Thursday, April 7, 2011

If I Were GM of...The New York Knickerbockers

NOTE: This article was written by my buddy BockerKnocker. We have a lot of things in common, including our love of fantasy sports (we're in three different leagues with each other), Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Matt Ryan. He'll be contributing to THE GREAT MAMBINO on a regular basis, despite the fact that I generally regard him as a deadbeat, albeit a deadbeat who is both extremely passionate and deeply knowledgeable about sports. Let the new era of THE GREAT MAMBINO begin.

So Blakeshow decided to expand his empire. Not much you need to know about me: I like the Knicks, money, the Yankees, peanut butter, and mouthwash, in that order.

As the first of likely many insightful contributions to the Mambino franchise, I approached Blake with this "If I Was GM" idea. He of course dug it, and now here we are. On to the business…

1. Intangibles: If I were the general manager of the New York Knickerbockers, first things first: I would learn to walk. Seriously, Donnie. A wheelchair? Your face already looks mangled from a lifetime supply of cancer sticks, and now us good-hearted, healthy-except-for-KFC-night Bocker fans have to see your ass being wheeled around like a nursing home poster child? Get up. You're embarrassing me.

2. Coaching Staff: I go back and forth with this one, but the more I think about it, I would fire Mike 'Antoni. Not a typo, because the guy doesn't care about D. Sorry dude. I love scoring 106 points per game, but you're useless if you give up 107. Sure, you haven't had ample time with the new kids on the block, but that's not an excuse if you dedicate 95% of practice teaching slip screens and pull-up 3s, and the other 5% telling the media that "we're focusing on defense." Amar'e Stoudemire put up great numbers under Terry Porter, and Melo has done the same under George Karl. The current system enhances their offensive abilities, but they don't exactly need you, Mike. What they do need is someone who will convince them that help rotations and off-ball defense matter just as much as lighting up the scoreboard. Someone who will take a look at Corey Brewer and, oh I don't know, play him? Thanks for assisting Donnie in the Isiah Thomas Clean-up Project, but next year, we tryna win a title, son. Pack them bags, your flight to Italy is departing soon. And for God's sakes, we all stopped talking in run-on sentences in 3rd grade.

3. Talent: The bad news? STAT's knees will cry for mercy in a couple years. Toney Douglas doesn't know what "point guard" means. Landry Fields looks more like a second-round pick every day. The starting center has rotated between Shelden Parker, err, Williams, and Jared Jeffries. It's easy to paint a bleak picture; we've been doing this for longer than a decade. HowEVA, the new-look Knicks have breathed life into the city of New York that hasn't been felt since LJ's 4-point play. We're hungry. Let's take a look at the projected 2011 roster:


Billups, 14.2M - 1 year (team option picked up)
Landry Fields, 800K - 1 year
Melo, 18.5M for 2011, 63.5M over the next 3 years (2012-14)
Amar'e, 18.2M for 2011, 65M over the next 3 years (2012-14)
Ronny Turiaf, 4.4M for 2011 - 1 year (player option likely to be picked up)


Douglas, 1.1M for 2011 - 1 year (team option for 2012 and qualifying offer for 2013)
Bill Walker, 900K for 2011 - 1 year (team option picked up)
2011 1st Round Pick, 1.7M for 2011
Renaldo Balkman, 1.7M for 2011, 1.7M for 2012
Andy Rautins, 800K - 1 year

Depending on where you look, the projection for the 2011 salary cap is around 56-60M (this year's was 58M). Adding the 2011 1st Round Pick's salary means that the Knicks will be over the cap for 2011 with just 10 guys under contract. Because the NBA operates under a soft cap (at least for now), the Knicks cannot sign a Free Agent from another team unless he would be willing to sign for the mid-level exception.

Note: I entertained the idea of declining Billups' option and letting Douglas run the squad next year. Doing so would give the Knicks the opportunity to land a marquee free agent, since Billups' $14M salary would come off the books. Billups is also quickly declining, as evidenced by his below-average win share of 3.0, and his obvious inability to play on-ball defense against your mother's mother. 

However, I decided to pick up Billups' team option for several reasons. First, Douglas still doesn't know how to play point guard in the NBA. I see glimpses of a pass-first mentality, but not nearly enough to be convinced. Second, Billups is still a brand name. He has enough cred to stabilize the Knicks, and his leadership skills are unquestioned. Third, and most importantly, declining the option might necessitate the signing of a 2011 free agent, since the Knicks must win now. A regression would turn the city against Melo and Amar'e, and it would hurt the chances of landing a 2012 free agent, which remains the #1 long-term goal.

Therefore, with only the $6M mid-level exception to play around with, free agents such as David West, Nene, and Marc Gasol will not be available. What makes matters worse is that even if a free agent is willing to sign for $6M or less, tacking on more than 1 year will still have an effect on the 2012 cap space, which means less money to allocate for Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, or Chris Paul after next season. Therefore, the Knicks need guys on 1 year contracts who would be willing to play for $6M or less. This drastically reduces the available players on the market to (1) old guys on the brink of retiring and (2) guys who need a year to prove themselves worthy of a multi-year contract in 2012. Therefore, my move would be:

Sign Kurt Thomas to a 1 year deal.

Stop laughing, I'm not joking here. West, Nene, and Gasol will be the headliners of the Free Agent class, but operating under the Knicks' restraints means that Free Agents like Tyson Chandler, Glen Davis, and DeAndre Jordan won't sign with us either. (Ed. Note: this was published before the NBA used a new CBA, which included the Amnesty provision.) Maybe we're not the ideal team for Kurt Thomas to sign with, but no other team will offer him up to $6M for 1 year. Additionally, no other team will offer him a starting spot on a playoff team. Having him could inject some attitude on the defensive end. While he's limited athletically, he's still an above-average post defender, as evidenced by his work this year, filling in for Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. He is also slightly cross-eyed, making this situation a win-win.

Left to fill remaining spots, we are now free to offer contracts to our own Free Agents. Let Roger Mason and Jared Jeffries walk, and offer veteran minimums to Shelden, Anthony Carter, and Shawne Williams. If they pout, we have to let them walk. I do have a feeling that AC will sign, if he doesn't retire.

4. Draft: As everybody knows, the 2011 Draft Class is weak. Real weak. Derrick Williams and Kyrie Irving aren't gonna fall into my lap at 16. After that, there are a bunch of dudes who won't believe they'll be getting guaranteed money as a 1st Round Pick. Take a look at Chad Ford's Top 100 prospect list, and you'll see that there is a lot of grocery store potential. And by grocery store potential, I mean these guys could be saying "Paper or Plastic" real soon. In Turkey. After they get cut from their team...that plays in Turkey. What I propose is this: make the draft board full of players that can play defense OR rebound (if anyone did both, then they'd be going top 5). Then just pick the best available dude at #16. I don't care about scoring unless we're getting Williams or Irving.


Yeah Carmelo and Amar'e are overpaid, but you know what? When the dealer hands you the dice, you roll, and you roll it with a smile on your mug. Melo and STAT aren't exactly Kobe and Gasol, but who is? They're certainly better than Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Raymond Felton. I don't care how good the Nuggets are doing this year. If you disagree with that, then jump off a cliff, because you don't deserve to be an NBA fan.

Bottom line: The Knicks still won't have enough pieces to make a legit title run in 2012. But any type of improvement will improve the chances of landing one of the Big 3 of next year's class. Chauncey will retire, and coupled with other expiring contracts, the Knicks should have close to $20M to spend, depending on the salary cap. Game on.

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