Now What For the Knicks?

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So we finally know for sure the Knicks didn’t hit a grand slam this offseason. But they didn’t strike out either. Let’s call this a line drive single to center. Other things need to happen for the team to score, but it’s certainly a good start. What’s the next step?

Assuming the sign and trade involving David Lee and counting the Knicks’ second round picks, they actually have 12 players on their roster. Here’s the Knicks roster and salary situation.  I’m doing my best to estimate Stoudemire’s salary under the sign and trade parameters. The Knicks might also get a trade exception in the Lee sign and trade, but I’m not sure. Also, the second round picks are all non-guaranteed deals but I’ll leave them in there to fill the veteran minimum spots.

PLAYER                                                            SALARY

Eddy Curry $11,276,863
Danilo Gallinari $3,304,560
Wilson Chandler $2,130,481
Toney Douglas $1,071,000
Bill Walker $854,389
Amar’e Stoudemire $16,200,000
Ronny Turiaf $4,000,000
Anthony Randolph $1,965,720
Kelenna Azubuike $3,364,000
Landry Fields $490,180
Andy Rautins $490,180
Jerome Jordan $490,180
TOTAL: $45,637,553
2010 NBA Salary Cap $58,044,000
Remaining Knicks Cap Space: $12,406,447

I know that number seems very high, but I’ve triple-checked the math and I don’t think I’ve missed anything. Also, keep in mind that right now Curry’s and Azubuike’s contracts are up after the season, giving them an additional 14.5 million available for the free agency class next season. The Knicks are far from done.

Listening to Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni at the press conference I figured a couple things out. Walsh made it abundantly clear that maintaining cap flexibility was a key goal going forward. He wants the ability to use the cap to his advantage in trades and free agency. That means don’t expect the team to spend big dollars long term on mediocre players. Mike Miller would be a fine addition at 5 years and 25- 30 million, but not at 50 million (though now it looks like he’s heading to Miami).

Both were also clear that a point guard was a big priority. The Knicks needs someone who can handle the ball and create opportunities for guys like Stoudemire, Randolph and Gallinari. Toney Douglas is improving, a guy D’Antoni seemed very excited about today, but he isn’t enough. Raymond Felton is the best available point guard but the prevailing thought is that he would be far too costly, somewhere around 5 years and 40-50 million. Finding a short-term solution like Luke Ridnour would make more sense, someone that could probably be had at 3 years and 15 million. A guy like Kyle Lowry could work too. Tony Parker and Chris Paul at this point are nothing more than pipe dreams, but down the road who knows?

D’Antoni also made it clear he sees Amar’e Stoudemire as a power forward, not a center. The Knicks would have to find someone to play next to him. Ronny Turiaf could play center, but I doubt the Knicks view him as the answer at that position. Someone like Fabricio Oberto could work in that spot. Kurt Thomas isn’t a center but he might be able to fit there as well.

The Knicks would still have about 5 million of cap room left after those two signings, not to mention the expiring contracts of Curry and Azubuike. Ridnour and Oberto aren’t long terms answers or championship cornerstones, but they can hold the fort down until a star becomes available that the Knicks can use their cap space to jump on (like Carmelo Anthony). Patience is the only path now. Panicking and trying to win a title in 2010-2011 will only lead to long-term failure.

This is a true rebuilding effort, and the Knicks fans and organizations have to embrace that. The team described above has a shot at the 8th seed and is extremely flexible. Despite missing out on LeBron James, the team is still in good position for the future. When’s the last time Knicks fans were able to say that?

Schmeelk’s Snippets

  • The sign and trade for Lee makes sense because the team gets a young player for little money in Anthony Randolph. He’s valuable as a player and a potential trade chip even though he missed a lot of time last year with an ankle injury. Some think the former lottery pick could eventually be an All-Star. Turiaf is a solid role player who rebounds and plays defense and has a reasonable contract for only 2 seasons (8 million total). Azubuike is an expiring contract, and is also a good wing defender when healthy. Both Turiaf and Azubuike missed most of last season with knee injuries.  The team gets better but maintains payroll flexibility in exchange for a guy they were going to lose anyway. Good move by Walsh. In the Isiah Thomas era he would have been on the other side of this deal, bringing in a big contract for young guys and role players with reasonable deals.
  • On the Peter Vecsey article this morning about Walsh possibly retiring: He shouldn’t if the reason is his failure to land LeBron. He did not nothing wrong, and the Knicks still should have worked to get under the cap. If Walsh does retire, however, Kevin Prichard would be the perfect replacement. If it is Walsh’s health, then all Knicks fans should wish him the best and thank him for putting the Knicks back on the path to success.
  • The only trade that Walsh should regret is the Jared Jeffries one, when he mortgaged the future to get enough money under the cap for two max contracts. He had to sacrifice one first round pick in 2012, give the Rockets the rights to swap picks next year, and trade their 2009 first round pick Jordan Hill. That was a high price that in the end was probably not worth it. The Knicks would be in much better shape today with Jeffries and his six million and those other assets than they are now.
  • Believe it or not, Knicks summer league starts on Sunday in Las Vegas. There are actually some reasons to watch this year. Toney Douglas and Bill Walker will play, two guys that should get regular minutes in the Knicks rotation this year. The three second round picks (Rautins, Fields and Jordan) will play as well. Patrick Ewing Jr. will be back, as will Marcus Landry. All the games will be on MSG.
  • How about the fact Michael Beasley, the 2nd pick in the draft a couple years ago, just got traded for absolutely nothing. His reputation is so radioactive it literally took the Heat days to convince anyone to take him off their hands. To the new Big Three’s credit, they aren’t going to take that money. Instead they’ll let it be used on Mike Miller or someone like him.
  • So the Nets already wasted 7 million on Travis Outlaw, another awful signing by a NBA team this year. Now word has it they are going to front load a big contract for Tyrus Thomas. Yeah, you guys don’t need Rod Thorn. Yikes.
  • Check out my video if you want to see my reaction the LeBron debacle last night. As you might imagine it is not positive.

Follow me on twitter as I track NBA free agency at: http://twitter.com/Schmeelk. I’ll also tweet live during the hour long special on Thursday.