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:
- 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.
- 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.