Somehow, over the last few weeks, it became fact that the only way for the Knicks offseason to be considered a success would be to land Steve Nash on top of bringing back Lin, Novak, JR Smith, and Landry Fields. The truth is so much more complicated than that…
First things first, it was made very clear by Nash himself that he wanted to get paid market value or close to it. This is coming from a guy who was second in the league in assists last year, scored in double digits, and shot over 50% from the field. Market value for a PG of that caliber is way above what the Knicks ever had to offer (either the $3.09 Mil taxpayer exemption or the full $5.3 Mil mid-level exception, depending on what other internal free agents re-signed and for what dollar amounts). Nash was never going to play for either of those figures when there were other teams out there clearly willing to go to market value and beyond (ahem, Raptors…we’ll get to them in a minute). So if you accept that as true (which it clearly is) then the only route the Knicks ever had to acquire Nash was via a sign-and-trade that would have cost the Knicks Landry Fields, Toney Douglas, and expiring contracts of players not worthy enough to even be mentioned by name here in this space. That would have been a very acceptable trade to Knicks fans. But if the Lakers were always out there, lurking with their draft picks and trade exemptions, the Knicks offer may never have had a legit shot at getting accepted anyway. That brings us to the reports that surfaced this week, and persisted all the way up until the PHX-LA trade was announced, that in lieu of Landry Fields, the Suns would take Iman Shumpert in a deal for Nash. This is where I immediately switched from ‘all in’ to ‘all out’ on the Nash sign and trade idea.
Would Nash have made the Knicks a better team this year and next? Absolutely. He would have organized the offense, created easier shots for all of the varied weapons that the Knicks posses, his gravitas and leadership skills would have helped unify the Melo-STAT-Chandler troika, and he would have provided sage tutelage to Jeremy Lin (who would make an awesome back up, by the way). All of that said, would that team be capable of beating a healthy Miami Heat squad in a seven game series?
NOT. A. CHANCE.
This is why the idea of trading a valuable, affordable, defensive-minded SG with a developing offensive game for the right to lose to the Heat in the playoffs just didn’t sit well with me. Furthermore, the sign and trade would have meant that Nash was coming in with a cap hit that would figure to sit in the $8-10 Million range annually. This would have created an even more restrictive salary cap situation for the Knicks than the one they currently find themselves in and would essentially remove the mid-level exception as a roster building tool for the duration of the Nash contract.
I promised that I’d get back to the Raptors…nobody loses more in this whole turn of events than them. They essentially signed Landry Fields to a grossly inflated offer sheet to remove him as a trade chip with which the Knicks could acquire Nash. His contract was meant to be, essentially, collateral damage in the Nash pursuit. Since the Nash pursuit failed…egg, meet Bryan Colangelo’s face. No matter what the Raptors prez/GM says in the coming weeks about how they really love Landry, how he fits the offense, great upside, blah, blah, blah, just remember that it’s all shameless spin-doctorism. In reality, they already have a better version of Fields in DeMar DeRozan and they just drafted another athletic wing, Terrence Ross, with their lottery pick. Given that, it’s hard to see how Landry even fits in the rotation, much less seems worthy of $6-7 million annually over three years. Since all indications are that the Knicks will not match this offer sheet, two things happen:
1) The Raptors get sidled with a bad contract that will most likely haunt them for three years or more and
2) The Knicks will have a chance to stay under the luxury tax apron, thereby magically transforming $3.09 million to spend on a “meh, if that’s all that’s out there…” free agent into $5.3 million to spend on a “ok, he can definitely help” free agent.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The new CBA is so complicated that I have no idea whether or not what I just asserted is actually true. What I know is this: teams that have a payroll in excess of $74 million dollars are forced to pay the luxury tax. Teams that are paying the luxury tax are not allowed to use the full mid-level exception and only have the smaller taxpayer exemption and minimum salary contracts as roster building tools. Therefore, if the Knicks manage to stay below that $74 million figure, they may be able to use that full mid-level. Possibly. Probably. Get it? Got it? Fantastic.
Forgetting about all of the math and salary cap flimflammery, the fact is this: Knicks fans should be ecstatic today that James Dolan didn’t manage to, once again, mortgage the future for a not-good-enough present. Three cheers for accidental prudence.