First, he tricked the New York Knicks into surrendering three draft picks, including a 2016 first-rounder, for Andrea Bargnani, a 7-footer who might best be described as Byron Mullens' role model. Then, he suckered the Sacramento Kings into absorbing Rudy Gay's onerous salary ($17.9 million this season, $19.3 million in 2014-15) and two-bit shot selection without throwing in a pick of his own as sweetener.
Now, he's got some of the league's most desperate clubs, including both of Gotham's gag-worthy outfits, clamoring after Kyle Lowry.
The same Kyle Lowry who missed 14 games due to injury last season, 19 the year before that and has worn out his welcome wherever he's been.
According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, Knicks owner James Dolan nixed a potential deal that would've sent Raymond Felton, Metta World Peace and one of the three between Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. or a 2018 first-round pick to Toronto in exchange for Lowry. Such a deal couldn't have been consummated until Dec. 15, the first day on which free agents signings from the previous summer are eligible to be traded.
As Isola's source put it, "Dolan didn’t want to get fleeced again by Masai. They had a deal ready.”
Who could blame him? Aside from the aforementioned bit of Bargnani-related thievery that Ujiri pulled off in July, the reigning Executive of the Year made his bones in the Denver Nuggets front office when he orchestrated the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and assorted salary cap flotsam to New York in exchange for Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and a slew of other assets.
Since then, the Nuggets have posted a record of 126-68 (.649 winning percentage), while the Knicks have gone 110-87 (.558 winning percentage).
And with Steve Mills, who has even less experience as a GM than the guy (Glen Grunwald) who helped to engineer those other two trades with Ujiri, at the controls right now, it's no wonder the Knicks' bluesy overlord didn't want this to happen.
For Dolan, it's like that old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me"—but the George W. Bush version. Ironically enough, Dolan's decision could spark a bidding war between the Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, not unlike the one that preceded 'Melo's arrival in New York, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Not that the Nets have any need for Lowry. They're already set at point guard, with Deron Williams returning to the starting lineup, Shaun Livingston establishing himself as solid support and Jason Terry on the mend.
In a vacuum, the Knicks make sense as a suitor for Lowry's services. According to Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling, Raymond Felton's hamstring injury is "pretty bad," and the team isn't comfortable handing its point guard duties off to rookie Toure' Murry wholesale.
Of course, such a narrow view ignores the fact that Mike Woodson has two other competent point guards, in Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih, sitting on the bench. Prigioni has entrenched himself as a fan favorite, with his nifty passes and timely long-range bombs (.457 from three). As for Udrih, he's started 247 games (including four this season) since arriving stateside in 2004.
That being said, Lowry would clearly be an upgrade over any of the four aforementioned floor generals on New York's roster. Plug him into the Knicks' lineup, and he'd be the team leader in assists (6.7) and steals (1.8) and second only to Carmelo Anthony in points (14.6).
He'd also check in fourth among his teammates in three-point shooting (.361). The fact that Lowry's hit 46.8 percent of his spot-up threes this season, per Synergy Sports (subscription required), would add to his value as a floor spacer off of 'Melo's post-ups.
But the Knicks are going to need whoever starts at the point to be a solid pick-and-roll partner for Tyson Chandler, who's expected to return from his leg injury before the year is through. In that regard, Lowry hardly fits the profile. According to Synergy, Lowry's run the league's pet play 39 percent of the time in 2013-14, with only middling results—0.85 points per play, 39.3 percent shooting from the field, a slim 22.7 percent from three, with turnovers on a whopping 17.6 percent of such possessions.
New York can ill-afford to have its ball-handlers slipping up so often in the pick-and-roll, not with an offense that plays at the league's slowest pace, per Basketball-Reference.com.
Perhaps Lowry's greatest value would come at the defensive end. Lowry's not particularly tall for a point guard (generously listed at six feet), but he's a strong bulldog type who can hound opposing ball-handlers when he puts his mind to it.
Of course, Lowry's aggression often comes at a cost. He gambles for steals fairly frequently, thereby leaving his teammates scrambling in support whenever he comes up empty. His approach, combined with his lack of size, has left him vulnerable to getting torched by opposing point guards of all stripes, from Jeff Teague (17 points, 12 assists) and Mike Conley (29 points, five assists) to Damian Lillard (25 points, eight assists), John Wall (37 points) and Nate Robinson (23 points, five assists).
Those results aren't all on Lowry, and the guy's had some solid showings, as well.
For the Knicks, though, any decision to trade for a player like Lowry has to consider the costs of such a deal seriously. New York is already nearly bereft of fungible assets for the foreseeable future, with no tradable picks in either round until 2018. On the "prospect" front, only Shumpert and Hardaway Jr. fit the bill.
The thing is, if the Knicks intend to pin their hopes to pricey superstars for the foreseeable future, they'll need young, cheap players like Shump and Tim Jr., along with the ability to add more such pieces through the draft, to fill out the rest of the roster.
Is Lowry really worth that kind of expense? Maybe if he was under contract for another year or two, but that's not the case; he's due to hit free agency this summer.
As such, if the Knicks were to trade for Lowry, they'd essentially be mortgaging another piece (or two) of their future for five months of a guy who's probably overqualified to be a backup but isn't quite good enough to compete with the top 10-to-12 players at his position.
And that's before you take into account what a headache Lowry's been at every step along the way, from Memphis to Houston to Toronto. One can only imagine, then, what sort of effect he'd have on the powder keg of drama into which the Knicks' locker room has devolved this season.
At best, Lowry would bolster New York's playoff hopes on the margins, though the team figures to find its way into the fray in the weak Eastern Conference, if only on the strength of 'Melo and Chandler. At worst, Lowry flames out and leaves the Knicks with both a pile of wreckage now and fewer tools with which to clean themselves up going forward.
Either way, New York isn't competing for a championship in 2014, and if the Knicks let Masai "Keyser Soze" Ujiri get the best of them again, they won't be for the foreseeable future.
Who else should teams steer clear of on the trade market? Chime in on Twitter!