Maybe its because Stephon Marbury is gone. After all, every team he's left became significantly better the following season. Or perhaps it was the 10 game improvement last season. The fact that the NBA draft is tomorrow could have something to do with it. More likely though, its all the cap space that Donnie Walsh has created through crafty trades in lieu of the biggest, most talented, free-agent market in NBA history. Any and all of these reasons are causing the majority of Knicks fans to lose sight of one inevitable truth: The Knicks as they are currently constructed will be a much worse team in 2009-2010!
At this point, many readers are likely spitting at their computer screen thinking, "What the hell does this guy know?" To them I simply point out the following: 1) Stephon Marbury did not appear in one game for the Knicks all of last season. Last year was our post Marbury year in which we significantly improved; 2) Almost one third of the games the Knicks won last year were with the high scoring duo of Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford leading the team, both of whom will be starting their seasons elsewhere; and 3) The likelihood that key rotation players David Lee and Nate Robinson will sign offers the Knicks won't match. With all of that said, you should now understand where my pessimism arises from. For the Knicks to improve in the win column, its gonna take a few off-season miracles. The following are seven miracles to wish for in order of most likely to least.
1) The Knicks trade Jared Jeffries to the Washington Wizards for Mike James.
There are several reasons why this is the most likely "miracle" to happen. The biggest reason is that this trade can happen anytime between now and the beginning of the season. More importantly though, is that this trade makes sense for both teams involved. After Washington's quasi blockbuster trade with Minnesota they are now overcrowded in the back court with Arenas, Stevenson, Foye, Miller, Young, and Crittenton. This leaves Mike James as the odd man out of the rotation, but the Long Island product would gladly call Madison Square Garden home. It is no secret that Chris Duhon was overwhelmed with full-time point guard duties last season. It is also no secret, that the Wizards with a now very thin front court would welcome back Jeffries who can play all of the front court positions and is familiar with the club. In addition, the Knicks shed Jeffries 2010-2011 salary and receive Mike James' expiring one.
2) The Knicks trade Quentin Richardson and cash to the Memphis Grizzlies for Darko Milicic.
This is actually one of the most prominent trade rumors that made its way through the Internet today and is also one of the most reasonable. Memphis who in all likelihood will be choosing second in tomorrow nights draft will almost undoubtedly draft Hasheem Thabeet out of UConn seeing as how Rubio has made it clear he has no desire to follow in Pau Gasol's footsteps. Sure, the Grizzlies could go in another direction and draft hometown hero Tyreke Evans. In any case, Milicic seems to have fallen out of favor the Grizzlies rotation averaging only 17 minutes per game last season playing mostly behind Marc Gasol, Hakim Warrick, and Darrell Arthur. Still, Milicic has a few things to offer the Knicks that being his expiring contract (Richardson's expires as well) and his shot-blocking ability. Richardson on the other hand gives Memphis better insurance than Darius Miles should O.J. Mayo or Rudy Gay need a breather.
3) The Knicks with 8th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft select Stephen Curry.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, Curry's stock has risen in the past few weeks, which should only be a testament to his outstanding ability. Curry is a great shooter, was a great college player, and has a chance to be a very good NBA player. He is a perfect player for D'Antoni's offense period. He'll likely assume Nate Robinson's role in his first season. If he is off the board by the time the Knicks select, Jrue Holiday or Jordan Hill would make a good consolation prizes.
4) The Knicks with the 18th (or later) pick in the 2009 NBA Draft select...
The Knicks only have one draft pick this year and none for 2010 which is supposed to be a much deeper draft than 2009. Thus, another prominent rumor making its way through the Internet today was that the Knicks acquired a late first round draft pick from Minnesota or Memphis offering one of their many trade exceptions. The Knicks should pursue a second pick in this draft and should they be fortunate enough to receive one they should base their later pick on whom they pick 8th overall. If the Knicks draft a point guard, DeJuan Blair and Wayne Ellington will likely be available. If the Knicks don't draft a point guard first, there is always Darren Collison, Jeff Teague, and Eric Maynor to consider.
5) The Knicks sign-and-trade Nate Robinson to the Los Angeles Clippers for Marcus Camby.
The Clippers drafting Blake Griffin tomorrow night is as sure as sure gets. How will the Clippers then allocate minutes to what will be their four big-men (Kaman, Camby, and Randolph). One of them has to go and Camby happens to be the most marketable given his expiring contract and defensive expertise. His passing ability for a big man will also allow him to adjust to D'Antoni's system quickly. The Clippers won't be left out in the cold though. Nate Robinson will be Nate Robinson wherever he goes. That is, he'll be a great backup combo guard that can relieve players like Baron Davis and Eric Gordon without giving up any offense.
6) David Lee does not receive any multi-year offers from any team and accepts the Knicks qualifying offer of $2.7 million over one year.
Its quite a shame that keeping David Lee will likely interfere with the Knicks plans for 2010. The fact of the matter though is that Lee is one player who kept the team on the map. He fits well in D'Antoni's system and is the current face of the franchise. He plays hard every night and will hopefully remain a Knick forever.
7) The Knicks sign Jason Kidd (or Rasheed Wallace, Mike Bibby, or Zydrunas Ilgauskas) to a 1 year mid-level exception contract.
The Knicks will likely not test the free agent waters unless it brings significant improvement. Any of the four mentioned above would easily easily bring significant improvement. The only problem is they could either earn more money or more wins elsewhere.
I promised you seven miracles to choose from and there they are. If the Knicks execute any of the above, they'll be a better team than they currently are structured to become. If they can execute two or more, who knows they may even join the playoff picture.
Just for kicks, my predictions for picks 1-8 tomorrow.
Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Jordan Hill, Stephen Curry.