The Knicks need to make some bold moves this offseason to set themselves up for a possible run at LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in 2010. As GM for the day, my goal is to bring in a point guard and improve the talent base to better fit the style of head coach Mike D'Antoni.
Starting things off, my first phone call would be to the Houston Rockets. I would offer Eddy Curry ($10.5 million) + a re-signed David Lee ($9 million) + one of the Knicks' trade exceptions for Luis Scola ($3.2 million) and Tracy McGrady ($22.8 million).
The Rockets would have to consider this trade as the McGrady/Yao combination has simply not worked due primarily to injury. Curry is a worthwhile gamble, as he will be playing for his basketball life. Another clunker of a season and he is out of the league.
David Lee will quickly become a crowd favorite. He simply has a knack for finding rebounds.
Luis Scola is a great fit for Mike D'Antoni's seven seconds or less offense. He possesses good range, great hands, and is a smart passer and defender. He's the type of player that other talented players like to play with.
Tracy McGrady is the wild card. At best, he recovers from microfracture surgery and is a key cog in getting the Knicks to the playoffs. At worst, he's an expiring contract. More likely, he's somewhere in the middle.
If he shows signs that he can fit well in D'Antoni's system and would settle for being a sixth man, he would be a great sign for part or all of the mid-level exception in the Summer of 2010.
McGrady's days as a top-dollar talent are over.
Next on my speed dial is Minnesota. I would offer my 2010 draft pick + Wilson Chandler for Ricky Rubio. Given Rubio's stance, the Timberwolves would be coming out of this pretty strong.
Wilson Chandler improved his play in 2009. Given consistent minutes and a low pressure environment, he could develop into a solid contributor. Getting an additional draft pick (likely to be in the top 15) would also be a coup.
Ricky Rubio is either going to be a great player or a great bust. There is simply no middle ground here. My bet is that the glimpse he provided against Team USA is what we'll see in the NBA. He was born to play under the bright lights of NYC.
Free agency is also an opportunity to improve. Marcin Gortat would be a nice compliment to the front line for the lower mid-level exception. He is not worth a bidding war. The enticement is the stage and the city.
Would this team be a playoff contender next year? If everything breaks right in a relatively weak Eastern Conference, it is certainly possible.
More importantly, I would have set in place the key building blocks for 2010's free agent bonanza. I would buy out Jeffries contract ($6 million in 2010), leaving only two rookie level contracts and possibly Gortat as for roughly $6 million in total cap space.
Furthermore, I would be able to re-sign many of these players (Scola, Gallinari for example) and still add two studs.
All-in-all, not a bad way to spend the Summer.