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.

Iverson for Billups/McDyess

http://www.nba.com/2008/news/11/03/nuggets.pistons.trade.ap/index.html

The Denver Nuggets have agreed to a deal that would send Allen Iverson to the Pistons in exchange for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess, sources have told TNT analyst David Aldridge.

There is one sticking point to the deal, though. McDyess does not want to go to Denver, and a source close to him says “he will not put on a Nuggets uniform” and may opt to retire.

Because of McDyess’s objection, the Nuggets may waive the mandatory physical each player in a trade must take in order for the league to approve any deal. McDyess may be seeking a buyout of the remainder of his contract (two years, $13.6 million).

Balkman Traded for Nothing?

According to ESPN:

The Denver Nuggets have traded Taurean Green, Bobby Jones and a 2010 second-round draft pick to the Knicks for Renaldo Balkman and cash considerations, an NBA front-office source tells ESPN.com’s John Hollinger.

Green and Jones are likely to be cut because they have non-guaranteed deals, the source told Hollinger. Their acquisitions would increase the Knicks’ roster to 17 players.

Interesting that Hollinger broke the story for ESPN, although he does cover the Knicks for the NY Sun. As for the Knicks, assuming that they’re going to cut Green and Jones, this is a bad trade. Balkman has value as a defender, rebounder, and transition player. If the only thing New York ends up with is the draft pick it’s a total loss. They’re not likely to get an NBA caliber with that 2nd round pick.

Until this is official I’m hoping that one of two things are true about this trade: either the draft pick is a conditional first or they are going to cut someone else and keep Green. He had nice numbers in 8 games in the NBDL and is only 21 years old. At least it would mean they got something out of the deal.

Pre-Draft Trades Ahoy!

With the draft approaching, it looks like teams are making moves. The Charlotte Bobcats acquired the #20 pick from the Nuggets. In return Denver will receive a future protected first round pick, and they also save some cap space this year (by not being forced to sign their draft pick). Similarly the Hornets traded their first round pick to Portland for cash. Grabbing the #27 pick gives the Blazers 5 picks this year, at least for now.

But the biggest trade of the pre-draft (for now) was made between Toronto and Indiana. The Pacers send their All Star Center Jermaine O’Neal for the #17 pick, T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, and another player that makes about $4M (Anthony Parker?). This trades marks two teams heading in different directions. The Raptors are looking to build around their star player Chris Bosh, and Jermaine O’Neal should make Toronto a better defensive team. If nothing else he’ll give the Raps an upgrade from the 1600+ minutes they got last year from Nesterovic and cut into the 1600+ minutes they gave to Bargnani. Meanwhile the Pacers finally decide to go full force into rebuild mode, and will compete for a lottery pick in 2009.