Tagged: free agency

Players See Logic In Donnie’s Plan, Even If Some Fans Don’t

It’s a year and a half into Donnie Walsh’s two year rebuild and the Knicks’ record isn’t substantially better than it was last year. But it was never supposed to be. The primary goal all along, according to Donnie, was to clear out cap space. The secondary goal was always to try to be competitive. By definition, when the priorities clash, the first takes precedence. That’s what’s happened in Donnie’s reign so far. Otherwise the Knicks would still have Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, and maybe Ramon Sessions.

And as we’ve noted for some time, another year of sub .500 basketball is and has been a difficult pill to swallow for some people. For the folks who want the Knicks to spend money and take on contracts so they can try to win now, the main flaw in the Knicks’ plan is that star free agents aren’t going to want to join a perpetual lottery team.

We’ve always argued that when a star joins a team, that team stops being a lottery team. For example, is Miami without Dywane Wade any better than, say, the Nets? Are the Nets with Dywane Wade better than the Knicks? How would the Cavs do minus LeBron? This isn’t an untestable hypothesis. Two short years ago, a hobbled Dywane Wade played in just 51 games for the Heat. They won 15 games that entire year. In 1996-97, David Robinson played in 6 games for the Spurs. They won 20 games. This type of logic has always been lost on certain fans, and oddly, media outlets like ESPN.

But it isn’t lost on the players.

Last week, Chris Bosh said of the Knicks 2010 roster:

…in order to get certain guys you have to make room…So there’s no telling what kind of team will be here next year.

But even if the same core takes the floor next year, if a player like LeBron comes – as we’ve said over and over in this space – he’ll be joining a squad superior to the current Cavs. The Cavs squeaked by the Lakers on Thursday. Without LeBron they would have been blown out. The Lakers edged out the Knicks in the 4th quarter the next day, and even though the Lakers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, if LeBron was on the Knicks, the Knicks would have dismantled the Lakers.

But don’t take my word for it. In another example of how players understand that stars make all the difference, and that supporting casts are just different degrees of mediocre most of the time, Ron Artest said [via Hahn]:

“Actually, I thought about that yesterday…If you take LeBron off [the Cavs], no.  They’re not [a playoff team]. No.”

Of course, even without LeBron, the Knicks still might be.

Von Wafer Update

Hes taller than Nate.
He's taller than Nate.

Yes, the summer is going by so slowly that we’ve resorted to Von Wafer updates:

Von_Wafer_freee agency is wearing me down — clippers, knicks or even maybe rockets are in the game — but I don’t like greek food.

I don’t know a ton about Von Wafer except that he’s a 2 with size and he can score. He can probably be had on a one-year deal or even a very cheap multiyear deal. I suspect he’s way down on the Knicks list of priorities in the backcourt behind Sessions and Nate.

Anyway, there’s your Von Wafer update.

Millsap gets $32 million offer from Blazers

ESPN.com is reporting that the Blazers have extended a 4-year $32 million offer to Paul Millsap.

The market for David Lee is now set. The $12 million number he asked for seems a bit high (not that we didn’t know that before) now that its clear that Millsap, who many consider superior to Lee, most likely will not break $10 million/per.

If the Jazz match, the Blazers may target David Lee, but don’t expect them to offer much more (if at all) than they did to Millsap. In fact, it’s going to be hard for Mark Bartelstein to get a team to agree to pay Lee much more than Millsap, whether via straight-up signing or in a sign-and-trade.

From the Knicks’ perspective, do they match a $10 million offer?

Knicks Look To Andre Miller?

Frank Isola is reporting that if the Knicks strike out on Grant Hill, they could turn their attention to Andre Miller, and offer him either a one or three year deal at the full midlevel.

I like Andre Miller. He’s a very good point guard, but, as Isola points out, he’s not necessarily a SSOL PG because his long range jumper is suspect.

Despite the questionable jumper though, Miller is an intelligent, saavy veteran, who could do most of what Coach D’Antoni needs.

So while going after Miller wouldn’t be a terrible move, if the Knicks are going to offer a point guard a multiyear deal, I’d prefer they offer it to Ramon Sessions who is younger and probably fits the SSOL mold a little better.

Boshtimism Up. LeBroptimism…Up!

We don’t have a Chris Boshtimsim-o-meter, but if we did, it would surely skyrocket with Bosh’s recent statement that he intends to opt-out.

“[When] I signed a three-year [extension in 2006]… I had a goal in mind, and that was to put myself in the best position [in 2010] … I’m thinking I just want to stick to my goal, stick to what I was doing,” Bosh told reporters. “That’s a part of the plan … I just want to address things [after] next season. There’s a reason why I did things the way I did them back then.”

LeBron James signed a contract with an identical opt-out, and ostensibly the reason would also be to put himself “in the best position” in 2010.

“There’s a reason why I did things the way I did them back then.”

[Moment of silence to let that sink in].

Look, is the reason because everyone wants to sign with the Knicks in 2010? Are Bosh, James, and Wade going to do battle for the honor of playing in New York? Or is it just because those players and their agents know that the current collective bargaining agreement expires after 2010, and they want to lock in long term, max contracts before an expected lock-out, and maximize the payout under the current CBA’s pay rules?

Either way, Bosh isn’t signing an extension. And I don’t think LeBron will either.

Knicks + LeBron > Cavs + LeBron?

People who don’t think LeBron James would leave Cleveland often use the argument that LeBron wouldn’t leave a team that has in place for him such a solid supporting cast.

In my opinion, LeBron’s supporting cast is extremely overrated.

Ignoring the fact that by 2010, Cleveland will only have 4 guys under contract (Mo Williams, Delonte West, JJ Hickson, Darnell Jackson), is Cleveland’s current supporting cast really that special? Replace LeBron with Al Harrington and how many games do the Cavs win this season? 40? If they’re lucky?

Replace Harrington with James on the Knicks and the Knicks probably go from 32 wins to at least 60. I’ve blogged about this before, and now the cognoscenti are hoping aboard

2010 Cap Competition

By now everyone knows the Knicks are trying their hardest to get under the cap for 2010. The free agent class is terrific, so why wouldn’t they. Trouble is, everyone knows the free agent class is terrific, and lots of teams are employing the same strategy. Here are the teams that represent the Knicks main competition (in alphabetical order):

Atlanta:  The Hawks have Josh Smith signed to a big contract that extends past 2010, Al Horford, Mo Evans, and Acie Law also extend past 2010, but their contracts are not cap destroyers. The Hawks should be able to make a run at 2010 free agents.

Cleveland: The Cavs have Mo Williams, Delonte West, Boobie Gibson, JJ Hickson and Darnell Jackson under contract in 2010. They should be able to make a run at a top free agent.

Houston: The Rockets have Shane Battier, Joey Dorsey, Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes and Aaron Brooks signed through 2010. Not a lot of cap space eaten up by those guys.

Miami: The Heat have James Jones, Michael Beasley, Mario “super nintendo” Chalmers, and Daequan Cook signed through 2010. Watch out for the Heat.

Minnesota: The T-Wolves should have some cap room, with Al Jefferson and several guys with smaller contracts extending through 2010 (Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love, Ronnie Brewer, Sebastian Telfair).

Oklahoma City: The Thunder have Nick Collison, Nenad Kristic, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green under contract through 2010. Most of these are rookie contracts. They should have space.

Portland: The Blazers only have a few guys under contract through 2010, but they probably wont have cap space, since they have to make decisions on Aldridge and Brandon Roy.

Spurs: The Spurs have basically only a couple marginal contracts on the books past 2010. Except of course for Duncan and Parker, who are already their two max guys. They might have some room, but I don’t see them as major competition for the top prizes.

Utah: If the Jazz can move Kirilenko for an expiring deal, they’d be in real good shape, with just Deron Williams taking up significant cap space in 2010.

Of course, some teams are still jockeying for position in the 2010 race and can get themselves in good position through trades (Toronto – if they trade Kapono for an expiring – and Chicago – if they can move Hinrich – for example). Some, like the Clippers, Warriors and Pacers, have not shot.

Lee and the Qualifying Offer

Alan Hahn speculates today that David Lee might take the qualifying offer from the Knicks this summer. Then, when he’s an unrestricted free agent, “for the Knicks, who have his Bird Rights, he could be signed up to a max deal, even if they are over the cap.”

Sure, this is true, and I’ve speculated as much before (like in January, and yes, I know the linked analysis is somewhat flawed too).

Problem is, under the CBA, the Knicks have to sign their own guys first, before signing any outside free agents, or completely renounce their own guys, and lose their bird rights. We know the Knicks won’t be over the cap in 2010 if the plan proceeds as we expect, but in considering the strategy Hahn set forth today (and I set forth in January), you have to factor in the fact that you need a significant amount of space to sign LeBron (or whoever) first, and then sign Lee (enough to fit Lee’s cap hold under the cap after signing LeBron).

The bottom line is, don’t overpay for Lee, bird rights or not.

Raptors to offer Bosh an extension

Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo told the Associated Press that his team will offer Chris Bosh a contract extension this summer. If Bosh accepts the deal, a big part of the 2010 plan could be shattered, but if he rejects it and decides to play out the year, the tea leaves would be pretty clear that Bosh is looking to come back south of the border.

Colangelo made clear that his preference is to re-sign, rather than trade Bosh, but if the talented power forward does not turns down the Raptors’ offer, Colangelo would explores the trade route, as well:

“Chris is still the best player on this team and thus will remain the cornerstone of the franchise,” Colangelo said Monday, recapping Toronto’s 33-49 season. “I will sit down and talk to him and his agent this summer about the possibility of signing an extension.”

With the salary cap expected to go down and world financial markets still in flux, Colangelo expects the economy to “change options for players.” As such, he’ll pitch security and stability to Bosh when they begin negotiations.

“It’s not out of the realm of reason, especially with the changing economic climate and where things are, there might be a model that actually looks safer to sign the deal now,” Colangelo said. “We will explore that, we’ll talk about it. I’m sure he’ll review those alternatives and options and we’ll see if it makes sense for him. If not, there’s still no reason to panic and trade Chris Bosh.”

If Bosh rejects the idea of a long-term commitment, however, Colangelo may be forced to explore trade options.

“If it’s there and there’s an opportunity to improve your basketball team, then obviously you make that move,” Colangelo said.

This is certainly interesting. Bosh is terrific. But the Cavs are sure to offer LeBron an extension this summer too. That’s where the real scrutiny is going to be.

Eddy Curry

Next on the list in our Player Evaluation Series is Eddy Curry…

2008-09 Season: It only seems like Curry didn’t play this year. But he did. He played almost 3 minutes at Dallas on January 8th, during which the Knicks blew a sizeable lead and wound up losing a winnable game. Then almost 3 months later, he played 2 minutes at Charlotte, contributing 3 fouls and 1 rebound. He wrapped up his season the next game at Utah with his best performance of the season, playing 7 minutes, and collecting 3 points (1/1 FG, 1/3 FT), 1 rebound, and 2 turnovers. So overall Curry’s season was a wildly successful.

Strengths: Curry can eat more big macs in one sitting than 98% of the population; “‘You Know You Want To Touch It Dave’ became the funniest fantasy team name of the 2009 season.’“; He can burn through money like Mike Tyson or M.C. Hammer.*

Basketball-wise, I’m going to assume that a healthy, motivated Curry is still good enough to lead a team to 33 wins, as in the 2006-2007 season. He is a dominant low post scorer. Feed him the ball when he has good position down by the basket and six times out of ten you’ll get a bucket. There were games in 2006-’07 when nobody could guard him. He even took Dwight Howard to school on more than one occasion.

Things to work on: Eddy knows, Leon Rose knows, Donnie and Mike know: Curry needs to get in shape. Aside from that, I think it’s safe to assume that Curry hasn’t improved much in the areas in which he was deficient during his “good year” (how could he have? He’s barely played.). That means his reaction time is still leaden. That means his lack of passing skills ensures that he will have more turnovers in a given game than assists. That means he has no game anywhere on the court other than 3 feet away from the basket. That means he’ll never be a shot-blocker or a rebounder.

Being a dominant offensive center is nice, but it is a pressing concern whether the above weaknesses will be too much to overcome for Curry considering Mike D’Antoni’s system.** In order to thrive in D’Antoni’s offense, players have to be able to pass†, and it helps to have some sort of perimeter game, even if it’s limited to 15 feet. D’Antoni likes his bigs, like all his players, to run the floor. D’Antoni also likes his bigs to set up in the high post, set picks for the guards and roll to the basket. Curry hasn’t proven himself capable of doing either of these. I think the high post would be a pretty uncomfortable place for him, though I could be wrong, and I hope I am: Nobody is going to want to get in the way of Curry barrelling down the lane with a full head of steam from the high post off a pick and roll.

The Future: Curry is 26. He should be entering his prime. I’d like to think that he could get his act together and come into next season 40-60 pounds lighter. To that end, I appreciate that he’s going to fat camp.

Realistically though, I think the odds are stacked against him. I’ve been trying to think of NBA players with weight problems who have bounced back. It’s hard. I can think of 5 overweight players off the top of my head: Jerome James, Tractor Traylor, Mike Sweetney, Oliver Miller, and Shaq. Seems to me that of those 5, only Shaq has been able to play through weight issues, though he was limited by injuries throughout several regular seasons. So, can Eddy accomplish what so few other overweight players have? D’Antoni’s take: “I’m not going to take a mortgage out on my home [betting on it], but he wants to and why wouldn’t he?”

Because he’s occupying Jerome James’ position as resident lazy-Knick?

I hope Curry pulls it off because he needs to rehabilitate his value around the league. He’s scheduled to make upwards of $11 million in 2011 and he doesn’t want this contract to be his last one. More importantly to the team and its fans, the Knicks have to find a taker for Curry in a trade. That $11 million in 2011 number has to be off the Knicks cap if the Knicks are to be fully successful in implementing their 2010 plan. I’m dubious that the Knicks will be able to move Curry, even if he comes back in shape, because, while it’s true that dominant low post bigs are rare, $11 million is a lot for an injury prone, overeating, defensively challenged player.

Of course, I never thought the Knicks would be able to trade Jerome James or Zach Randolph, but they did. If Curry comes back motivated and in shape, it could be another interesting trade deadline next season.

Next up, Chris Duhon…

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*Note: “But don’t you dare criticize [Isiah] Thomas … for the Curry trade.” After all, the Bulls used the Knicks’ pick on Ty Thomas, while the Knicks selected Balkman with Bulls’ pick. As we all know, “Tyrus Thomas will become a better player than Balkman. But not that much better.”

**Or should D’Antoni ditch his proven system, call the legendary Isiah Thomas, and ask for his help in incorporating Curry? After all, as mentioned, Thomas, using Curry as his focal point, led the Knicks to 33 wins in a season where Mike D’Antoni’s Suns won 61 games.

†Centers who command double-teams need to know how to pass in any system, or else they aren’t exploiting the double-team, and drawing the double becomes a liability instead of an asset.