Not Buying Lee Long Term

Alan Hahn’s other story and blog post today discusses rumors that it’s becoming increasingly likely that Donnie Walsh will sign David Lee to an extension instead of trading him. While I don’t doubt that Hahn’s sources are good and this is what they’re saying, I’m not buying it for a couple of reasons:

  1. Lee wants $10 million per and, while he fits in the system and continues to improve year after year, he’s not worth that and I think Donnie knows it. What’s more, in building a lasting contender, a team’s cap structure is very important. That is to say, it’s very important that players make what they should be making. The best player should make the most money, the second best player make the second most and so on. Not surprisingly, the teams that are best at maintaining a proper cap structure are the Spurs and, until the recent Iverson trade, the Pistons (of course, they made the Iverson trade to secure future cap integrity, a wise move indeed). Paying David Lee $10 million is the same as saying that you’re comfortable, in the long term, with competing for titles while having David Lee as the third best player on your team. I think Donnie knows this too and I doubt he’d be comfortable saying that.
  2. To me, this just sounds like posturing. Lee is an ideal candidate for a deadline trade because, if you’re a contender, you want to trade for a player that will give you something you need while not disrupting the chemistry that has put you in position to contend in the first place. Any team that needs a skilled, energy 4 is going to look at David Lee as the epitome of a player that can work himself in seamlessly. As a result, I believe that as we get closer to the deadline, the offers are going to improve markedly. But Donnie needs teams to understand that the Knicks don’t have to trade him. If the right deal doesn’t materialize, other GMs need to understand that Donnie isn’t just going to give Lee away. Unless they understand that, Donnie won’t see their best offer.

All in all though, assuming Donnie does get a good offer, I’m still expecting a Lee trade before the deadline and, frankly, if it didn’t happen I’d be a little disappointed because I think it’s the right thing to do for the long-term health of the franchise.

Update – For the opposite perspective on the Lee question, check out Tommy Dee over at the Knicks Blog. Tommy raises an important point noting that Lee, as a restricted free agent, has the ability to short-circuit a potential deal simply by telling the other team that he won’t re-sign there long term. It’s certainly possible that it could diminish Lee’s value although I still believe, when push comes to shove, there will be good deals out there to be made with teams that want to make that big playoff push. And the bottom line remains, I just don’t think you can re-sign Lee for $10 million per.


  1. DanL

    I wouldn’t be upset if the Knicks kept Lee, but you hit the nail on the head. 10 mil is too much.


    Tim Duncan – 20.6 mil
    Tony Parker – 11.5 mil
    Manu Ginobili – 9.9 mil

  2. Italian Stallion

    I wouldn’t mind keeping Lee, but 10M is a lot to ask for a PF that doesn’t block shots, play great defense, or have a really good outside shot.

    He’s an efficient scorer around the basket and rebounds really well, but I think you need to do more than that to command 10M when we could probably find another PF that could give us 10 points and 8 rebounds for a hell of lot less and then perhaps bring in an elite PF in 2010.

  3. spaceman

    this is all symptomatic of all those shitty contracts dolan has doled out.from houston(he was a very good player, but no where near worth 100 mill, that’s still insane to me) to jeffries and jerome james.this is ridiculous. it baffles me how overpaid these overrated role players have been paid.this is new york, you’d think with all the perks this city provides, on top of possible endorsements, nyc would be the exception, but no, we’ve had a moron for an owner.donnie has made some decent moves, but the jury is still out on him and mike.if this city does not have a championship in 5 years both of their asses should be fired and the dolan’s should sell the gadam team.lee is not worth 10 a year.but he loves nyc,so maybe he won’t be the kinda guy who goes after the money.if he takes 7 a year, great.he could be our era’s DeBusschere.he fits like a glove.

  4. JLS125

    D. Lee current rankings:

    By Position

    #2 in double-doubles [24]
    #4 in FG% [.569]
    #4 in REB [11.4ppg]
    #5 in scoring [14.7ppg]
    #11 in PER [18.04]


    #3 in double-doubles
    #4 in FG%
    #5 in REB
    #53 in scoring*
    #54 in PER

    *coincidentally he and Chandler have same avg.

    Emeka Okafor 13.9ppg 11.1rebs [$9,537,500]

    Nene Hilario 14.8ppg 7.8rebs [$9,680,000]

    Dwight Howard 19.9ppg 13.7rebs [$13,758,000]

    Al Jefferson 22.6ppg 10.5rebs [$11,000,000]


    This is the market David Lee’s agent is going to be looking at when he comes to the negotiating table. Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson are at the high end of the spectrum. Both are known for having tremendous ability as well as outstanding productivity. Nene and Okafor perform at a notch below David Lee with regards to ability and productivity.

    Looking at the stats it seems reasonable that Lee will be looking for close to $10M per. IMO, i say that if Donnie can’t move Curry, then he’ll have no choice but to deal Lee at the deadline. Lee will command the $10M as his stats are at the top of every significant category for his position with the exception of scoring.

    It’s too bad because although I don’t think D. Lee is that sweet, I think he’s a solid complementary #3 player. However, due to the current cap constraints I think Donnie’s hands are tied and his best move is to get maximum value for him.

  5. Dan L

    Good work there JLS.

    Per 40 minutes the numbers don’t really change so much.

    Lee: 17.1 ppg, 13.0 rpg
    Okafor: 16 ppg, 12.8 rpg

    However, would a rational observer argue that Lee is better or more valuable than Okafor? I don’t believe so. That said, it seems like the market is definitely 9-10 million for Lee. Is he worth it? Okafor plays D. If D. Lee played D I’d say he would easily be worth 10 million.

    Anyway, I’m all for signing him to that kind of money if the team could move Curry. But at 10 million, if you want to maintain the salary structure Jon was talking about, he’d have to be your probably your 3rd best player?

    Is he?

  6. JLS125

    For argument’s sake let’s say that we get 2 of those great players from the 2010 class. That’s 2 franchise players on the team and then you have whatevers left from the current Knicks roster. The debate begins when you ask yourself who is better, Chandler or Lee. If it’s Chandler then Lee is the #4 best player on the team. Do you justify paying Lee $10M when he’s c onsidered the 4th best player on the team?

  7. Dan L


    I’d pick Chandler in a heartbeat over Lee. Way more skills at everything but boarding.

    However, by the time you need to extend Chandler (2011, I think) you can go over the cap and pay him around 10 million too if he’s worth it.

    Don’t know if you consider it an accurate comparison, but Tayshaun Prince is making 9.5 this year.

  8. Jon

    I think it mostly comes down to whether or not you think David Lee can be the 3rd best player on a championship team. Maybe he can be if that team has Lebron on it, but then I still think you have to ask whether he represents good value at that price.
    JLS, of the 4 guys you mentioned, I would say Okafor and Nene are overpaid (Okafor more than Nene because Nene is so versatile). So while that is the established market price for players like Lee (you could throw Bogut in there too at about $10 million per), that doesn’t mean you have to pay it or even that you should. I think a good GM should first look at Lee in a vacuum outside the established market and try to decide what he’s actually worth in terms of wins and losses. Then he should consider what else he could’ve spent that $10 million on if he hadn’t spent it on Lee.
    If the Knicks couldn’t make a good deal for Lee and instead re-signed him people would definitely applaud in year 1. But I wonder what they’d be saying in year 3 and 4 of that deal when Lee was making $10 million per year on a long term deal and perhaps the Knicks were struggling to put themselves over the top and win a title.
    Take a look at Orlando and Rashard Lewis as an example. They took a lot of bows after that deal for Lewis but they’ve boxed themselves in now because his deal is unmovable, they’re over the cap, and they’re not winning any titles as presently constituted. Orlando is proof positive of two things: 1) cap structure is everything and 2) just because you’re paying market value doesn’t mean you’re paying a fair price.

  9. Jon

    Another great example from the “Lee Market” : Chris Kaman (’07 per 40 stats: 17 pts, 13.7 rebs, 3 blks). The Clippers just re-signed Kaman for $10 million a year and they’re already regretting it. They’ve almost dealt him a couple of times this year. The Knicks have to be really careful with Lee.

  10. JLS125

    I agree with Jon and Dan L. I was just speaking to what Lee’s agent and other GMs will be looking at when they decide to compete with NYK for D. Lee’s services. I agree that Kaman, Okafor and Nene are overpaid but, if I were an agent I would be using them as leverage for a new deal. If a team offers Lee $10M or more I say NYK should let him walk than overpay for his services.

    That being said, I think Donnie trades him at the deadline along with an atrocious contract for an expiring contract and/or picks.

  11. JLS125


    “If the Knicks couldn’t make a good deal for Lee and instead re-signed him people would definitely applaud in year 1. But I wonder what they’d be saying in year 3 and 4 of that deal when Lee was making $10 million per year on a long term deal and perhaps the Knicks were struggling to put themselves over the top and win a title.
    Take a look at Orlando and Rashard Lewis as an example. They took a lot of bows after that deal for Lewis but they’ve boxed themselves in now because his deal is unmovable, they’re over the cap, and they’re not winning any titles as presently constituted. Orlando is proof positive of two things: 1) cap structure is everything and 2) just because you’re paying market value doesn’t mean you’re paying a fair price.”

    Ain’t that the truth. Preach!!!

  12. Heri

    Why compare Lee to Okafor and Kayman, two centers? Sure, Lee has been forced to be in the middle, but play him at the 4 with a real 5 and his value becomes even better. Is it true that Curry has knee pains again? If unable to play, it will be a crushing blow. Speaking of crushing blows, why celebrate Gallo’s return and feel like it was premature to call him a draft bust? At 21 with a bulging disc would the Knicks have drafted him if they knew? I don’t think so. It’s what makes him a bust, if we could go back to draft night he would be bypassed. Would you still draft him? Really, I hope not; but he still feels pain and it’s a good possibility that when he starts to play the pain may increase ala, Curry. A bulging disc is a lot worst than a knee problem. Eventually he’ll play even if it means surgically removing the bulging disc. But like LJ and Q, players with back surgery never fulfill their max potential. It’s sad and I hate it, but reality is that we should not be in our current position with our number six pick. Still feeling pain and starting to play what can we really expect? For the pain to go away or increase when he starts to play? Really? Not what we wish, desire or hope, but reality. What does it really look like? If this was known on draft night he would fall off the first round and then some. Pray for a miracle, pray the pain gos away completely when he starts to play. Pray with the six pick wasn’t the idea.

  13. Heri

    Every body on the Knicks can be traded, even Chandler; for the right price. When we talk about trading Lee it’s BS talk. It’s BS till it happens because we can’t judge until we see what we get in return. Harrington for Crawford is OK because Harrington is decent. In the Zack trade we were burned because of the heart ailment in return. We were rid of Zack’s contract, but the idea was to also get a player in return and not a shock retirement. Lee is good and we should get quality in return for now and 2010 if we trade him. Free agents in 2010 will love to play in the meca, but will they love to play on a team that has fallen into a deep septic tank full of Dolan’s manure? Will some shy away from recent misery here? Will LeBron shy away from Dolan? Dolan has been the constant piece around from the start of the misery, let’s trade Dolan. You have to admit he’s not to popular. If he pays your check, you better look the other way and pay no attention to this. Dolan seems to have run the Knicks straight to hell and 2010 is the only thing that will save us. I hope!!!! Can we mess up 2010?!?!? If the constant is around, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  14. Heri

    I’d like to give a shout out to my team for playing through the ill heart trade, mis directions and seven man rotation while bringing energy and effort to at least try to win. When we run into a wall, if we haven’t already; we were driven into it. I’m surprise Marbury is the only unhappy camper. Hey, really; sooner or later, players might start to realize that it’s all about 2010 and right now doesn’t mean a thing to Knicks mgmt, but losing for the lotto. LeBron, would you mind if Knicks go to sleep till 2010? Sleep, baby sleep.

  15. Heri

    Life is not black and white, there’s a gray in between. The good thing about Dolan is that he throws the money into the Knicks. He just doesn’t have a clue about basketball winning demeanor as the owner should. He needs to study “The Boss” with the Yankees. Now, there’s an owner. If D likes playing quick under size centers that can run the floor, why trade Lee? Give Lee a 10 mil per year contract and be rid of Curry who can’t run the floor. Lee and Chandler look like keepers to me unless someone blows you away with a trade offer. As long as we’re winning who cares if we go over the cap in 2010. Over the cap is terrible only when we’re losing. Nate looks bad, I don’t know if it’s because of the injury followed with a seven man rotation and his small body size in it all. A seven man rotation isn’t good for anybody and for some, it’s worst than for others. Marbury’s saga hurts not only Marbury, but the team. Mgmt should play or trade Marbury and nothing else.

  16. Dan L

    I agree that Dolan has been a problem over the years since taking over. I also agree that he could be a blessing. A free wheeling owner who isn’t afraid to spend ANYTHING. This is especially valuable now that he has stepped away from day to day operations and player decisions.

  17. Italian Stallion

    Just to throw a monkey wrench into this “what is David Lee worth” discussion.

    I think part of the reason Lee’s stats are so good this year has to do with the pace the Knicks are playing at (very fast). A faster pace = more possessions = more opportunities to score and rebound per minute.

    The other thing that is helping him statistically (but hurting the Knicks) is that he’s the only rebounder and inside soring threat. When the Knicks traded away Zach, Lee’s numbers all went up partly because he started getting some of the rebounds that Zach used to get etc… IMHO, if the Knicks picked up a good rebounding/defensive center (which they need to be a good team), Lee’s numbers would fall back again and we’d be reconsidering his value.

  18. Heri

    You people are funny. Lee is a double double machine and you’re under minding him. If you place another great rebounder next to him, he would lose some rebounds, but who wouldn’t? LOL. If he shoots less, he scores less too, but who wouldn’t? Bottom line is Lee is a young, talented, energy playing rebounding machine that must not be traded for another retiring or couple of seasons playing knuckle head. Lee is known as young nucleus. Trade him only for good value like himself.

  19. Heri

    Is it really good for the owner to step away? He steps away in acknowledgment of his lack of positive input as the owner. Positive owner input is essential to winning formular. Team loyalty is non existant with this dude. Money isn’t every thing is the lessen here, I just hope LeBron doesn’t shy away from Dolan’s reputation into misery. I’d like to see an owner who would take charge and not allow the Marbury BS to fester any longer, what we have with Dolan is an owner who festers it blindly at the expense of the team while claiming to step away.

  20. Heri

    You have to forgive me, but if you stop to see how we are playing right now and for the last five or something years; what positive is there to rap about? Just keeping it real with my team, mgmt and Dolan has blowned it. Now, you are saying to go sleep till 2010; when we can buy the world. Gee, I expect the unexpected.

  21. Italian Stallion


    I wasn’t putting Lee down. I was pointing out that he’s playing in a set of circumstances that is allowing him to maximize his stats. So if you are comparing him to other players with similar stats in order to estimate his value, you are probably overrating his value.

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  23. Heri

    Bingo, over the salary cap is a problem when you’re losing, not when you’re winning. Move Curry? It be easier to move him both physically and spiritually than it will be to move the behemoth with the bum knees in a trade.

  24. Dan L

    Ok so right now we’re over the cap and losing. Yes its a problem. In 2010 we’ll be over the cap and winning. So it won’t be a problem. But first we’ll have to get under the cap. I think I’m missing something here.

  25. JLS125

    Getting under the cap has always been the best situation for the NYK. It should have been done when we traded Ewing and it should have definitely been done by Scott Layden when we were overpaying S. Anderson and Howard Eisley. If we managed the cap alot better chances are, the Knicks would be alot more competitive than they are as currently constituted. The Knicks need to get under the cap so they can negotiate from a position of power…

  26. Heri

    Possalutely, be rid of James, Curry and Marbury and be further under the cap. We need to be under the cap or buried to the center of the earth below it?!?

  27. Dan L

    For comparisons sake, lets look at Troy Murphy, who, although a different type of player, puts up numbers similar to Lee’s. Murphy is a double-double machine, averaging 12 pts and 11.4 rebounds (15 and 14 per 40 mins). Murphy can also shoot it very well from the outside. Murphy makes $ 10 million a year. Is he worth it? I think not, and as I recall the Warriors were thrilled to be able to move his and Mike Dunleavy’s albatross deals…to Donnie Walsh’s Pacers (in fairness the Pacers were trying to remake their thug image and made a sacrifice. Also who knows if it was Bird or Donnie behind those moves).

    Now, lets look at Udonis Haslem, a power forward that almost averages a double double, at 11 and 9 per game (12 and 10 per 40 mins). However, Haslem also has a smooth jumper and plays solid D. He makes $6.5 million and has been an integral player on a title team.

    FYI, Lee puts up 17 and 13 per 40 mins.

    Lee is probably the best player out of the three (if you ignore D). So if 10 mil is too much for Murphy, and 6.5 is just right for Haslem, where does that put Lee’s value? 8 mil? 9?

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