i think there some guys available that you could really build around. This draft is more solid then people think. I feel Curry is the pick for us but im scared that more teams will see how skilled he is and he may go higher. Im not biting on the Holiday hype that is going around. I just dont see the what the intrigue is all about. Im REALLY hoping Donnie and buy up or trade for some of the picks that some teams are willing to give up. Id love to see Hansborough in a Knicks uniform or a bruiser like Jeff Adrien. There is going to be some good talent available late in the draft and only the savy GM will be able to snatch it up. Donnie has to be that savy guy.In this draft we have the chance to add some really solid young talent that we can build around. I mean some strong character players that not only add skill but good character to this team. Something that we’ve been lacking for so long. We dont need McGrady. We need to use the expiring contracts and sign and trade possibilities to improve out team. If we can keep Lee, great. IF we cant then we will have to find someone that can hopefully provide some of what he gave us night in night out. Pat Ewiing Jr is still out there. We have lots of options.

  25. What exactly does it mean to purchase a draft pick? Is it as straight-forward as it sounds?

    And I know that the goal is to get LeBron or Wade for 2010, but wouldn’t either of those players inherit a team much like the ones they are playing for now? With Lee and/or Nate presumably gone, how can we expect those superstars to supercede their performances with their current teams?

    There’s part of me that wants to see LeBron sign one-year deals from 2010 until his prime is over, going to the best title contender with a sub-max deal. I wonder if he could win titles with multiple franchises. Since Jordan dominated with one team over the course of his career, wouldn’t that be an interesting achievement to distinguish himself? I don’t mean to get whimsical, but it occurred to me after reading a “How can Lebron match Jordan?” article last week.

  26. Fwiw, the top 5 high school players in 2008 were:

    1. Brandon Jennings
    2. Jrue Holliday
    3. Tyreke Evans
    4. Samardo Samuels
    5. Demar Derozan

    and Ty Lawson was #5 in 2006

    As I remember, Jennings was far and away the #1 last year… something to think about.

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