Does Donnie Know A Secret About 2010?

If the Knicks start next season with Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer as their primary 2010 free agent additions I will be underwhelmed. I mean, they did give up a lot to be able to clear enough cap space this summer to be far enough under the cap to sign two max free agents. As loyal commenter Italian Stallion and Twitter agitator ( 😉 ) @LoveThoseKnicks often remind me, the Knicks could have kept all the assets they traded in the McGrady deal and still had max cap space in 2011 (assuming the cap mechanics stay the same) without giving Houston the right to swap ’11 picks, their ’12 pick and Jordan Hill.

The argument carries some weight. And I’ll admit that aside from the picks, losing Jordan Hill alone stung. My counterargument is always that:

  1. The Knicks lost a net of 1 draft pick in the deal, which is the 2012 draft pick. The Knicks retain their ’11 pick, and if the Knicks vastly improve this summer, there is a strong chance that Houston will not invoke its option to swap. And if that is how things play out, the Knicks won’t miss their 2012 pick too much either. (Here the argument devolves into Stallion and @LoveThoseKnicks saying something like, “But the Knicks lose a pick.” To which I respond, “They can just buy another one in the late round.” To which Stallion or @LoveThoseKnicks will reply, “Well then they could have had two picks because they can buy one anyway.” To which I respond, “Well then they can buy two picks.” And this continues for awhile.)
  2. Aside from everything in point 1, I still think clearing the extra cap space in the TMac deal was a worthy risk. A calculated risk. Some might say it was a gamble. Still worth it from where I’m sitting if it increases your chances of getting a better player than you otherwise might’ve if you just had room for one player.

But Stallion and @LoveThoseKnicks make a good point and I have to acknowledge it. If you think of the TMac trade as “mortgaging the Knicks’ future” or a colossal gamble then you have to wonder why Donnie did it. By all accounts Donnie is a shrewd, calculating, patient and opportunistic executive. If the TMac trade was just a roll of the dice then you have to wonder why he would do something so uncharacteristic.

I’ve often tried to think of it this way and I come to the conclusion that Donnie must know that he can do something special this off-season. At least I hope so. In a chat today, Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com expressed similar sentiments:

Rob (NY)

Any credence to the rumor that if Knick’s sign J Johnson, LBJ is more likely to come to MSG?

Chris Sheridan

(3:20 PM)

No credence that that rumor, but you get the distinct impression that word was somehow passed to the Knicks that having enough cap room for just one max player was not going to cut it for a certain free agent, which was why they were willing to throw so much into the Jeffries deal to get McGrady’s contract. I ask this: Why would anyone in their right mind trade away what amounts to three No. 1 picks just to clear cap room? It’s just plain crazy … unless there is a confidence among the Knicks their Plan A will succeed.

So I ask you, if you’re Donnie Walsh, and William Wesley approaches you and says, “Donnie, enough cap space for one max contract isn’t going to cut it. You need to have room for two.” What do you do?

Oh, and Chris, the Knicks traded one draft pick.

3 comments

  1. EwingOak

    Yeah there really are two very solid ways to look at this whole thing. There does seem to be so much going on that we don’t know right now, and our only alternative is to guess. ( and very well calculated guesses at that– kudos to all of you guys for all the details that you know and how you express them- nice work as always).

    But I am going to keep the faith in Donnie and believe that he knows what he is doing. Surely he has taken a gamble with every move that he has been making since he got here, but he also took a gamble at accepting this position from the very beginning.. knowing full well that it was a gamble for him to turn things around in such a short period of time.

    This whole thing is a gamble! It’s kind of like coming into a little bit of money that would help you buy a car, but not change your lifestyle. So, instead of buying that car, you bring that money to the casino blackjack tables and try to make it grow exponentially so that it can change your life. It is such a risk to take but it also may your only shot at getting to the next level in life.

    Here’s hoping that Donnie can count cards.

  2. Italian Stallion

    Thanks for the all the plugs. I know I’m a pain in the butt on this issue, but that’s only because I am so passionate about the team.

    I agree with you and Sheridan.

    If you know that a certain free agent has stated that 1 max contract won’t be enough to attract him, then it makes perfect sense to do the deal – assuming that player has also implied that 2 max contracts will get him to sign.

    This whole 1 vs. 2 max contracts may be the key.

    The experience Walsh and D’Antoni had last year with Hill and Kidd may have convinced them that having a large amount of cap space in 2010 and waiting to either deal Jeffries/Curry as expiring contracts or waiting for them to come off the cap in 2011 wasn’t enough to attract one elite FA + another good one in 2010 (or some other satisfactory combination) and then continuing with the plan into 2011.

    So they may have decided that they had to make a sacrifice of assets and gamble to have any chance of landing Wade or Lebron.

    I understand their thinking, but disagree with the probabilities of a satisfactory outcome UNLESS they know something I don’t know.

    1. I don’t think Lebron or Wade is coming. I’ve elaborated on why.

    2. I think Bosh might consider it, but only as part of a sign and trade that includes Lee and another solid asset. I think Bosh is a better player than Lee, but I don’t think he’s better by enough to give him a massive contract and Toronto another good player. I think I’d rather give Lee 10m, save some money to add a better defensive C, and keep the extra player. We are probably going to need a C with Bosh anyway.

    3. The second tier FAs are all good players, but I think it’s likely we will have to overpay to get any of them. Overpaying for players that can’t get us to the promised land is the one thing that really worries me. Several are also at or close to the downside of their careers.

    So let’s hope Walsh knows something I don’t know or that his gamble pays offs. If we get a better outcome this way than we would have gotten without this last deal, I’ll be the first and happiest to say I was wrong.

  3. CeeLARock

    Did you guys see on sportsnation today that they put Kobe to the Knicks in 2011??? They said Kobe hasnt signed his extension yet and nor has Phil. The Buzz is that kobe wont get paid max free agent $$$. Yeah i know wishful thinking, stop smoking..but does anyone see that as even a remote possibility if the Knicks were able to pay more $$$??

    Italian Stallion- great post and i agree 100%

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