Knicks 114, Bucks 108

I take it you’re here to read about Toney Douglas?

Tonight, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups made their Knicks debuts. Both shot poorly from the field (10/25 and 4/12 respectively), but each made key contributions in the fourth quarter as the Knicks held on for a 114-108 win over a Bucks team that is just 8-22 on the road. On most nights this wouldn’t have been good enough, but the Bucks missed enough open looks and made enough telegraphed passes for the Knicks to keep their noses out in front. And Toney Douglas, who…wait this sentence needs it’s own paragraph:

Ahem. And Toney Douglas, who, all of 20 months since the day he was drafted, is now THE LONGEST TENURED NEW YORK KNICK, took care of the rest.

Douglas made all 7 of his two point attempts and 3 of his 5 three point attempts en route to 23 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in his 29 minutes. Bigger perhaps than any of Douglas’ makes, though, was a full-speed, sprinting, leaping offensive rebound in the final minute that allowed the Knicks to burn an initial 24 seconds off the clock and, ultimately, allowed Carmelo Anthony to knock down an 8-foot jumper and play the role of hero on his first night as a Knick.

But we’re not here to talk much more about Douglas. As soon as news broke that he would be making his debut tonight, the game became about Carmelo Anthony and, to a lesser extent, fellow newbie Chauncey Billups. To the extent that we focused on the incumbent Knicks, we did so with an eye towards how they looked alongside their newer teammates.

‘Melo put up numbers — 27 and 11 in the end — and did well to limit his turnovers (he had two), but his shot was off all night and it was well into the second half before he knocked down a jumper. Once he did he looked far more comfortable, putting up 11 fourth quarter points — the two most important of which came on the tail end of the play detailed above. Melo’s first step and dribble penetration were there — even spectacular on a couple of occasions — and he was able to create plenty of space for himself. But whether it was jetlag, unfamiliar surroundings, or nerves, he just didn’t have his aim. He’ll never be a hugely efficient scorer, but he’s not gonna shoot 40% every night either. He’ll be fine on offense.

Defensively…ouch. It was as bad as advertised. ‘Melo was completely indifferent in switching on even the most straightforward Bucks ball movement, and he consistently floated off of his man to rim-hang and look for rebounds. Let’s hope he was tired and conserving his energy, but it was not an encouraging performance (despite a couple of steals).

Billups was more impressive, though he suffered from the same shooting maladies (4/12) that afflicted his fellow debutante. Chauncey made up for it with a well-rounded game — 21 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and only 2 turnovers — and a barrage of late game free throws (12/12) that helped secure the victory. Defensively, he frustrated Brandon Jennings with physicality and got a couple of steals — nothing spectacular but he more or less held his own. He was beaten a couple times by the much quicker Jennings, who would have had a better-looking stat line if not for a few bad misses at the rim.

Amare Stoudemire had a night to forget, seemingly as a result of his determination to make it a night to remember. He looked overenthusiastic all game, consistently shooting too strong, committing needless fouls to the point of disqualification, and ultimately registering his 15th technical of the season. He was, at least, 7 for 7 from the line — the sole highlight in an otherwise uninspiring stat line. He and Chauncey played reasonably well together; hopefully they’ll click much faster than did STAT and Felton, who needed a couple of weeks to get in rhythm back in November. He drew a foul off of one really great entry pass from Anthony as well — the ability of these two to coexist and enhance each other is obviously the rock upon which the Knicks have built their Church and we saw flashes of it tonight, although it will need to get much more consistent.

I don’t want to draw a bunch of conclusions from one game. Instead, I’d like to focus on what I expect from the new-look Knicks and comment on where tonight’s game matched those expectations.

OFFENSE:

1) Overall: Concerns over the efficacy of the Knicks’ “new” offense are premature and, at least in my opinion, pretty unconvincing. Essentially, the trade combined key pieces of the league’s 1st-rated (Denver) and 7th-rated (Knicks) offenses, while eschewing several of the more defensively competent members of each team (Nene, Afflalo, Anderson, Felton, Chandler). Does every single piece fit perfectly? No. Do I expect this group to make beautiful music from the get-go? Not really. But this will pretty immediately be a well-above-average offense with elite potential depending on how the personnel clicks and whether any additions are made. There’s just too much talent for that not to happen.

Tonight, the Knicks scored 114 points on — by my count — 99 possessions. That’s 115 per 100 possessions. Pre-trade, the Knicks averaged 109.8 per 100. Milwaukee, a strong defensive team, allows just 102.6 points per 100 possessions (5th best in the league). This all happened despite bad nights from the field by the Knicks 3 best players. The offense will be fine.

2) Field Goal Shooting efficiency: The knock against ‘Melo, as even a cursory review of our comment boards will reveal, is that he’s a volume scorer who doesn’t score efficiently. And his eFG% (.474) is not good — it’s actually slightly worse than Raymond Felton’s. Luckily for the Knicks, they’ve added Chauncey Billups, whose .536 eFG% is 34th in the league and 4th among point guards. And they still have the super-efficient Landry Fields, whose .590 mark has him 7th in the NBA and should only increase with better looks. Stoudemire is no slouch, with a .511 eFG% that is comfortably above league average. The trade also means more minutes (and, hopefully, more open looks) for Shawne Williams and Toney Douglas, each of whom has the potential to score with very high efficiency as a spot up shooter. Basically, the Knicks were 9th in the league in this category pre-trade and I would be surprised if they didn’t take a small step forward, although this relies somewhat on the Knicks bench players taking on bigger roles as floor-spacers.

Tonight, the Knicks put up a .550 eFG%, unsustainably high for a full team but certainly a nice first data point.

3) Free Throws: And this is where it could be awesome. There are 71 players in the NBA who play 30+ minutes per game and have usage rates above 20%. Of these 71, only 20 have free throw rates above 35 (i.e., they have 35 FTM for every 100 FGA). Of those 20, three are now Knicks. Billups, ‘Melo, and Amare will all spend tons of time with the ball in their hands, will use many of those possessions to get to the free throw line, and will convert the vast majority of these free throw attempts. As great as Gallo was at getting to the line, his usage rate was low enough that it didn’t have as big of an impact on the Knicks overall offense as it might have. That won’t be a problem here, and the Knicks may trail only the Thunder in terms of creating points at the line the rest of the year. It may seem unsexy, but this is likely to be the biggest immediate positive impact of this week’s trade.

Tonight was a promising start in this regard – the Knicks were 26 for 28 from the stripe, including a 12 for 12 showing from Billups, who didn’t even appear to have his legs under him yet.

DEFENSE:

It’s the flip-side of the point I made regarding offense — we’ve taken two already bad defenses (Knicks 21st in the league, Nuggets 23rd), largely shed the best defensive players from each side, and put them in the charge of the most offensively minded coach of his generation. The results will not be good, to be sure. But I’ve been kind of amazed at how heavily everyone has harped on this point. The Knicks defense was already pretty bad and it’s not like the guys we just gave away were dynamos. Billups is slower than Felton and ‘Melo has a rep for being a bit lazy on that end. But I also think the level to which Melo and Amare are invested in this monster of their own making will give them at least some extra motivation to work on that end. I see regression on defense, but not a ton. They couldn’t defend in the post before and they still can’t, they committed too many fouls before and they still will, they gave up too many second chances before and that will continue also. I think their switching will get a little bit worse, and their on-ball perimeter D will also take a step back unless Corey Brewer can carve out a spot on the rotation. But this isn’t life-altering stuff — It’s a C- turning into a D+.

Tonight they gave up 108 points on 99 possessions, which is right at their season average. Unfortunately, they did this at home against the worst offense in the league (Milwaukee typically scores 101 per 100). It was a bad night defensively, but both Billups and Melo looked exhausted and the group had no time to jell. Furthermore, the Knicks were opportunistic, creating 20 points off of 15 turnovers, including two steals each by the new arrivals. The one thing the Knicks have done well on defense all season is force turnovers — they did it again tonight, and they’ll continue to do it all season.

Overall, the method will change (more iso, less threes, shorter bench) but this team’s output shouldn’t change a ton on a per possession basis. They’ll be better once ‘Melo is in the flow of things, but even when their stars are clicking, the Knicks will still need big nights from role players to measure up to the league’s elite. When the stars are off, those same role players will have to save them. Tonight, Toney Douglas obliged.

Milwaukee 83 – New York 67, The Good And The Bad

You didn’t have to look too deep last night to see examples of the opposing extremes. In a night where the franchise honored the 1970 championship team, their modern day heirs put up a 67 point stinker. Another polar event was the benching of Chris Duhon, who despite being third on the team in minutes played racked up a DNP in favor of newcomer Sergio Rodriguez. The Knicks scored 118 (albeit in overtime) against the #3 defense just two nights prior, but struggled to put up half that against the Bucks. Newly anointed savior Tracy McGrady followed up a 26 pts on 17 shots masterpiece with a 15 pts on 14 shots clunker.

But it wasn’t limited to T-Mac, as the entire team looked bad shooting. Chandler and Gallo, two youngsters who were supposed to thrive with the addition of talented passers, were a combined 4-14. Eddie House put up a Crawford-esque 4-16, Al Harrington was a meager 3-9, and Sergio Rodriguez made his predecessor look like a viable option with his 2-8 night.

The 1970 Knicks were known for their teamwork and fundamentals, as many of the telecast’s guests pointed out, and last night’s team failed to play as a unit. Rodriguez had lots of energy, but nearly too much for his teammates. He racked up 8 steals, and often pushed the ball up the floor. The problem was he was met by superior opposing numbers as the rest of New York jogged their way up the floor.

Other than cohesiveness, the Knicks lacked one other crucial aspect. With Lee bringing his game out to 15 feet and adding a long range bomber in Eddie House, the Knicks lack scoring in the paint to open the exterior. One play that stuck out in my mind was when Tony Douglas received the ball right under the hoop, but was unable to even get a shot off. Al Harrington can drive to the hoop, but he rarely passes the ball in that scenario. We’ve seen Tracy McGrady get the ball in a mid-post iso, but I’m not sure if he has that first step to get past his defender. The team is lacking someone that can really slash to the hoop. Perhaps they’ll get a view of one tonight as they face Nate Robinson and the Celtics.

Grading the Knicks 2010 Deadline Deals

DARKO MILICIC TO MINNESOTA
FOR
BRIAN CARDINAL

Mike Kurylo: Hard to hate or love this deal. The Knicks were intent to not play Darko, and Milicic has an Erik Estrada sized chip on his shoulder. The NBA grapevine has it that the Knicks are going to release Cardinal, but I don’t see why. Kelly Dwyer called Cardinal the anti-Milicic, a guy who worked hard to squeeze out minutes like you would an old tube of toothpaste. Unlike Darko, Cardinal is on the tail end of his career, but if the Knicks decide to keep him I can see D’Antoni having a use for him in a Jeffries-esque-do-the-little-things kinda way.

Cardinal’s career stats aren’t awful 12.4 pts/36, TS% 55.2, 2.6 ast/36, 2.0 to/36, 6.2 reb/36, 1.7 stl/36. The question is how much of that is from his earlier days, and how much does he have left in the tank? I’ll put a clause out on my grade. If Cardinal plays 200+ minutes for the Knicks, I’ll call it a B+. If not then I’ll go with a C, since you have to hand it to Donnie for trying to get something out of nothing.

Thomas B.: I see this as trading goldenrod for saffron. But this is worth a C+ because we knew Milicic was never going to play. At least now we can wonder if Cardinal will play. Cardinal has been a pro for 9 years and I never heard of him. I had a picture in my mind of who I thought he was and I went to NBA.com to see if it matched; it did not. I was thinking of Bison Dele–he retired a decade ago.

Kevin McElroy: Knicks look set to cut Cardinal, so this seems like a clever piece of bookkeeping that will save them a shade over a million dollars. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things? Sure. But who am I to hate on a team that wants to save a couple million bucks a few months before its intends to shell out roughly three gazillion dollars to let me root for LeBron and a high-priced sidekick. Not like they gave up anything we’ll miss, and Darko’s malingering could only have caused tension, so I’ll throw this one a C+. Somewhere, Q-Rich is wondering why he had to pay all those real estate agents in the first place.

Robert Silverman: Although I would have gotten a weird kink out of seeing Brian “The Janitor” Cardinal get some spin, it looks like we”ll never know. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for career backup PF/C’s. It’s why the only Nix jersey that I actually own is a Ken “The Animal” Bannister model from ’85-’86. B-

Caleb: Most NBA fans probably didn’t know that Darko was still in the league. Here’s my favorite Brian Cardinal story – can you believe there is a Brian Cardinal story? It’s how he got that contract in the first place. Allegedly, Michael Hensley was giving Jerry West a lot of grief, “why haven’t you signed anyone? etc.” West was about fed up and so he picked up the phone, called Cardinal’s agent and asked if he wanted $30 million. Ten seconds later, he turned to Hensley and said, “I signed a free agent. Are you satisfied?” I don’t know if it’s true but it’s a good story. This trade saved the Knicks about a million bucks, counting luxury tax. Supposedly Kahn is his protege. Guess there was a favor owed. A-

Brian Cronin: As Caleb notes, the trade saved the Knicks roughly $1 million off of their luxury tax bill, and since they were not playing Darko at all, this is a pretty easy win (now as to why they never really played Darko at all, well, that’s another story). A-

Dave Crockett: A little tax relief, and a potential end-of-bench player. Moving right along. A (but only worth a few points)

NATE ROBINSON AND MARCUS LANDRY TO BOSTON
FOR
EDDIE HOUSE, J.R. GIDDENS AND BILL WALKER

Mike Kurylo: Nate’s days were numbered under D’Antoni. Getting the starting job over Duhon seemed to indicate a final opportunity for Nate to win over D’Antoni. Being demoted just 2 days afterwards told you all you needed to know about Nate’s future in New York. In Walsh’s defense Nate did reject the deal to Memphis, but perhaps he could have played chicken with Nate and tried to force his hand (no one wants to sit in the final year of their contract). I’m sad the Knicks didn’t get a draft pick in return in this deal, especially considering that they gave one (and a half) away to Houston. It seems that there’s always a few teams willing to give one away, perhaps the Lakers might have been interested.

In the short term Eddie House will bring the big three ball, and fit in nicer with D’Antoni than Nate ever did. Giddens & Walkers NBDL numbers aren’t bad, but considering how little last year’s NBDLers played, I don’t envision the Knicks giving them lots of playing time. Oh and Giddens just had knee surgery, with no timetable to return. The Celtics got by far the best player of the bunch, and the Knicks didn’t receive anything here except perhaps a rental on House and a short look at Walker. D+

Thomas B.: I guess this means I lost when I took the over for Nate Robinson games as a Knick (82.5) prior to the season. I don’t like the move because Robinson is worth more than what we brought back. I’d have much rather had Robinson added to Jeffries deal with the Knicks keeping the “sweetener” picks. Or bring back a late first round pick when sending Robinson to Boston. A protected pick in 2012 would have made the 2012 pick we moved out with Jeffries easier to take. Of course, Walsh was somewhat limited since Nate could void the trades. This deal makes me think letting Robinson walk at the end of the season is okay. I just can’t see House, Walker, or Giddens dropping 41 points combined in any game this season much less any one of them doing it alone. D-

Kevin McElroy: This trade was presented in a ton of different forms and with a number of different justifications over the last month, most of which made sense for one reason or another. These reasons included:

1) Because the Knicks were going to get a draft pick back.
2) Because the Knicks were going to dump a player to reduce next year’s cap number.
3) Because the Celtics needed an incentive to be pulled into the larger Knicks/Rockets/Kings trade.
4) Because the Knicks wanted to get Toney Douglas more playing time without Nate looking over his shoulder.

In its final version, the trade accomplishes zero of these things. No draft pick came back and no long-term salary left with Nate, the Celtics trade was conducted separately from the mega-deal, and Alan Hahn has tweeted that Douglas will remain out of D’Antoni’s rotation (behind Duhon and the newly acquired Sergio Rodriguez).

Ultimately, the Knicks sent away a fan favorite for players that won’t be around after a couple months, received no assets, cleared up no cap room, and have run the risk of rejuvenating a division rival for a playoff run by sending them a much-needed bench scorer (seriously, I know the Knicks are out of it, but we can all agree that we’d rather not see the Celtics succeed in the postseason, right?). On a personal level, I’m happy that Nate gets to play for a good team, but the Knicks did absolutely nothing to advance their interests here. More worryingly, it feels like the Knicks brass was simply out-maneuvered, failing to take a hard line as the best parts of their return package came off the table. It feels silly to give such a poor grade to this one, seeing as Nate would have walked in a few months anyway, but the direction that this negotiation took shouldn’t get anything more than a D+.

Caleb: This was depressing. Like Balkman, an example of Walshtoni dumping someone they just didn’t like. Although, to be fair, it saved the Knicks more than $1 million, counting luxury tax. On the plus side, I’m happy for Nate, who will have a lot of fun the next three months. Wild-card: Bill Walker. Before he blew out both knees, there was talk of his being a top-5 pick. If they ever invent a new surgery/rejuvenation machine he could be a stud. D

Robert Silverman: First of all, can we please stop holding a torch for the supposed “Kenny Thomas for Jeffries & Nate deal that Donnie Moth$%&*^!ing Walsh turned down!!!!” deal. It was a rumor. No one, save Walsh and Petrie, knows if it’s true and they’re not telling. It’s like still being pissed at Isiah for (supposedly) retiring in ’93 rather than accept a trade to the Knicks (as Pete Vescey/Pete Vescey’s psychic Ms. Cleo claims). No, two C-Minus prospects like Giddens and Walker isn’t much of a haul for a productive (if maddening/maddeningly inconsistent) player. But what’s the alternative? Even if you could get another team to go for a sign and trade this off-season (which, considering Olympiakos was the strongest bidder in the summer of ’09 isn’t likely), you’re still going to have to take back a contract to make the deal work, thus cutting into our sweet, creamery cap space. The one thing that royally cheeses me off is that come playoff time, I will pull for Nate when he’s in the game (b/c he’s Nate. Warts and all, I so dig the dude). As a result, I’ll have to…sort of…root…for…the Celtics. Ick. I just threw up a little in my mouth. C-

Brian Cronin: I agree that it is a bit frustrating that Nate returned little value partially because his own coach was pretty clear about not liking him (way to market your assets!), but once you allow that Nate’s value was depressed to the point where you weren’t going to get a draft pick for him (by the way, the deal apparently does include a conditional second round pick, but I believe it’s one of those conditional picks where the chances of the conditions ever actually existing are next to nil, so it’s effectively not really a pick at all), then saving some money on the luxury tax is as good as anything else, I suppose. C+

Dave Crockett: This was all about coach D. I just cannot understand why Nate couldn’t play in 7SOL (such that it is in NY) while he got big mileage out of Barbosa in PHO. Happy for Nate, but I recall from my Beantown days that Tommy Heinsen HATES Nate. That’s never a good thing in that town. D

JORDAN HILL, JARED JEFFRIES, OPTION TO SWAP 1ST ROUND PICK IN 2011 (TOP 1 PROTECTION), 2012 1ST ROUND PICK (TOP 5 PROTECTION), AND LARRY HUGHES TO HOUSTON/SACRAMENTO
FOR
TRACY MCGRADY, SERGIO RODRIGUEZ

Mike Kurylo: I’m not sure what else to say that I didn’t say yesterday. So I’ll look at what this deal means for this year. I admit I’m a bit excited to see some new blood on what’s become a lifeless team. However there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head that is telling me not to get too optimistic. I would love for someone to take Duhon’s place in the starting lineup. But part of me is hoping it’s not McGrady, because if he plays well then the front office might overpay to keep him. I don’t want my future hopes resting on Donnie Walsh giving him a reasonable contract, T-Mac staying healthy for a full season, and shooting more efficiently than he’s been in the past (he’s had exactly one season with a TS% over 54%). What are the odds all that comes to fruition?

Perhaps Sergio Rodriguez would be the guy to send Duhon packing. But I just don’t trust D’Antoni to play him, and can you blame me? Remember the NBDL-shuffle of last year? The 2 whole games he gave Nate Robinson this year (one against Cleveland) before calling the experiment a failure? Von Wafer? Morris Almond? I just don’t envision Mike D’Antoni handing over the reigns to a youngster, especially with how oddly married he is to Duhon. My guess is that Sergio won’t get a chance until it’s too late, and he’ll be gone without given a fair shake.

On the long term it’s a lot to pay for moving the contracts of Hill and Jeffries, and I’d be much happier if things go wrong in the next 3 seasons we still have our draft pick to comfort us on those cold February days when the team is playing poorly. I’d like to give this a D or an F, but the remote chance this brings in 2 studs and the draft picks don’t matter gives it some hope. C-

Thomas B.: This is NOT the 13 points in 35 second Tracy McGrady coming to NY. I hope folks understand that. This guy is much closer to the Anfernee Hardaway we got in 2004: an injury riddled once dominant scoring wing. I’m excited about what Sergio might be able to do…to Duhon. If he can’t steal Duhon’s minutes at point he does not need to be in the NBA. Sergio should be allowed a fair shot to supplant Duhon. We know Duhon won’t be back, so at least see if Sergio is worth bringing back on the cheap. Other than the draft picks, I won’t miss what we sent away.

This deal was not about players, it was about cap room and Walsh delivered. Now we have to see what that cap room turns in to. This deal can’t be graded fairly until July 2010. And the true impact will not be known until May of 2011 (playoffs anyone?). For now, I’ll grade this pass/fail. So for giving the team a chance to dream about James/Bosh or James/Wade or Wade/Bosh, Walsh earns a Pass. But if he goes all Dumars this off season…..

Robert Silverman: Outside of the roundball ramifications, from a semi-ontological point of view, doesn’t it seem like the Knicks are somehow osmotically taking on the karma/organizational principles (or lack thereof) of their Madison Sq. Garden co-occupants? For years, nay, decades…heck, since ice was invented, the Blueshirts have given a washed-up/injured “star” a year or two to spin/reclaim their former glory. Some worked out well (Messier, Jagr, even Gretzky) while for the most part they, to use an utterly shop-worn tabloid cliche, bombed in their B’way revival (Plante, Sawchuk, Hedberg, Nilsson, Esposito, Hodge, Dionne, Carpenter, Lafleur, Nicholls, Gartner, Kurri, Robitaille, Lindros, Fleury, etc. etc.). Look at the cats who’ve graced our roster in the past decade – McGrady, Hardaway, Jalen Rose, Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Van Horn, McDyess, Mutombo, etc. In 2001, that’s an all-star roster. Alas, it isn’t 2001 anymore, Victoria. And there ain’t no Santa Claus.

Look, Walsh went all in for LeBron/Wade. And as my fellow Knickerbloggers/other sportswriters/pundits have written, he had to do it. I’m going to cross the sporting barriers for my take on this: “…The day you say you have to do something, you’re screwed. Because you are going to make a bad deal…” – Billy Beane/Michael Lewis, Moneyball

Say LeBron/Wade gives the ‘Bockers the Heisman. What does Walsh do then? Just let all of that cap space sit there? Doesn’t Walsh, by the same logic then have to overpay Stoudamire/Johnson/Gay (or trade for Arenas – shudder) even if none of them are close to being worth a max deal? Like Thomas B., I’m going to hedge my bets/grades: A+ (LeBron/Wade agrees to be NY’s best girl)/D- (Walshtoni’s so depressed/on the rebound that he throws money/a promise ring at the first vaguely attractive gal who comes his way)

Kevin McElroy: Look everybody, I know we’ve grown accustomed to expecting the worst here. I also know that there is plenty NOT to like about this trade [For example: how’s that “Nate and Jeffries for Kenny Thomas” trade look now? Far be it from me to say “I told you so,” but I think we can put to rest the idea that Walsh was wise to turn down that opportunity because he was waiting on something better (I’m looking at you “Donnie Walsh Report Card” commenters!) I hope for the sake of Walsh’s sleep schedule that rumor was unfounded all along.].

But these are the facts, and they are undisputed: The Knicks, even by the most pessimistic cap projections, will have $32 million in cap space next year. The Knicks have retained David Lee, who can be used in a sign-and-trade this summer. The Knicks have retained Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the two players who most fans feared would have to be sacrificed to unload Jared Jeffries contract. And the Knicks will enter next season, no matter the free agent machinations, with Eddy Curry’s $11 million dollar expiring contract, allowing them to either make a mid-season trade or add another very good player in the summer of 2011. Make no mistake, the Knicks paid dearly to get here, and if they strike out in free agency, the lost draft picks could haunt them for a decade. But look around, and think about where we were 24 months ago (Isiah in charge, capped out beyond belief, any hope of signing LeBron as faded as my 1998-99 Eastern Conference Champions graphic tee), and realize that you now root for an NBA team with a blank slate, four months before the best basketball player in the world becomes a free agent. And, yes, there is no guarantee that he, or anyone else, is coming. But this was the only reasonable course of action given where the Knicks started and the potential reward.

When Walsh arrived, he inherited three players with cap-killing contracts that extended past 2010. He was widely expected to find takers for ZERO of them. He found takers for THREE of them (Z-Bo, Crawford, Jeffries). This can’t be forgotten. The road here was a bumpy one, but the fact that we’re here at all is cause for quiet celebration. And cause for an A- .

Caleb: For me the key is opportunity cost. Without moving Jeffries, the Knicks ran a real risk of being able to afford only one major free agent, a scenario that probably would have led to signing no one — who would come to MSG, if even David Lee were gone? They were truly, truly desperate.
But the reactions are also just that people can’t believe their eyes. Or they remember the Bulls and Jerry Krause striking out for a couple of years, or they’re quivering at the memory of Isiah throwing $29 million at Jerome James. But free agency isn’t bad, guys. For $3 million, you can get someone better than Jordan Hill. Along those same lines, I think there’s very little chance the lost draft picks are in the teens, much less the lottery, and Walsh has covered his worst-case scenarios. $32 million buys a lot of options, LeBron or no. It won’t be hard to make this team a contender again. The only reason not to give this trade a higher grade is because when both the other teams come away grinning ear to ear, you have to figure you might have paid more than you had to. B

Brian Cronin: Not for nothing, but I believe the most pessimistic cap projections (a cap of $53 million) give the Knicks $31 million. Not a big deal, but you would need more than that to give full maximum contracts to either Lebron, Wade or Bosh. In any event, I think this is a trade that the Knicks had to do, and as Robert notes, when it is clear that you have to do something, other General Managers are going to take advantage of that need, and Daryl Morey is one of the best General Managers in the NBA, so he basically got as much as he could possibly get in this deal – but because the deal had to be made, I think it’s still a worthwhile move. I am on board with the notion of splitting the difference between an A (if this nets either Lebron/Wade, Lebron/Bosh, Wade/Bosh or Lebron/Lee) and F (if this nets no one of note, not even Joe Johnson), so the middle of that is a C.

EDITED TO ADD: I just realized another valuable aspect of this trade. It now allows the Knicks to sign up to $20.5 million worth of free agents (presuming a $53 million cap) while still keeping Lee’s cap hold in place rather than the $11 million worth of free agents before this trade. If they do that, they can then go over the cap to re-sign Lee. That basically puts them into a position where they can pretty much guarantee themselves that they will keep Lee if they want to keep Lee, as they’d be able to match any offer he gets. That’s big. Big enough for me to raise my grade to a B-.

Dave Crockett: You have to give this an incomplete. On the downside, the cost of this flexibility is high. So in one sense, it’s almost impossible to see this deal as an A+. Even in the best case scenario, we win the Yankee way–at a higher cost-per-win than any other team. Nevertheless, I’d rather win than not win. So, we’ll have to see what Donnie does with the flexibility. Its worth noting that the flexibility we have should also extend to sign-and-trades and trades. Incomplete.

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Following hard on the heels of Mike K’s fine breakdown of the benefits (or lack thereof) of trading for McGrady, I’m going to channel my inner Bill Simmons (I’ve been watching “Jersey Shore” on MTV and going to strip clubs all weekend to emotionally/psychically prep m’self. Needless to say, it’s been pretty harrowing.) and throw out some possible deals that could be made, even if our erstwhile coach is playing it coy:

“The key is it’s got to fit into the plan,” D’Antoni said before the Knicks’ 112-91 loss to the T’wolves last night. “It’s got to be right. I think we as an organization, we’re looking all the time, trying to better the team without messing up the long-term plan. It’s a tricky thing to do.

“We’ll keep looking. [Team president] Donnie [Walsh] will keep looking.”

You got that right, Coach. It is tricky. Is it as tricky as realizing that perhaps you should have played more than 6 guys in the 2nd half of a back-to-back, even if it means deviating from the sanctity of your precious 8-man rotation or going to the zone when Jefferson, Love and (shudder) Ryan Freaking Hollins are positively killing the Nix in the low post? Maybe not. But I digress…

Since it’s so durned difficult to make trades, in the spirit of teamwork (I’ve been taking my Teamocil these days), here are a few reasonable and hopefully fair deals to aid our (snicker, chortle) playoff push or upgrade for the future.

TRADE NUMERO UNO
New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF) and Cuttino Mobley (SG)
Sacramento trades: Kenny Thomas (SF/PF), Sergio Rodriguez (PG),  Hilton Armstrong (C)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yk98edg

Why it’s plausible: Rodriguez is buried behind Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih at PG. Jeffries has been a rumored target of Cowtown’s eye for awhile. They save some serious ducats (Mobley) in exchange for taking on JJ’s last year – hence a net savings – and dump 3 cats who are out of their rotation. The Nix get a young, up-tempo PG and of course, salary-cap savings.

TRADE KET SZAMA
New York trades: Jared Jeffries (SF/PF)
San Antonio trades: Matt Bonner (PF), Michael Finley (SG) Ian Manhinmi (PF/C)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yfdmonf

Why it’s plausible: In the west playoffs, JJ’d be a valuable piece, guarding a variety of players – from Nowitzki to Brandon Roy to Chris Paul. The Nix would agree (nudge, nudge, wink wink) to release Bonner and Finley so that they could re-sign w/San Antonio. The ‘Bockers get a young big/project and (all together now), cap room in 2010.

TRADE ZAHL DREI
New York sends: Jordan Hill (PF), Cuttino Mobley (SG), Wilson Chandler (SF/PF)
Golden State trades: Anthony Randolph (PF), Anthony Morrow (SG), Speedy Claxton (PG) Devean George (SF), Raja Bell (SG)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yztmymk

Why it’s plausible: For whatever reason, Nellie seems down on the Anthony’s (Morrow and Randolph). Chandler’s stock is at an all-time high. Hill can be sold to Golden State of Mind-ers as a reasonable substitute for Randolph and the Nix absolutely steal two pieces and actually save cap-bucks (a million or so).

And finally, just fo’ sh@*%s n’ giggles, a mega-deal (pigs flying not included)…

TRADE ANTALL FIRE
New York sends: Wilson Chandler (SF/PF), David Lee (PF/C), Nate Robinson (Freakshow), Jordan Hill (PF/C), Toney Douglas (PG)
Portland trades: Greg Oden (C), Jerryd Bayless (PG), Rudy Fernandez (SG), Travis Outlaw (SF/PF), Patrick Mills (PG)

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yk6tm2y

Why it’s utterly implausible but makes a weird, twisted kinda sense: Hear me out. While Portland would be admitting that they screwed the pooch by taking Oden over Durant, look at their 8-man roation post-trade –

PG Miller/Blake
SG Roy/Robinson
SF Chandler/Webster
PF Aldridge
C Lee

Lee and Aldridge in the high/low post would be great. Robinson returns to the Pacific Northwest and wouldn’t be a PG liability since Roy does a chunk of the ballhandling. Chandler’s a serious upgrade at SF over Batum/Webster. And they get two prospects in Hill and Toney D to boot.  That Blazers team could seriously challenge the Nugs and the Spurs (if not the Lakers) and given the number of picks/overseas assets the team still has, they’d still have the pieces to make a deal if it didn’t work out.

For the D’Antonis, we’d be a little light this year (to say the least), but moving forward, wouldn’t Oden be worth rolling the dice on? If he’s healthy he’s the defensive 5 we haven’t had since Ewing. Bayless is another boom-bust investment and Rudy F. could be Ginobili 2.0. That’s a TON of if’s, but what’s the ceiling of the guys we’re trading? Lee’s great, but not a franchise player or even a Robin to someone’s Batman like Vintage Pippen/Worthy/McHale or these days, Gasol/Pierce. Chandler’s getting better n’ better, but he’s a very poor man’s Shawn Marion. Hill could be a more athletic Kurt Thomas and Douglas might turn into Chris Childs. All nice pieces, for sure. But there isn’t a franchise guy in the bunch. Now take a look at the 2010 roster if these moves pan out:

PG Bayless
SG Fernandez
SF Gallo
PF That guy from Cleveland
C Oden

You bring Jeffries off the bench and fill the rest of the roster w/vet free agents who are jonesing to be part of LeBron’s entourage & Marcus Landry types. If you wanna get really ballsy, you see if Phoenix will dump Nash for expirings + picks. That’s a serious contender right now. It won’t happen, just b/c Portland can’t/won’t bail on Oden. But a girl can dream, right? Whaddaya think Knickerblogger-istas?

Which Long Term Deal Should New York Make?

Just curious what Knick fans think, since it seems that things have quieted down. Let’s assume that we only have one long term deal to offer this summer. Which one you would prefer? This doesn’t mean that New York can’t sign the other players to 1 year deals (save for Sessions), but it does mean they would hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next year. While that doesn’t mean the Knicks couldn’t resign that player next summer, however it comes with some caveats.

First is that they would likely have to get a deal done quickly, because the cap hold would likely be larger than their contract. Secondly if they decide they can’t afford the player, they would have to renounce their rights to get the cap hold released. And finally, as an unrestricted free agent that player wouldn’t have to give the Knicks a chance to match an offer. They could just leave the team without any compensation.

So if you could only pick one offer, which would it be? I tried to approximate their 2011 salary, so you’d get an idea of how much it would cost the Knicks next summer. And remember the offer to Sessions would mean that the Bucks could match.

{democracy:31}

Knicks 2009 Summer League Roster

Looking over the Knicks’ roster there are 9 spots that are taken (Chandler, Curry, Duhon, Gallinari, Harrington, Hughes, Jeffries, Milicic, and Mobley). Two more are likely to be filled by Lee and Robinson. That leaves 4 spots possible for the summer league candidates, barring any offseason player movement.

Definites
It’s safe to assume that both draft picks Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas will be on the team’s roster come October. However it doesn’t mean the pair can relax in Vegas, as a poor showing could send them to D’Antoni’s doghouse before training camp even opens. Knick fans will expect both to make the rotation, Hill because of his status as lottery pick, and Douglas because of the lack of depth at guard. New York hopes both can help improve the team defensively, but they’ll need to prove that they’re capable on the offensive side as well. Both will need to play well now and in the preseason to make sure they aren’t sent to the D-League or practice squad. Considering their draft status and the competition, they should be able to give above average performances.

Probables
At the end of last year the team rotated in some NBDL players, and it looks like two stuck. Joe Crawford and Mouhamed Sene will be playing in the summer league, but they may need to prove their worth. Both of them combined for only 29 minutes last year, so the team isn’t committed to either. While Sene has more NBA experience, he’ll have tougher competition for playing time. New York has bolstered their front court by drafting Hill, trading for Darko, and hiding Eddy Curry’s Ring Dings. On the other hand Crawford will have less competition from the NBA roster, but might get pushed for playing time by Douglas and some of the other summer league guards New York. I wouldn’t bet on either player making the team, but they do have the inside track.

Possibles
One player that could push for a roster spot is Morris Almond. The Jazz selected him with the 25th pick in the 2007 draft, but Almond barely saw any NBA action in two seasons. However he was a prolific scorer in the NBDL, averaging 25.4 pts/36 over two seasons. Although this was due to his high usage (30.9%), to Almond’s credit his TS% was a robust 57.6%. One stat that did stand out in the NBDL is his free throw to field goal ratio. He hit .35 free throws for every shot attempted, and averaged 6.5 ftm/36. Clearly he’s skilled at drawing contact, and his 36.7% from downtown shows that he’s able to score from outside as well.

However Morris peripheral stats are weak. His rebounding numbers could be better for someone who stands 6-6, and his passing, steals, and blocks are weak for a shooting guard. Still he could provide some needed scoring off the bench and could be a poor man’s Allan Houston.

Another candidate is Blake Ahearn, a castaway from the Heat & Spurs. Like Almond, Ahearn dominated the NBDL, scoring 21.9 pts/36 on a sizzling 64.6% TS%. He connected on 43.4% of his three pointers, and was about as perfect as you get (95.5%) from the charity stripe. Unlike Almond, Ahearn has one peripheral stats that is above average, his 4.6 ast/36. At 6-2, Ahearn is more suited for point guard at the NBA level.

Doubtfuls
Yaroslav Korolev was drafted as an 18 year old by the Clippers in 2005 and spent two years in L.A. Yet even though he last suited up for an NBA game 3 years ago, he’s the second youngest player on the summer league team. Korolev is a 6-10 forward who’s father was a basketball coach and is rumored to have a sound all around game. At only 22 years old, he’s definitely young enough to be a “second draft” type of player.

Probably the last guy with a realistic shot at a roster spot is David Noel. He was a second round pick of the Bucks and didn’t play well in his one season. However he did well in the NBDL, scoring 17.1 pts/36 on 60.7 ts% and averaging 5.3 reb/36, 4.4 ast/36, and 1.7 stl/36. His free throw shooting was suspect (68.6%), but he was deadly from downtown (44.6%).

Please God No
Nokoloz Tskitishvili and Alex Acker are both 26 years old. Tskitishvili is looking for yet another chance at the NBA, while Acker is a combo guard who had 2 stints in the NBA (Pistons & Clippers). Nokoloz’s NBA numbers are laughably bad, while Acker’s D-League numbers aren’t very impressive (53.1% TS%).

Hey I Got Free First Row Tickets to the Summer League!
The summer league might be happy days for Valparaiso’s Ron Howard. Rashaad Singleton is a 7 footer, but barely played at Georgia. According to Wikipedia, Warren Carter plays in Spain and thinks Allen Iverson is the NBA’s best player. Wink Adams shot 26.9% from trey his last year at UNLV.

Who Am I Rooting For?
I think there’s the possibility that the Knicks could find a decent player here. I don’t think there are any NBA starters here, but certainly a few guys could contribute as reserves. After reviewing their numbers, Blake Ahearn is at the top of my list. I have a soft spot in my heart for snipers, and the Knicks really need more depth at point guard. I like Almond, but he scares me at the same time. His number suggest a typical me-first-shooter that’s indifferent to the other aspects of the game.

As for the rest, I hope Sene sticks around, even if it’s in the NBDL until New York moves Curry or Jeffries. Korolev has the most intriguing story, but his numbers are so bad as a teenager it’s hard to see him being good at this level. I don’t want Acker or Tskitishvili, and I sure hope the Knicks don’t fall in love with someone who is hot for a few games (*cough* Roberson *cough*). So that leaves Crawford or Noel. Perhaps Noel would be the better choice, considering D’Antoni had Crawford last year & barely used him.

Mock Three

Since last we talked mock draft the Lakers dispatched with the Orlando Magic and the off-season has kicked into full gear. I was out of town on business and have thus pretty much missed basketball from the past week or so. I suppose that’s fortunate in some ways.

I hope the third version of this mock is less impacted by the rumors, smokescreens, subterfuges, and misinformation that normally clouds my mocks this time of year. My gut tells me that this draft will be the 2006 draft (Bargnani, Aldridge, Morrison were the top 3) of 2009. There will be tons of busts, but a smart front office will be able to find good players late.

Onto the picks…
2009 Mock Draft, 3.0

1. Clippers – Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
Nothing to see here. Moving right along.

2. Grizzlies – Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain
Poor Grizz. This isn’t the draft to have the #2 pick. I still say they’re looking to move this pick to someone who wants Rubio.

3. Thunder – Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
I don’t think Thabeet is a top three talent but this draft couldn’t have worked out any better for him. He’ll be an excellent defender and he can run the floor a bit. The Thunder don’t need another guy who needs the ball to be effective.

4. Kings – James Harden, G, Arizona State
I’m guessing the Kings just go best player available regardless of position. I think they wouldn’t mind getting out from under this pick.

5. Wizards – Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
Hill will provide some rebounding and a big that runs the floor.

6. Timberwolves – Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis
It’s hard to know what Minny will do with a new management team and a lot of picks. Nothing they do would surprise. The 6-10 area just seems about when Evans should go off the board.

7. Warriors – Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
The Warriors want no part of Jamal Crawford and don’t think Ellis can run the point. Jennings seems like the right fit for this group.

8. Knicks – Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
I just don’t know that there will be a big man available Walsh will like more than Curry. I suspect that a big man is probably the only real competition for Curry.

9. Raptors – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA
Ultimately, defense, ball-handling, and floor vision will keep him in the league but Holiday is one of the biggest question marks in the draft.

10. Bucks – DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
If Milwaukee takes Blair they’ll be putting together a nice little frontcourt.

11. Nets – Demar DeRozan, SF, USC
Lottery pick least likely to live up to expectations. What does he do?

12. Bobcats – Austin Daye, F/C, Gonzaga
I love this kid’s game and maturity but he may not be a player until he’s on his second contract (after he’s filled out a bit). He’s thinner than Anthony Randolph. Just let that roll around in your head for a bit.

13. Pacers – Ty Lawson, PG, UNC
I won’t be surprised to see him go higher in this draft. The way people dismiss his production doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not like Carolina does anything particularly unorthodox. They just play a fast pace.

14. Suns – Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
Flynn is a pure point guard, yet I’m not crazy about his decision making.

15. Pistons – Earl Clark, F, Louisville
I hate his offense but Clark’s a very capable defender.

16. Bulls – Gerald Henderson, G, Duke
The Bulls have claimed that their top off-season priority is to re-sign Gordon. Mmm. Yeah.

17. 76ers – Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona
Budinger is a nice fit for that roster, especially as a decision-maker should they lose Andre Miller.

18. Timberwolves – B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
Given Al Jefferson’s health, this would be a decent gamble on size and provide some depth.

19. Hawks – Sam Young, F, Pittsburgh
Young would be a nice fit on Atlanta; a tough guy who can defend both forwards and hit an outside shot.

20. Jazz – Tyler Hansborough, PF, UNC
Hansborough is good value at this point in the draft. He’s going to rebound and run the floor and he’s developing a faceup jumper.

21. Hornets – Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest
Teague would bring a bit of what Jannero Pargo did, for better or worse.

22. Mavericks – Terrance Williams, G/F, Louisville
Should Williams fall this far he’d be exactly what the doctor ordered Dallas: perimeter defense and depth.

23. Kings – Eric Maynor, PG, VCU

24. Trailblazers – James Johnson, F, Wake Forest
Portland could really use someone that can score in the post–at least a little bit.

25. Thunder – Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
He’ll be a quality backup point in the league.

26. Bulls – Nick Calathes, F, Florida (Greece)
Somebody is going to select Calathes and hold onto his rights. Presumably it will be a team with multiple first rounders that has difficulty moving a late pick. Any number of these late picks may be guys already overseas who can be stashed away.

27. Grizzlies – Wayne Ellington, G, UNC
Right now he’s a one dimensional shooter with a long windup, but worth a late first round gamble.

28. Timberwolves – Omri Casspi, F, Tel Aviv
I’d be stunned if Minny keeps all its picks, but if it does I figure they’ll select Calathes or a player they can stash overseas.

29. Lakers – Marcus Thornton, G, LSU
Thornton is a potent offensive player and a solid rebounding guard who is better in short spurts because of his questionable shot selection.

30. Cavaliers – DeMarre Carroll, F, Missouri
I’m going out on a limb and saying that Mizzou’s version of the “Junk Yard Dog” works his way into the late first round. Carroll has Anderson Varajao’s energy as a combo forward. He’s really improved his jump shot. He has a high basketball IQ, and is a very good passer as well.