Jackson Should Take The Sure Thing By Trading Players With Expiring Contracts

By John Schmeelk
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In fairness, I will use any excuse to quote the legendary Admiral Ackbar, but in this case the quote rings true. Much like a non-fully operational, partially constructed Death Star orbiting the forest moon of Endor was a juicy target for the Rebel Alliance, free agency sits there tempting the Knicks in the future.

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As the Knicks approach the trade deadline Thursday afternoon, they need to remember something: The unknown of free agency has just as much fool’s gold as it has real treasure. And sometimes there’s no gold at all. Usually there’s a fleet of Star Destroyers waiting for you. Sometimes the Death Star’s primary weapon is fully operational.

As pundits debate whether or not to trade Derrick Rose or Brandon Jennings, both of whom have expiring contracts, some argue the Knicks would be far better off letting both walk and using the remaining money in free agency.

That approach is very dangerous. While the point guard crop this offseason appears strong with names such as Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry, George Hill, Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague, that may not last. No one believes Curry is going anywhere. Reports say Paul has already committed to the Clippers. Both the Raptors and Pelicans appear to be all-in on retaining Lowry and Holiday, respectively.

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That leaves only two real starting quality point guards: George Hill and Jeff Teague. Most believe both of those players will demand three- to four-year contracts in the range of $20 million a year. Teague turns 29 this year, and Hill will be 31. Those are not the type of deals you want to put on the books for a rebuilding team.

In comparison to the contract the Knicks could inherit if they pull the trigger on a trade for Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio (two years, about $29 million remaining), the latter is far more desirable. Rubio is younger, a better distributor than both Hill and Teague, and on a shorter deal worth less money per season. He is more preferable as a complement to young big men Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez as well.

Reports Thursday morning have the Knicks trying to get more than just Rubio from the Timberwolves. Knicks president Phil Jackson should be applauded for trying to land as much in return as possible for any asset, but if the Wolves’ answer is “take it or leave it” as a straight-up move, the Knicks have to say yes.

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The truth of the matter is there are few people around the league who even understand why the Wolves would trade Rubio for Rose. With his one-dimensional game and bloated contract, finding another match elsewhere would be difficult.

Derrick Rose

Knicks point guard Derrick Rose (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Remember that the Knicks traded two assets in Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant for Rose, so to letting him walk away after the season for nothing but cap space would really make the initial move seem short-sighted. If the end result is Rubio on a manageable two-year contract, that’s a decent long-term return for Lopez and Grant that the franchise can live with.

Jackson needs to continue to shop Jennings as well. Like Rose, as a player with an expiring contract, Jennings’ value disappears at 3 p.m. Thursday.

These are all important things for the Knicks to remember as they field offers in the coming hours. Rose is not a valuable commodity. If the Knicks can get something for him that helps the team moving forward, they need to do it. Whatever it is will likely be more valuable than whatever they decide to do with their cap space this offseason.

Yeah sure, you’re going to tell me that the Alliance blew up the Death Star, right? And that makes it worth it? Well, then I ask you, do you expect a bunch of Ewoks to show up and save the day for the Knicks? The last thing you want is the Knicks general manager running around with the motto “Never tell me the odds!”

The Knicks are better off getting what you can for Rose now than asking the Force for a miracle later. They rarely happen.

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For all things Knicks and Giants, please follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk