If the rumors circulating the Association are anything close to credible (I know, I know, but bear with me here, please), the New York Knicks could be a very short time away from having a must-make trade offer on their hands.
The ridiculous part of this is what that particular trade offer entails.
As reported by Marc Berman of the New York Post:
The success of the Blazers has hurt Zach Randolph's trade value, but there are rumblings the Nuggets and the New York Knicks have discussed a multi-player trade involving the disgruntled power forward.
It is believed names discussed in a potential deal included Linas Kleiza, Eduardo Najera, Steven Hunter and J.R. Smith for Randolph and another Knick. The Knicks appear most interested in up-and-comer Kleiza.
The days when the Blazers were chastised for dealing Z-Bo to the Knicks for Channing Frye and the chance to buy out Steve Francis because "You don't just give away 20-10 guys" are long over.
This is what Zach Randolph is worth in this league now, and if the trade is offered as reported, the Knicks would be utter fools (not for the first time) if they didn't accept it in a heartbeat.
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That's it. That's the can't-say-no offer for a guy averaging 17 points and 10 boards per game this season after 23.6 and 10 a season ago. An oft-injured center who has averaged 8.4 minutes in the eight games he has played this season, a 31-year-old power forward who has never averaged more than 6.6 points or 5.5 rebounds per game, a head case two-guard who likes to jack threes and do little else and one promising third-year forward who isn't necessarily a star-in-the-making but does continue to get better each season. Doesn't exactly knock 'em dead.
But then, it's worth remembering what having Zach Randolph on one's team means these days. It's been discussed with some regularity in this space, so we'll give you the short-short version: It means having a good scorer and rebounder whose numbers are extremely misleading. It means having a power forward whose strength is shooting jump shots from the high post and right wings but who also routinely breaks plays, doesn't pass the ball well and doesn't make his teammates any better offensively. It also means having one of the worst defenders in the league (yes, even worse than his abominable front-court teammate, Eddy Curry), principally because he can't seem to be persuaded to care at all about stopping anybody. It means having a guy who can completely short-circuit a team's defense by not ever closing out on a shooter, stepping out when his man steps outside, busting his gut back down the floor or stepping up quickly on a defensive rotation. It means having a guy with a record for questionable off-court behavior and a widely reputed poor attitude.
And it means paying this bundle of joy more than $61 million between now and the end of 2011.
In order for the Knicks to even begin to turn their dire situation around, Z-Bo must go, at virtually any cost possible (which is why I'm personally hoping he isn't going anywhere). So what if the Nuggets' package isn't filled with studs? Nobody is going to be offering studs for this guy, especially low-cost studs without serious conduct concerns and long-term contracts. Najera's $4.9 million salary comes off the books at season's end. Head case Smith makes $1.6 million this season and will be a restricted free agent come summer. Meanwhile, Hunter is on the books through the 2009-10 season, but he will never make so high as $4 million in a single season, and as a center known for playing a bit of defense, perhaps he could even be of occasional use to the Knicks. Assuming they are willing to change their philosophy to, you know, include the playing of some sort of defense, that is.
Kleiza will be considered the gem of the trade basketball-wise. He remains on his rookie deal through the end of next season and won't make so much as $2 million either this year or next. At 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds but listed as a small forward, he provides versatility in the front court, and he can score from both the inside and outside. The Missouri product is no great shakes as of now, and his numbers would likely drop were he to be moved from the league's fastest-paced team, but he is a nicely developing young player.
Big-time cap relief and a decent young player. Not great. Decent. It almost doesn't even matter who the second player the Knicks have to throw in is, because while the organization values certain youngsters (David Lee, Nate Robinson, at times Renaldo Balkman), some of them rightfully so, there isn't a single player on this Knicks roster who merits the 'untouchable' label. If the 'Bockers can get this deal done to ship Zach Randolph out of town, they must do so.
The value of addition by subtraction is that high. Really.
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As for the folks in Denver, the concept of even considering this deal is a nearly unfathomable one. That's another story for another time, but it's one that will most certainly be told in this space in the event that this deal draws any closer to completion.