Friday, July 2, 2010

Stoudemire to New York. A sweet deal?

I think this is a decent transaction, but I think that at this point, both sides are kind of settling for each other. The writing has been on the wall for the Knickerbockers for some time. When Chicago dumped Hinrich, Prokhorov and J-Z went to LeBron’s house, and Dwayne Wade started to work his Team USA buddy, it became clear that LeBron is not going to New York. And so the Knicks had to sign someone to justify whatever they did last season.

As for A’mare, I think he realizes that he is not the PF everyone wants, but I think this move so early in the process is curious. I mean, if LeBron and Bosh go to Chicago, he still has the option of teaming with Wade in Miami, an infinitely more attractive option than what New York’s roster can offer. Which then begs the question: have all three of the big three been spoken for? Because we are seeing quite a bit of action before any of those three say anything, which is contrary to reports that everything hinges on LeBron. Think about it. Paul Pierce returns (mostly a given, but still, happened early). Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson, all re-signed. I thought free-agency would start with LeBron, but it kind of looks like he is already packed and started without everyone else.

Well, speculation aside, there are basketball reasons for this move. From A’mare’s standpoint, it is clear that this is a money grab. He not only signed for a max contract now, but ensures that he will get the most touches on a high-octane offense. In five years, his stats will be completely overinflated by D’Antoni’s system, and he’ll be in line for another major payday. It’s clear from his actions that money trumps winning, and he has made the best decision for himself there.

And what about the Knicks? With Stoudemire, they’re looking at a payroll around $37.5 million for next year. They need a young starting point guard (maybe Shaun Livingston, he could be had for cheap), and need a defensive center. I think it’s abundantly clear that Stoudemire can’t hang with the likes of Pau Gasol, so who knows what kind of trouble he will be in playing Dwight Howard more. The problem is, they can only improve via free agency now, and that’s a big problem.

Everyone knows that over the last few years, Isaiah Thomas frivolously sent a huge cache of draft picks running. Only now are we seeing how costly that was. In today’s league, contenders must have two things: young players and cap space. Look at Chicago. Look at OKC. Heck, look at the Clippers. In an era where superstars play together for titles, you absolutely cannot spend draft picks and cap space on unproven free agents. J.A. Adande wrote on that free agency has trumped the importance of the draft, and while I agree, I would add that free agency has actually made the draft more important. You whiff on a draft and you’re Portland (not bad, but not good). You strike gold in the same draft, and you’re OKC.

That said, New York does have some pieces. I think Wilson Chandler and Danilo Galinari can play together based on their box scores from last season’s games in which both started. Danilo is going to have to be more aggressive and demand more touches when Chandler is in the game, but I think that’s a good combo. With them and Stoudemire, You can go big and have Danilo play shooting, or go small and have him at SF. Sergio and Toney are good bench scoring but not trustworthy as primary ball-handlers. But you still have needs. And it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to get a second big free agent. And you probably won’t have good picks the next few years because your team will be just good enough to not tank.

So you have some good guys. Wilson and Danilo rate offensively just behind the likes of Paul Pierce. You still have a great coach. This is probably a playoff team, and in 3-4 years, who knows what can happen. But I see this as more a need-based, satisfactory, convenient marriage.

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