Saints are holy, as is the Mecca of Basketball, Madison Square Garden, and since it’s Saint Nick’s time of the year, let’s say some prayers, make some wishes, and find religion by attempting to save the still sinning (by losing) Knickerbockers of New York.
According to the sacred website Basketball-Reference.com, the NY Knicks have the 19th highest payroll in the NBA. Right between the Brooklyn Nets and the Utah Jazz, which are words you’ll probably never read again.
According to NBA.com, the Knicks are the 26th worst team by win percentage; they’re 22nd in the NBA in points per game at 108.6; and, NY has the 27th ranked defense, giving up an average of 115.4 PPG. They have, duh, a negative point differential: the, damn!, 26th worst in the NBA.
According to scientists, these ‘bockers suck ass. They’re missing Kristaps, and we all kinda agreed this would be a lost season. Fun fact: Joakim Noah’s stretched contract costs $6.4 million dollars per year over the three years FOLLOWING this season. Noah has ALREADY signed with another NBA team, meaning his services WERE wanted by an NBA team, meaning you could have waited, kept him away from the team if both parties thought that best (like Carmelo and ZBo), and then tried to trade him, or buy him out without incurring the penalties to the cap over the next three years. Three years in which you have to sign Kristaps AND try to attract a Big Name Player (or, two) to join the young Knicks, uh, core. I guess? (Is any Knick untouchable aside from Porzingis? Knox looks better but would you really let him come in between you and an elite player?)
Anyway. That’s $6.4 million you don’t get to use over the next few seasons. Just like with my Detroit Pistons, the stretch provision is an own goal; having the available cap space should be more important than prematurely getting rid of a player who might still hold value, even if it’s just a little.
But, that’s in the past! For now, let’s try to make some trades and improve the Knicks chances of success in the future.
The issue is that the Knicks don’t have much talent on their team, Kristaps being the only bona fide star. Knox is nice, Hardaway, Jr., is inefficient but nice (Go Blue!), the French Resistance, Frank Ntili, is a wonderful defender but, uh, can’t shoot the orange through the bucket. Like, at all. Lance Thomas is just there to be traded, as is Lee. And, who the hell knows with Mudiay, Burke, Vonleh, and Robinson. You see flashes of their ceilings (especially Trey Burke, who seems like a legit 6th man scorer, again: Go Blue), and Mudiay and Vonleh have impressed this season. But, get real, none of these guys would stop you from making a trade for an elite player. Honestly, it’s still just Kristaps. You keep Knox because he’s young, and you like Robinson so far, and maybe you keep Trey as just a solid player to have around. Everyone else is replaceable.
So, let’s trade them! The Knicks have a big-ish contract they don’t need in Tim Hardaway, Jr. They also have an elite perimeter defender who can’t play offense, and maybe needs a new home, in Ntilikina.
How about we trade the good scoring wing and the good perimeter defender to a team that desperately needs to make the playoffs, and needs some more outside shooting and defense?
Houston’s thin up front, too, so let’s send Hardaway, Jr., Ntilikina, and Noah Vonleh to Texas, in exchange for Brandon Knight (who will replace Ntilikina, and gets a half-season to show what he can do, before becoming an expiring contract next season), and the salary dumps of Marquese Chriss and Michael Carter-Williams, and a 1st or a few 2nd round draft picks.
The Knicks get out of long term money owed to Hardaway, Jr., they perhaps start to lose even MORE than they already are and thus will secure a better draft pick position, and they get two more assets in the Knight expiring contract and a draft pick(s).
The Rockets acquire a good, young defender, and a good, young wing, and some help in the front court (which is maybe what they need most of all).
This makes both teams better: Houston now, and New York later. The money works, and a late first round draft pick shouldn’t ever be enough to derail a deal. So, who says no?
A note of warning regarding this NBA trade season: it might be strange AF. There are five absolute sellers in the NBA this season, and FOUR of them are in the Eastern Conference. The only team in the Western Conference with fewer than 10 wins is Phoenix. But, four teams in the East have less than 10: the Hawks, the Cavs, the Bulls, and, duh, the Knicks. Everyone else in the NBA is trying to make the playoffs. That means fewer teams will be willing to make early sell-trades this season; they’ll want to be patient and hope for success, and maybe even make win-now moves of their own, rather than turning into sellers and trading for future assets.
This means the Knicks have a chance to beat those better, more patient, teams to the punch and trade early. If they move swiftly enough, and deftly enough, they might even be able to pull off multiple trades, bottom out this year without Kristaps (which was the plan all along, anyway), and go into the summer with plenty of draft picks and plenty of cap space (even despite Joakim Noah’s stretched out contract). The Knicks are not a team that’s one year away from being serious contenders for the Eastern Conference Finals, but they ARE a team that’s positioned well to take advantage of other teams who DO think they’re serious contenders (Portland and OKC come to mind, maybe Charlotte, maybe the Lakers). The smart GMs will take advantage of this strange situation in the NBA (more than two-thirds of the teams in the league are actually competing), and strike while the iron’s hot, and before other teams decide to sell, too. Phoenix has already made two (bad) moves: buying out Tyson Chandler for no good reason, and trading for Kelly Oubre (who they didn’t want) and Austin Haunted Rivers (who they immediately waived, rather than trying to trade). LeBron’s pal James Jones is doing great so far! Hey, remember when the Suns sold a second round pick, literally just for the money? It’s funny that Sarver, the Suns’ awful owner, is so cheap that he doesn’t want to pay a cheap contract to a second round player, but he’s also so dumb that he’d agree to waive Austin Rivers before trying to trade him (also, Phoenix has no point guard depth right now; also also, Phoenix didn’t have to make the trade, anyway, and most likely could have gotten back a better deal for Ariza, who everyone seems to want).
It will be fascinating to see which of the contending teams decides to call it quits first, and start to sell their players. Like, if Daryl Morey just shook his head and threw up his hands, and accepted this wasn’t the Rockets year, would he trade Clint Capela? Would Utah trade Joe Ingles or Ricky Rubio? Would Portland put CJ McCollum up for sale? What about DRose in Minnesota? Hell, what about KEMBA?? Nine more teams are going to miss the playoffs. If the postseason started today, those teams would include the Rockets, Wizards, Spurs, Pelicans, Timberwolves, and Jazz. Someone’s going to shake loose from one of those teams, it just depends on the order of which teams decide that falling out of the playoff push is best for their future. As King Richard said in The Lion in Winter, “When the fall is all there is, it matters a great deal.”
Finally, and speaking of accepting the inevitable and doing the best you can, here are three crazy AD trades (all would include multiple picks, of course) if the Pellies decided to wave the white flag (they shouldn’t) and if Denver and Toronto tried to hit a homer, a la Masai Ujiri’s gamble-trade of DeChozan for Kawhi:
Which of the five absotively posilutely tanking teams would you like to see blow it up and become Sellers ASAP?
This poll is closed