Friday, November 21, 2008

Donnie Walsh Just Messed Up My Fantasy Squad

It's exciting to watch the Knicks make moves that would clear salary cap space for a run at James, Bosh, Stoudemire, or Wade in 2010. As of now, after the Crawford trade, the Knicks' only players contracted for 2010-11 are Randolph, Curry, Jeffries, Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler. (Curry and Jeffries have player options, but at their salaries it's difficult to imagine either foregoing the money and testing the market.) You have to figure that the Knicks will trade at least one of the first three in the next 20 months to further reduce salary. But even if the Knicks re-sign Robinson, Lee, and/or Duhon beyond 2010, these hardly seem like the building blocks of a championship contender. James recently stated that he will make his decision by assessing his chances to win “multiple championships” .

At the same time, if Cleveland hopes to retain James, they are hardly stacked for the post-2010 era. Right now the only other quality players they have signed for 2010-11 are three dimunitive guards: Gibson, West, and Williams. None of Cleveland's current big men -- Ilgauskas, Wallace, or Varejao -- will likely be on the team two years hence; the first two of those will be ready for retirement. Perhaps Cleveland management can trade an expiring contract (either Szczerbiak this year, or Wallace or Ilgauskas next year) to a rebuilding team looking to jettison an All-Star power man in his prime, but what such players exist? Maybe Dirk Nowitzki, if Mark Cuban abandoned all hope of championship success. The Wizards might be willing to deal Antawn Jamison if they continue to play crappily, but his skills seem to duplicate those of James, except not as good.

It actually seems more likely that Bosh or James or Stoudemire would sign with Miami to play alongside Wade and Beasley. (Bosh or Wade or Amaré could come to Cleveland alongside James, but why would you choose Cleveland over Miami or Phoenix or even Toronto, which is an awesome city though cold?)

The only other two possible realistic destinations for these mega-stars are Chicago and Phoenix. The Bulls have only Rose, Hinrich, Deng and Nocioni under contract for 2010-11; if Hinrich can be traded, the others make only about $24M of salary. Who wouldn't want to play with the blooming Rose? Phoenix has only Diaw and Barbosa under contract for 2010-11. Why not re-sign Amaré and nab LeBron or Wade? Now you're loaded for five years of championship runs.

I've read that Portland could be positioned to sign one of these all-world players, but after they re-sign Roy and Aldridge in the fall of 2009, and then as they prepare to extend Oden's contract in the fall of 2010, how can they afford another star? I suppose they could dump one of that trio if they have a real shot at one of the headline free agents.

UPDATE: After I posted that, the Knicks completed a trade on Friday afternoon of Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Clippers for Mobley and Tim Thomas. They should start playing Curry to burnish his market value. But I'm still not convinced that the top megastars would want to join a team with no existing core.

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