Tagged: Free Agency 2010

Some Much Deserved Love for Jared Jeffries

The Knicks played a terrific all around game last night in New Orleans and a lot of the guys played exceedingly well. Duhon, Lee, Al, Gallo, Hughes and Chandler are all playing some pretty nifty basketball. Good for them. But I think we fans need to start wrapping our heads around a strange reality that Mike D’Antoni has known about for a while: the Knicks don’t knock the Hornets off in their own gym without Jared Jeffries.

It’s true. At this point I think it’s undeniable. The Knicks simply do not hold down Chris Paul on his own floor unless Jeffries (a team-leading +28, by the way) is there to keep him out of the paint. They don’t stomp the Blazers without Jeffries. They don’t come from behind in New Jersey without him. And they certainly don’t run the Suns out of the gym without JJ continually harassing Steve Nash.

A lot of the Knicks’ recent success can be attributed to all the guys doing their respective jobs much better. Duhon is finally coming around and playing some very heady basketball. Harrington is playing a much more complete game in recent days. Chandler is looking more and more like the guy we saw last year. And Gallinari is finally asserting himself at both ends all the time.

All of that is allowing Jeffries to show, once and for all, his substantial value as a consummate role player. Whether it’s his heady rotations, weakside blocks and charges, offensive boardwork or, most importantly, harrassment of the other team’s best offensive player (regardless of position), Jeffries’ contributions are making the rest of team’s improvement translate into wins.

Now, if you’re rolling your eyes thinking that this pro-Jeffries’ missive is going to conclude with me suggesting that the Knicks should hold onto him, 2010 be damned, well…it’s not. Because that’s insane. Lebron and 2010 are paramount so I’d never suggest that the Knicks should hold onto Jared if some team made an offer that cleared an additional $7 million for this summer. That’s shortsighted and foolhardy.

The longer this run of great play goes on, the more likely the Knicks are to receive a palatable offer for Jeffries from a bonafide contender. And when that happens, as we’ve said here before ad nauseum, the Knicks should take it and never look back.

But since the inception of this blog, Dan and I have been hypercritical of Jeffries’ play during his Knick tenure (deservedly so, I might add). So fair is fair. We crushed him when he was terrible. Now that he’s shown himself to be a lynchpin to the team’s hopes for success this season, respect will be paid.

And here’s one more thing I think Knicks fans should wrap their heads around: If and when the Knicks do ship Jeffries out of town, any chance they have of making the playoffs this season is probably walking out the door with him.

Hard to believe. But true.

Monta Might Make Some Sense (or Take Monta Home Tonight)

I think Dan framed the Monta Ellis situation very well earlier with respect to the impact an Ellis acquisition would have on the 2010 cap and the Knicks’ cache of tradable assets. And I agree with Dan that, despite the $1-2 million extra it would cost to bring Ellis into the fold, it might be worth it simply to add another player to the roster that other teams might value in the future.

In addition to all that, I’d just like to propose the following:

Let’s assume for a moment that the Knicks are only able to add one max free agent this summer for whatever reason (two or all of the big 3  sign with other teams; remaining players out there don’t warrant the max or don’t want to sign with the Knicks etc.).

1. If Monta Ellis were a free agent in the 2010 market, would you be happy if the Knicks got him for 4 years, $44 million?

2. If Monta Ellis were a free agent after this season, would you prefer to see the Knicks  give him 4 years, $44 million, or would you prefer to see the Knicks give Rudy Gay, say, 5 years, $60 million?

3. If Monta Ellis were a free agent after this season, would you prefer to see the Knicks pay his deal or give David Lee a 5 year deal for $45-50 million?

I think these are the types of questions the Knicks should be asking  in weighing the virtue of an Ellis trade. I remain guardedly optimistic that the Knicks will get a crack at Lebron, but I have my doubts that they’ll be able to create enough cap space to sign two max free agents this summer. It’s more likely that the team will add one max guy and a second player of lesser caliber.

As things stand at the moment, the Knicks can afford to add a max player and then another player with a first year salary of $7-8 million.  This means that, to acquire a second player making even Ellis’ salary, the Knicks will have to find a taker for Jeffries or Curry and in that deal clear at least $6 million more in salary.

Now take a look at this list:  Of the players on this list that the Knicks could realistically acquire and won’t command the max, do you see any that would be better to add than Ellis? Possibly Rudy Gay, but since he’s restricted the Grizzlies could potentially match. Plus  Gay will cost more money over a longer deal and Ellis might be the better player anyway. That’s really it.

I want to stress that I’m not necessarily advocating for the Knicks to trade for Monta. If Donnie truly believes he can trade Jeffries or Curry for cap space before free agency starts this summer, I think he should definitely go that route and try to get a Lebron-Bosh combination.  But if he knows he can’t trade those guys for expirings, I think the Knicks could do much worse than swapping Jeffries, Duhon and Chandler for Ellis and Speedy Claxton. It would still leave the team with enough space to add a max player this summer (plus a $5-6 million guy) and another max player in 2011 when Curry’s deal comes off the books.

Getting two max guys this summer has to be Plan A, but if Plan A proves unrealistic, that’s a pretty damn good Plan B.

Hahn: Knicks Not In Sessions

Yesterday, Alan Hahn discovered through one of his sources that the Knicks did not make an offer to RFA PG Ramon Sessions, nor will they without first offloading an albatross contract (you know which ones). This was contrary to what he’d been told by a different source the day before. Hahn is now hearing that the Knicks would still love to add Sessions, but not at the expense of any precious 2010 cap space.

It’s sometimes hard to tell which source to believe when there’s conflicting information being tossed around like this but, in this case, Hahn clearly seems to feel that his clarification yesterday is more accurate. Just applying logic to the situation, the second story just feels a lot like the truth.

You know we like Ramon Sessions a lot in this space and we were early advocates that DW ought to make a big push to bring him in. He’s a young player with a good upside and he’d fit well with the young pieces the team has already assembled. However, when you consider Lebron’s refusal to sign an extension, his comments to ESPN that aired this past Sunday, and the fact that his shoe deal also expires after this season  (I wonder if Nike will have any thoughts on where he should sign, hmm…) Donnie simply can’t afford to ignore these signals and  jeopardize his shot at the best player on the planet.

That’s not to say Donnie’s without blame here. His decision to forgo the opportunity to offload Jeffries at the deadline last season is indefensible and now it’s come home to roost. He badly misjudged the Knicks’ chances at making the playoffs and, truth be told, making the playoffs last season should never have been his priority in the first place. The reality is, if DW had consummated the trade, the Knicks would have their PG of the future right now. Be it Sessions, Curry, Rubio or Flynn. Because not only would the trade have freed up some cap space, it may also have cost the Knicks a couple of extra wins last season and netted them a higher lottery pick.

At this point, though, that’s all just crying over spilt milk. What’s done is done. And with Lebron looming on the horizon, unless Donnie can clear some room, the Knicks just have to let Sessions go.

Yet Another Perspective on Lebron, and Donnie’s Secret Revealed?

At this point interested observers far and wide have tried ad nauseum to calibrate the odds that Lebron spurns the Cavaliers and joins the Knicks next summer. The majority of these efforts tend to be based on misinformation and “gut-feel” speculation about what the speaker believes would be sensible or appropriate for Lebron to do.

Today, RealGM.com contributor Louis Roxin posted what’s only the world’s latest stab at trying to put the King’s options in proper perspective. However, two things set this article apart from so many of the others:

  1. It’s factually accurate (if a bit optimistic in spots).
  2. I believe it reveals Donnie’s (not so?) big secret about the team’s extra cap leeway.

From an accuracy standpoint, the best thing Roxin accomplishes is debunking the biggest Lebron myth (or at the very least misleading statement) routinely espoused by the mainstream sports media. Namely, that the Cavs can offer Lebron a far more lucrative contract than the Knicks can. While that’s technically true, it’s only a function of the fact that the Cavs can offer Lebron an extra year at the end of his deal. The truth, though, is that the extra year is irrelevant because Lebron isn’t going to sign a 6 year deal with anyone. The only number that matters is the annual average. As Roxin writes:

Over the same five years, LeBron would earn $4.14 million less signing with the Knicks than re-signing with the Cavs as a free-agent. The Cavs can offer an extra year, but there is little reason to think the security of a 6th season will be decisive. If LeBron put much value on security, he would have sought a longer-term contract in 2006 rather than the 3-year extension he did sign. If security is what he is after, LeBron would have already signed an extension this off-season. Given the relatively small difference between the Cavs’ and Knicks’ 5-year max offers – and given the mountain of endorsement dollars that could come LeBron’s way if he lands in New York – LeBron could have a significant financial incentive to sign with the Knicks.

In addition, while making his 10-point case for why the New York’s chances of landing Lebron are better than advertised, Roxin also reveals what I believe DW may have been addressing when he cryptically referred to extra wiggle room that the Knicks have under the 2010 cap:

If the Knicks are a few million dollars short of the cap room needed to offer a second max contract in 2010, look for Donnie Walsh to engineer a buyout of the 2010-2011 season on the contracts of Curry and/or Jeffries. Because this is the final year of these contracts, the Knicks would receive dollar-for-dollar cap relief on any buyout. For instance, offering 80% of the salary due on the last season of these two contracts would buy the Knicks more than $3.5 million of additional cap room.

I’d imagine that this extra buyout space is probably also being factored into any decision the team makes regarding Ramon Sessions.

At any rate, the article may be a bit optimistic (particularly about Gallo’s future per game averages and the size of the 2010 cap) but, considering the nature of the recent Knicks coverage by the national media, Roxin seems almost subversive in his refusal to treat Lebron’s return to Cleveland as a foregone conclusion. Considering how dour things are becoming around here while we wait for Donnie to do something, it’s well worth a read.

Striking Out in Free Agency

Donnie Walsh took his best shot with Jason Kidd and he’s made two fairly substantial offers to Grant Hill in his efforts to give the Knicks some veteran leadership and bolster the team’s credibility. But with news emerging this morning that the Suns have improved their offer and are making a late recruiting push to bring Hill back into the fold, it seems very possible that the Knicks are going to miss out on both players.

Frank Isola wrote this morning that the Knicks could turn to Andre Miller next should Hill decide to re-sign with the Suns. While I don’t think that would be an awful move, it’s certainly not the Knicks’ best option (more on that below) and I don’t see Donnie landing him anyway. As is the case with the Knicks and David Lee, the Sixers’ position vis a vis Miller has come together beautifully. The teams with substantial cap space are seemingly unwilling to meet Miller’s asking price leaving him with no other option but to accept a deal from Philly or try to orchestrate a sign-and-trade. Barring a fantastic offer, the Sixers can just sit on their hands and wait this out, basically daring Miller to sign somewhere else on a mid-level deal. In the end, I think he goes back to the Sixers on a 3 year deal for $7-8 million per.

So if these are the Knicks’ only targets, it’s starting to look like we may just whiff completely in free agency. Now, there’s still plenty of time and none of the restricted free agents’ situations have been resolved, including Lee’s and Nate Robinson’s, so I’m not necessarily suggesting that Donnie will just rest on his laurels and go to camp with this roster (though he might).

That said, I don’t want to see the Knicks haphazardly trying to add veteran players anyway. While I understand the virtue of Miller, he doesn’t offer the same cache or credibility that Jason Kidd would have and I just don’t see the same value in the incremental improvement Miller would provide. While I do think he’d help the culture, the Pedro Martinez analogy certainly doesn’t apply here because he’s not going to be a major draw to the big-time free agents the way that Kidd might have been.

If the Knicks can’t add Hill, I’d much rather see the team target Ramon Sessions than Miller. I still think Sessions would be a great add and I just have a feeling that the Bucks’ financial struggles have been underestimated and their willingness to match a substantial offer (the full midlevel?) has been overstated. Sessions is 10 years younger than Miller and offers a similar skillset. He’s the kind of young, promising PG that can grow with the team and add long term value regardless of whether we land Lebron or Dwayne Wade.

Short of that, I’d even prefer to see Nate go in a sign-and-trade for a young PG who’s reputation is a little bit tarnished like Sergio Rodriguez or Jordan Farmar over a Miller signing. Each of those players thrive in the uptempo game (Farmar’s main problem is that he’s miscast in the triangle) and are young enough where, given an opportunity, they could still blossom into good players.

We’re all starting to come to terms with some of the biggest challenges the Knicks will face in executing a fast rebuild. If Donnie can pull it off and make us instant 2010 contenders, fantastic. But he shouldn’t force it. This is where his trademark restraint figures to come in handy. Because if the Knicks aim for the fast rebuild with third and fourth tier players, as we all know far too well, in no time we’ll just find ourselves back in the dumpster. It’s time to start getting our heads around the concept of “slow-and-steady”, even if it’s only a fallback.

What of Nate?

The KryptoKlown front has been eerily quiet thus far, even from his end, which is strange for a 25-year-old player who put up the numbers that Nate did last season. Especially one who’s as exciting and as good at drawing attention to himself as Nate is.  It makes me suspect that Donnie and Nate may already have agreed to a sign-and-trade that they’ll execute after the moratorium ends on Wednesday.

Remember, the other day DW revealed to the Associated Press that he has a secret that will afford the Knicks more 2010 cap space than it appears that they have right now. I think this could be the secret.

Can Lebron Lure a Big Fish to Cleveland?

You’d think a title shot with Lebron would be a compelling draw but, at least so far, the Cavs are 0 for 2 in their efforts to convince free agent targets to sign with Cleveland. To date, the Cavs have swung and missed on Ron Artest (despite a recruiting pitch from Lebron himself) and Trevor Ariza, who signed with the Lakers and Rockets, respectively.

Money obviously wasn’t the issue because all three teams were offering their full mid-level exception and both Artest and Ariza ultimately ended up signing for the MLE. And you know that Lebron isn’t the issue because, well, he’s Lebron.

To me, the problem is obvious. These are young guys who were offered the chance to live in vibrant cities with significant nightlife and chose that lifestyle over living in a much colder, sleepier city. And, in Ariza’s case, he did so despite the fact that he knew he’d be going to a team that was much farther away than the Cavs are from competing for a title.

So while Lebron, a native Ohioan, may love Cleveland (and I have no doubt that he does), it seems like other NBA players might not love it so much. And if that means that the Cavs are unable to bring in the pieces they need to make a serious run at a ring this season, don’t think the King won’t take notice.

Life Will Go On After 2010

I’ll preface the point I’m about to make with the caveat that I still strongly believe that Lebron will be signing with the Knicks in 2010. As we’ve said here ad nauseum, much will be revealed this summer when Lebron does or, far more likely, doesn’t re-sign with the Cavaliers.

However, it’s crucial that the Knicks realize that, should Lebron do the unthinkable and ink an extension with the Cavs, basketball won’t simply draw to an end and the world won’t explode. The Knicks will still have the cap space they had set aside for the King and there will still be plenty of players out there that the team can sign that could place them in contention (with Lebron) for an NBA title. Have no fear because life will continue.

What the Knicks (and we fans) should fear is that, while wallowing in the depths of the disappointment they’ll surely feel as a result of missing out on Lebron, they’ll take the money they’ve saved up and insist on blowing it on players from the 2010 class who are stars, but not superstars and, as a result, that the end game will be a perrenial playoff contender, but one that has no hope of winning a title. Knicks FanBlog reader EZ framed the issue very well in our comments section yesterday:

If the knicks don’t sign wade or lebron i think they should be patient and wait for the opportunity to present itself down the road to land a superstar. Any other combination of mere mortal stars (bosh, redd, dirk, johnson etc) would almost certainly make the knicks a solid playoff team right away, however history has shown that more often that not you need the superstar to win titles. I for one am interested in winning titles, and am willing to be patient provided the knicks continue to bring in solid young players to rebuild.

Now, while I don’t necessarily agree with EZ about Bosh (I just think a big man with that kind of versatility, defensive prowess, and character is worth paying for even when you know that he alone isn’t good enough to win you a title, a la KG.), I think his larger point is exactly right.  The worst sin NBA franchises commit, and they do it all the time is blowing their cap space by doling out huge contracts to second tier players.

There is something about the allure of cap space that just seems to burn a hole in the pocket of the typical NBA GM and he invariably ends up maxing out the first decent player who bats an eyelash his way.  Ben Wallace, Rashard Lewis, Elton Brand. All boneheaded, cap-crushing max contracts handed out by GMs with fresh cap space that actually ended up pushing their respective teams further away from championship contention even though, on paper, the moves upgraded their teams’ talent.

Lewis is my favorite example simply because it’s so obvious how he’s killing his team. He’s a good player who could probably be the third best player on a championship team. But by paying him $110 million, the Magic gave up all their cap flexibility and locked themselves into a roster structure that rendered the team incapable of meaningfully upgrading the talent on their roster. And since he makes so much money, Lewis himself is also untradeable. Thus, unless the Magic “luck into” a situation like the Spurs enjoyed when David Robinson missed the season and they won the Tim Duncan lottery, the Magic are pretty much stuck for a while in this purgatory of being a playoff team but not a true title contender.

If the Knicks were to miss out Lebron, Wade and Bosh, and instead sign, for instance, Dirk Nowitzki and/or Joe Johnson to big contracts, they would be making the same kind of costly error that the Magic made. Sure, the Knicks would probably contend for a top 3 seed in the eastern conference playoffs every season but, as fans, do we root for the Knicks to win top 3 seeds? The goal should be to build a team that can win titles.

So if the Knicks do miss out on the elite talent in 2010, the players that are capable of taking home championship trophies at the end of the year, they need to bide their time and simply continue to upgrade the roster and develop young talent. Maintain cap flexibility and amass assets. And then, when the chance to add a truly transcendant player emerges whether it’s in 2011, 2012…strike.

Hahn: Knicks Might Pass on Lebron

Alan Hahn has been saying for a while now, mostly in his weekly chats, that he believes that the Knicks may not take the cap space they’ve been working so hard to acquire all the way into free agency 2010. Today, he presents that theory again in an article in Newsday.

Hahn says that, rather than pursuing the all-in-on-Lebron scenario, one that could very well leave the Knicks holding an empty bag, given that the Knicks hold multiple large, expiring deals and some attractive young talent, Donnie Walsh might instead pursue a trade either this offseason or at next February’s trade deadline for a star player from a team that (1) fears it might lose that player for nothing in 2010 (Chris Bosh) or (2) has stagnated and wants to reshuffle the deck (Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash).

While on some level it’d be so disappointing to see the Knicks forgo the opportunity to take their shot with Lebron (as you all know I think there’s at least a decent chance he’d spurn the Cavs and sign here), Hahn’s scenario is far from crazy. In fact, it’s the much safer play.

Most of what we all (Clevelanders and New Yorkers both) think we know about Lebron and his desire to either leave or stay in Cleveland is based on rampant, unfettered speculation about various bits of minutia that trickle into the media’s coverage of the whole 2010 saga. Sure, it’s fun to speculate (Dan and I have a whole meter devoted to it), but as Tommy Dee pointed out yesterday, no one can possibly know what Lebron has planned for the future because it’s likely that Lebron doesn’t even know at this point. And if he does know, he’s certainly not sharing with us.

Now, of course it’s possible that Lebron does have some semblance of an idea of what he wants to do, and that he’s let certain, trusted confidants in on his thinking (Sonny Vaccaro? Worldwide Wes? Leon Rose? Jay-Z?). It’s also possible, if he’s leaning towards leaving the Cavs, that those confidants have found ways to relate Lebron’s current thinking to the people that are well-positioned to faciliate Lebron’s move to a new team (Read: Donnie Walsh). We know that kind of stuff happens all the time. But we don’t know if it’s happening now.

Rest assured though, if the Knicks make moves this summer that effectively take them out of the running for Lebron in 2010, it will be because Donnie Walsh wasn’t given reason enough to believe that Lebron was coming here. And if that’s the case, he’ll have done the right thing by getting the Knicks some elite talent when he knew he could and setting them up to battle Lebron for titles (wherever it is he decides to play) in the years to come.

Deadline Looming, Knicks-Mavs Match?

With the trade deadline now less than a week away, the rumors are building to a flood and the scuttlebutt ranges from sensible to nonsensical. It is becoming clearer, though, which teams are truly eager to swing a deal and which players are actually going to be available.

Yesterday, Tommy Dee over at The Knicks Blog posted an entry discussing which teams he believes are aggressively looking to make a move and what might they have to offer. With respect to the Knicks, Dee wrote:

KNICKS

Donnie Walsh’s team has been on a roller coaster all year. A bunch of wins followed by a ton of losses.

Key Pieces: David Lee, Nate Robinson, Malik Rose, Jared Jefferies, Steph
Skinny: I’m sure you think I’m crazy for adding Jefferies to this list, but defensively he can help a playoff team, but will his contract scare people off? In the end, Lee and JJ2 stay, Nate and Malik go. We’re really trying to dig to find leaks, but MSG is on lock. “Spot on” Hahn apparently landed a great get with the Amar’e stuff. We’ve said dealing Nate is hard, but there’s no way he’s a Knick next year. He wants to get PAID and the Knicks won’t match so that’s not a good sign. I thought it made sense to keep him around for a playoff push, which can still happen, so if Walsh agrees then he stays. I think out of respect Walsh trades Malik to a contender. In this economy that contract is valuable. Honestly, who knows with Steph.

That section mostly contains information we already knew (thanks in large part to Dee’s always solid information and reporting). We know that’s pretty much what the Knicks have to work with.

One team that Dee didn’t mention on his list but is expected to be a deadline buyer is Dallas. In the aftermath of the Jason Terry injury, the Mavs are looking to make a move to bolster their backcourt and give them some of the scoring punch they’ve lost with Terry out. In recent days the Mavs have been linked to Vince Carter but ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that a trade is unlikely because the Mavs maintain that they won’t include Josh Howard in the deal (Besides, how many terrible deals can you make with the Nets in the span of a year? Two is overkill.).

At any rate, I see a potential match between the Knicks and the Mavs because the Mavs have an expiring contract in Jerry Stackhouse and the Knicks have an explosive backcourt scorer in Nate Robinson. Nate would replace at least 80-85% of the offense Dallas lost when Terry went down and at the end of the season the Mavs would own his restricted rights.

So I propose two trades (in order of likeliness, in reverse order of desirability):

1. Nate Robinson and Jared Jeffries for Jerry Stackouse and the Mavs 1st round pick (expected to be in the low 20s, presently 21).

In this deal the Mavs would get Nate and a versatile defender in Jared Jeffries that could lend a hand come playoff time, and the Knicks get some more cap room and another draft pick they can use to secure a player who’s rookie contract runs past 2010. (Note: JJ Barea fits in this trade as well if that makes it more palatable.) If, as Tommy Dee writes, it’s fait accompli that the Knicks won’t be resigning Nate, this is one good way to cut bait while putting the team in better position for the future.

2. Nate Robinson and Eddy Curry (!) for Jerry Stackhouse and a couple of spare tires (Mine are just exemplars. Take your pick.).

This would obviously be ideal, as it would unload the biggest remaining albatross contract from the Isiah Thomas era (that would be the only prize–the Knicks don’t get back any useful talent for the long-term in this trade). The deal puts Donnie Walsh in good position to re-sign David Lee (if he so chose) while still being able to lure two max free agents in 2010. The Mavs are the one team in the league that I could envision being willing to take a flier on Curry because Mark Cuban is their owner. He might be willing to pay the remaining money on Curry’s deal in exchange for paying nothing, talent wise, to acquire Nate. They’d be getting a Terry replacement right away and Cuban could be enticed by the possibility of filling the Mavs’ void in the low post with Curry down the road.

The second trade is unequivocally the less likely of the two, but the Knicks and Mavs definitely need to talk.