(Please note that the below all assumes that the Knicks won’t land one of the top free agents in the next couple of weeks.)
If you’ve ever played the board game Risk, you know there’s a point when you know you’re going to lose and cease to roll the dice to play it all out. You’ve admitted defeat. And, that’s that. Well, that’s exactly what the Knicks should’ve admitted to themselves this season. They should’ve taken a good look at themselves and the competition and realized that they might be the 5th most attractive free agent destination in the NBA behind Miami, Chicago, New Jersey, and the Clippers.
That’s saying a lot for the ‘Mecca’ of basketball to admit. But, it’s what professional organizations do. And, then they get better.
If they took that approach, then this summer could’ve been a giant step on the way toward building a championship contender in a few years rather than what is lining up to be the single most public offseason failure in modern sports history.
Admittedly, I know less about the NBA than many posters here. But, there are a few facts that I’ve picked up over time:
1. Big, long contracts are burdening many teams.
2. Expiring contracts are incredibly valuable.
3. A successful NBA team needs underpaid players at some point.
4. Top free agents will not sign for a team with a weak roster.
5. The CBA is being re-done and will likely be in the owner’s favor.
Now, everyone and their brother is gearing up for this summer’s NBA free agency sweepstakes. And, the Knicks could’ve cashed in on that fact by doing the exact opposite. That means the following:
1. Take on 1-3 year bad contracts with potentially high draft picks.
It’s simple, take what everyone else wants to get rid of. And with that also take their draft picks. Take Luol Deng and the Bulls first round pick. Or even better, Hinrich. Take Rip Hamilton. Zach Randolph. Al Jefferson. Antwan Jamison. Gilbert Arenas. Look, I know some of these may are not realistic, but one of them has to be. Heck, three of them might be. And, if you’re really smart, you’d take on contracts that all expire the same year (which leads to number 4 below).
2. Draft and build.
Ok, easier said than done. But, seriously, if you have 3 top 20 picks, don’t you have to be able to get one right? And, certainly a year or two under Mike D’Antoni has to produce at least one very productive player
3. Wait for the next big free agents.
There’s Carmelo in 2011. Potentially Dirk in 2011 if he opts in for his last year. Chris Paul in 2012 if he opts out. And, maybe you can actually get him earlier in a trade. There are very good players that will be available after this summer. 2010 is not the end all be all of NBA talent.
4. Trade expiring contracts for more picks/players.
Those crappy contracts no one wanted in 2010 are now gold in 2012. Someone is going to love that Al Jefferson contract. Or that Rip Hamilton contract. Maybe you get picks. Maybe you get players. But, you’ll get something. Maybe something even really big. If New Orleans knew it had no chance at re-signing Chris Paul, you’re telling me they wouldn’t make the trade for Kirk Hinrich’s expiring contract? That’s something that hasn’t really been discussed much. That the team who will lose a star player would, more than anything else, want an expiring contract. Because if you’re a small market team without a star, then you might as well clean house.
If the Knicks had followed this blueprint, they would’ve probably got burned by local media and fans in the short term. But, does it really matter? They’ve pretty much lost all credibility anyways. They might as well do something that will produce results rather than putting on the vapid spectacle that has been the last 6 months. They would have had a serious team by 2013. And, all by going against the grain. Then again, this is the city of Bernie Madoff, where smoke and mirrors can sustain you for a while. A little while at least.