The entire basketball loving world by now is aware of the New York Knicks plans to clear as much cap space as they can before the 2010 free agency period. Why? Lebron ‘King’ James. He’s a beast, and the Knicks want him. The city of New York wants him. Every Knickerbocker fan in the world wants him. Sure there are other great free agents going to be on the market in 2010 like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire etc., but Lebron is certainly the ultimate prize.
James Dolan and the New York Knicks have never been shy about overspending spending money. Unfortunately for the Knicks this often means being way over the salary cap with a team chalk full of talent that has no chemistry whatsoever. Too many chiefs, not enough…..blah blah blah. Now that Dolan has been in cost-cutting mode for a full season, things may be starting to turn around for the franchise as they make their push to land one of the coveted stars in 2010.
But a new problem is arising for the Knicks. A problem that a lot of GM’s would love to have, none the less a problem that GM Donnie Walsh will be left to sort out in the coming months. Nate Robinson and David Lee are both playing amazing, but sure enough that’s a problem. It means that both players, who are restricted free agent’s this summer, are sure to command fairly large offer sheets from other team’s around the league hoping to land a quality free agent. If the Knicks plan to stick to their cost containment plan, at best they will be able to match the offer and keep just one of the two players.
So who should the Knicks choose to keep?
If any of you were reading my pre-draft posts last spring you would assume i’m totally against the default choosing of the ‘big man’. And in fact you’d be right if the choice to be made is at the NBA draft. I still believe that the root cause of most mistakes made on NBA Draft night by GM’s is their tendancy to lean towards drafting for size. The logic being, you can teach fundamentals and skills, but you can’t teach a player to be tall. There are countless examples of where this logic has gone terribly wrong however, most notably the Sam Bowie-Michael Jordan draft, but other big men flops such as Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic, Andrea Bargnani, etc., further detail the problem.
It’s a whole different ball game however when it comes to free agency. Part of my concern with drafting big men out of college or high school is that they have never really had much chance to play against guys as big and as strong as the big men of the NBA. Many players who are beasts in the paint in high school or college, never really had to develop good post moves or fundamentals in order to dominate their opponents. However, for the most part after a ‘big man’ has played 3-4 years in the NBA it starts to become quite clear to everyone watching if the player can dominate at the pro-level.
That’s why in the case of free agency, I would take the opposite tactic and always lean towards keeping the ‘big man’ who has proven to be a success. Good big men in the NBA who can dominate the boards and score in the paint on a consistent basis are like dinosaurs going extinct these days. Unless you are talking about the ‘great ones’ like Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, and Kobe Bryant, finding natural scoring guards or swingmen is not a problem in the NBA. They are a dime a dozen.
Nate Robinson is an exciting player, whom New York has really marketed as the face of the 2008-09 Knicks ever since he won the 2009 Slam Dunk Contest by jumping over Dwight Howard. Also, since being crowned the dunk champ Nate Rob has put up some great individual scoring performances. But given how much he relies on his athleticism to overcome his height disadvantage, and how inconsistent he has been on a day by day basis in the scoring department, I would certainly be looking to lock up the steady and consistent double double machine David Lee this summer. Once Walsh has locked up Lee, then let the chips fall where they may when it comes to Nate Robinson. If somehow they are able to work out a fiscally responsible deal with Nate, since he really seems to love it in New York, then great. If not, well you gotta roll with the punches.
I’m anxious to see what Donnie Walsh decides to do with the pair. Maybe neither will be in New York past this season, or maybe both will decide to play out their contracts and test the big free agent market in the summer 2010 as ‘unrestricted’.
What do you think the Knicks should do?