The New York Knicks are a team in limbo. After years of mismanagement by Scott Layden and then Isiah Thomas, the organization finally brought in someone who appears to have an actual plan.
Donnie Walsh reoriented the team toward signing at least one and maybe two max contract free agents in 2010 while establishing a team identity by hiring Mike D'Antoni. Everyone in the world knows that the Knicks are gearing up for a run at Lebron and possibly Chris Bosh in 2010.
The more immediate question is what do the Knicks do this offseason to make Lebron want to become a Knick.
The Knicks are said to be interested in trading for those picks. Rumors are also rampant that the Knicks want Stephen Curry.
However, Curry has been so impressive, it is unlikely that he will still be around when the Knicks pick eighth. So, here are some thoughts about what the Knicks should do to both improve the team and improve their chances to sign Lebron.
In this year's playoffs, we just witnessed the Lakers beat the Magic in large part because Kobe had players like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to keep defenses honest. The Lakers also had Andrew Bynum around to body up Dwight Howard so that they could stay on the Magic's three point shooters.
For the next couple of years, Lebron is going to have to be on a team that can beat both Boston and Orlando. This means the Knicks needs to have the right complementary players. Surprisingly, they already have a couple.
Wilson Chandler developed into a reliable NBA player. He showed a solid shooting touch, but also a lot of explosiveness in his drives to the basket.
Chandler also showed versatility on defense in that he capably guarding shooting guards and power forwards. Chandler is both strong and quick. At 6'8", he is tall enough to defend a power forward, but quick enough to stay front of guards.
Imagine if the Cavs had Chandler guarding Turkgolu instead of Delonte West. They probably would have beaten Orlando.
Danilo Gallinari is a big question mark because of his back. However, the kid can shoot. In his limited playing time, he showed excellent basketball instincts and good passing ability. Plus, he made almost every three pointer when he was open.
Lebron could generate five assists a game just by passing the ball to him. As long as he is healthy, Gallinari will be a good role player for a winning team.
Don't laugh, but Chris Duhon is also a nice role player. He can shoot when he is open and he is a solid defensive player. He handles the ball well and runs the pick and roll with excellent timing.
What he cannot do effectively on the NBA level is consistently create good shots for himself. Put him on a team with a creative dynamo like Lebron and he will excel. Even more important, he is an ideal backup point guard.
Now, the real issue is what to do with Nate Robinson and David Lee, who are both restricted free agents. Both are quality NBA players, but both are limited in important ways defensively. It is their limitations that suggest that the Knicks should try to trade both.
David Lee is a great rebounder with a knack for scoring garbage points. He is improving as a shooter to the point where he is now mediocre. He will probably continue to get better and eventually become reliable.
However, for someone who jumps as well as he does, he is a horrible shot blocker. He also lacks lateral quickness. As such, he is very vulnerable defensively. He also allows his man to get good position on the low post; opponents can get good shots against him on a consistent basis.
It is unlikely that he will ever become a quality defender in the post. The Knicks would be well advised to trade him now while he is young and his value is high. Memphis is a potential target for a sign and trade.
Nate Robinson is an explosive scorer who uses his freakish level of athleticism to make up for the fact that he is only 5'8". He can score on anyone at almost any time. Nate's biggest problem is that he appears to be incapable of playing point guard effectively.
He can handle the ball okay, but he is not going to create offense for his teammates on a consistent basis without turning the ball over. Nate is great at creating his own shot. He only passes when his shot is blocked off.
David Lee made a living of scoring on putbacks off of a Nate miss. Nate was also the only Knick player who could consistently create his own shot.
However, to enable Nate to work, the Knicks need a big guard to pair with him. The Knicks do not have that player and because Nate has earned a big pay day, the Knicks cannot afford to re-sign him and still go after Lebron. So, bye-bye Nate.
So, the Knicks need to look for teams that would be willing to do a sign and trade for either David Lee and Nate. Memphis is a possible target as is Detroit.
The Knicks could trade the rights to David Lee, Eddy Curry, the trade exemption from Ronaldo Balkman and the eighth pick to Memphis for the second and 27th pick and Darko Milicic.
The major problems with this deal are that it cannot be made without Lee's consent and it is unknown whether or not Memphis would even consider taking Curry off of the Knicks hands for Darko.
However, getting rid of Eddy Curry creates more cap room in 2010 as Darko's deal expires that year and the Knicks would then use the second pick to take Rubio who would be the perfect point guard for Mike D'Antoni.
After this deal, the only Knicks with a contract past 2010 would be the draft picks, Jared Jeffries, Wilson Chandler and Gallinari. The Knicks would then have enough cap room to sign both Lebron and Bosh.
Detroit is another team that might be interested in David Lee. They are looking to dump Amir Johnson's contract and are also willing to trade the 15th pick. The Knicks could arrange to trade Lee to the Pistons for the 15th pick and Johnson.
The Knicks could then pick up a versatile forward in the draft like Earl Clark or James Johnson, or even roll the dice on a center like BJ Mullens to go with whichever point guard the Knicks take with the eighth pick.
Interestingly, there have been very little in the way of rumors about Nate Robinson. However, to give the Knicks their best shot at signing Lebron and Bosh in 2010, look for Donnie Walsh to trade Eddy Curry, David Lee, and Nate Robinson this offseason.