Knicks’ fans beware, the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls have positioned themselves to outdo us in their free agency pitch to LeBron James, Chris Bosh and the rest. Yes, yes, I hear there’s some draft tonight that might turn around the fates of some franchises, but we Knick fans know our real chance for change comes July 1st, the start of the free agency wooing period. While we didn’t have the best roster, we did have the space for two max players, something only New Jersey and Miami could match. Unfortunately, in the last 36 hours Miami has created even more cap room, while Chicago seems ready to join the group too. Before reading any further, I’d recommend you step back from any steep ledges ‘cuz by the end you might feel compelled to throw yourself off ‘em.
It seemed like a small move, Miami trading fifth-string guard Daequan Cook and their 18th pick to Oklahoma for a second-rounder, but the implications are huge. Not only does Miami get Cook’s $2.1+ mill off their books, but they also won’t have to pay the $1.2+ mill owed an 18th round pick. Plus, normally they’d then still have to count a “phantom” player on their salary cap at slightly under $.5 mill, but by getting that second rounder they can use a special loophole. Since there is no salary scale for second-rounders, until you sign them to a contract they don’t add salary to your cap, but they DO count as a player. In other words, they milked that baby for all it’s worth and then some.
Then today came noise that they’re trying to buy out James Jones. Even if they don’t succeed, apparently his contract is only partially guaranteed so if they waive him by the end of the month, they’ll save another $2.8 million. What would be the implications?
That [reduced salary cap space] would be enough to keep Wade, sign an additional maximum salary free agent — and Heat president Pat Riley is prepared to make a strong push to sign LeBron James — while still leaving an additional $10-11 million to spend on one or more additional free agents.
$10-11 million is a good chunk of change and while it might not be enough to also draw say a Chris Bosh, A’m'a’r'e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer, it could be enough for a Rudy Gay or to steal away our own David Lee (while we’re looking in the other direction seeing if LeBron’s arriving). Plus they’ve got possibilities that could create even more space. The smaller one:
The Heat were also awaiting word from center Joel Anthony, who faced a Thursday night deadline to decide whether to exercise a player option for 2010-11 that would pay him (and reduce Miami’s cap space) $885,000.
And the bigger whopper:
Miami also has been working diligently in an effort to trade Michael Beasley, who is under contract for $4.96 million next season. [...]
Ideally, the Heat would want to trade Beasley for a player with only a partially guaranteed contract for the 2010-11 season, and there are two players with contracts of that variety who are especially appealing – Keyon Dooling of the New Jersey Nets and Ryan Gomes of Minnesota.
Only $500,000 of Dooling’s 2010-11 salary of $3.83 million is guaranteed if he is waived before July 1, but the source said New Jersey has shown no interest in acquiring Beasley.
With Gomes, only $1 million of his $4.235 million is guaranteed — meaning a team that acquired him could increase its cap space by more than $3.2 million by waiving him by June 30.
So, if Riley was able to trade Beasley for Gomes, he would have a pool of roughly $47 million to spend on free agents, including Wade.
And, if he could convince three top caliber free agents — Wade, James and Chris Bosh, for example — to sign for starting salaries in the range of $15.5 million ($1 million less than they are eligible to receive), he could fulfill his goal of putting together the three primary building blocks of the “dynasty” he spoke about at the conclusion of the Heat’s ’09-10 season.
Honestly, I’m not sure why the Nets or Timberwolves wouldn’t jump on a deal like this. He’s a #2 pick, who while he hasn’t been great so far, also has suffered from limited playing time due to Udonis Haslem (which also has resulted in a short leash that’s left Beasley always looking over his shoulder, worrying about making a mistake). Sure, the Nets are hoping to join in the free agency frenzy and don’t want to add salary or help a competitor, but of all the possible locales I have a hard time seeing LeBron going there due to the fact that he’d be stuck in New Jersey for at least two years and there’s still the possibility the move to Brooklyn doesn’t happen at all. Can he really justify leaving his hometown of Cleveland to move to New Jersey for a team that only won 12 games? However the Nets are still clearly in cap-space clearing mode as they just traded Chris Douglas-Roberts for, natch, a second-round pick. Yeah, they also had some locker room issues with him, but it’s also nearly a million more in cap space and every little bit could help.
The other big devastating news for Big Applers is that the Bulls apparently have a trade in place where they’ll trade Kirk Hinrich and the 17th pick to the Washington Wizards. Losing Hinrich’s big salary would give them over $30 million in cap space, almost enough to go from signing only one max player to two. New York’s big advantage over Chicago was we could allow LeBron and Bosh to team up. Now they can go to Chicago to team-up, and instead of a roster of Toney Douglas, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Eddy Curry, they could join the impressive cast of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah. With that big a roster upgrade, suddenly LeBron wouldn’t worry about being in Jordan’s shadow if he went there.
Two things make this trade shaky to me though from the Wiz’s side: 1.Washington hasn’t said who they’d give up in return. 2.Why would they trade for a third point guard when they already have Gilbert Arenas and are likely about to draft superstar-in-the-making John Wall? If anything, I’d think they’d be more interested in Deng (although he has a bigger salary and a longer contract which likely scared ‘em off). However, apparently if the deal does fall apart,
the Sacramento Kings are prepared to make a similar deal with the Bulls in the Wizards’ stead.
And the Kings could definitely use a good point guard, particularly one as professional as Hinrich who’ll set a great example on defense for last year’s Rookie Of The Year Tyreke Evans (as well as this year’s rook, who could be DeMarcus Cousins, a player potentially in even greater need of a proper role model). Thus it seems highly likely Chicago will get that additional space after all. Meaning the Knicks just dropped from potentially being as attractive a place as any other to a clear #3. Plus I didn’t even mention that Miami has no state taxes so players could take home more money. Oh wait, I just mentioned it.
Not depressed enough? Well, what about them Chris Paul rumors? Maybe we can get him and supposedly that’ll make LeBron wanna join us? Here’s Chad Ford to throw freezing cold water on that idea:
It’s time to end all of the Chris Paul speculation that grew like wildfire over the past few days. The Hornets did receive a few calls about Paul, but a very good source in New Orleans tells me they aren’t trading him. Owner George Shinn may want to save cash, but he can’t part with with his franchise cornerstone.
Okay, maybe this little snippet will cheer you up — remember how I wrote that NBA.com’s assertion that Bosh wouldn’t play #2 to LeBron or anyone was year-old out-of-date news? Bosh was on a radio show, confirming that he’s fine doing that:
Bosh stressed he also would be happy alongside another elite player.
“I would like to contribute big to somebody,” Bosh said. “Toronto made me their focal point and they’ve built around me for the last few years and just to have that feeling there, it was good, because going down into the stretch of the games I knew the ball was going to be in my hands and I knew that I was the guy who had to make my teammates better.”
Um, of course that could hurt our chances even more ‘cuz now it seems like if we don’t get LeBron, we can pretty much forget Bosh too. Guess that didn’t cheer us up, huh? Ooh, here’s a positive thing: he cut off his long dreads so he no longer looks all girly-like.
For Boozer-haters like myself, how about this tidbit:
His options include staying with Utah or looking at New Jersey, Chicago or Miami.
I’m happy we ain’t mentioned. Plus, if he goes to Chicago or Miami then it means at least either Bosh or LeBron can’t sign with them. Although, if you do like Booze and had hoped he could be a backup plan, well, that’s yet another depressing bit. Uhhh, moving on…
Here we go, this is as good as I can get. Remember that Chris Douglas-Roberts trade I mentioned above? Well they sent him to Milwaukee. Who had just acquired another swingman from the Golden State Warriors in Corey Maggette. Huh? Why is it potentially good news for us that one of our Eastern Conference competitors just got stronger? ’Cuz with these two guys added, plus the return of Michael Redd to health (although who can count on that?), it means they could be far less likely to re-sign their current swingman John Salmons. While Salmons ain’t a top 2/3, he is darn good and could likely be gotten for a reasonable deal. Like we could get A’m'a’r'e, re-sign David Lee, snag John Salmons, and possibly still have enough to add some depth, like Brendan Haywood at center or Ray Felton at point. It’s not LeBron & Bosh combo, but it’d get us back in the playoffs, and that’s a start.
Yup, time to seriously downsize expectations.