Grading The Deal: Knicks Convert Lee Into Randolph, Turiaf, Azubuike
Authored by Daniel Leroux - July 9, 2010 - 1:32 am
After much speculation and hand wringing, the deal is finally done. No, this one is not about a King, leisure suits, or championships. Rather, two teams that havenít made the playoffs more than twice in the last decade made a deal on Thursday that will substantially change the future of both franchises in the immediate as well as the long-term.
As it looks right now, the Golden State Warriors traded Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike for a signed and traded David Lee.
There are a few different angles on it, so letís get down to business.
For the Knicks, they are getting back a combination of potential and current production for a guy they were going to let go anyway.
Randolph will be the most important player as far as New York goes, and his development is heavily clouded in uncertainty right now. Every once in a while we saw a flash of absolutely amazing play from Randolph, whether it was a short term thing like an amazing block with a sprint down for a dunk or a game where he put it all together. One of his biggest challenges will be deciding what his game is as a player since he has no bread and butter. He has the athletic ability and tools to be good at a wide variety of things, yet is the master of none for now.
If Iím Mike DíAntoni and the Knicks, I would be working with him on a reliable mid-range jumper on the offensive end and weak-side shot blocking on the defensive end: not the perfect complement for Amare that way, yet they are the parts of his skill-set that Randolph can get up to speed the quickest so he can contribute out there.
On the other hand, I can tell Knicks fans exactly what they are getting from Turiaf and Azubuike.
Azubuike is best as an effort rotation guy- he has the tools to be a very good defender and could thrive in a system where he only shoots open looks when the defense sags, sort of like a rotation player version of Trevor Arizaís role on the 2008-09 Lakers team.
Turiaf is a strange fit in DíAntoniís system, but is a very good defender and rebounder while also being a simply awesome teammate. This will come up more later, but there is no one more fun to have on the sidelines and the locker room than Turiaf, and he can be a valued contributor on the court as well.
The other legacy of this trade will be if and how it affects the Knicks going forward as it pertains to the cap. While New York was likely to lose Lee anyway, both Randolph and Turiaf will be on the books for 2011-12 barring the unforeseen. While their total amount is a little over $6 million, we learned today that a little can go a long way when it comes to major free agents. Iím guessing it will be worth it considering both guys are on reasonable contracts right now and will contribute, but it is a point that must be mentioned.
Grade for the New York: B
For the Warriors, letís start out with this: I like David Lee. Heís not a bad player, seems to play hard and appears to be a good guy. He is also the best player in this trade, as he should be in a 3-for-1. The problem here is that Golden State is paying him $13 million dollars a year and he is not even the second-best player on a team that could make the Conference Finals, which should be the measure of a $13M man in the current CBA, much less the worse one for players coming down the pike in 2011.
Unless the team moves both Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis for expiring scrap (and they shouldnít now), they have likely committed to a core of Stephen Curry, Ellis, Biedrins, and Lee for the next 3-4 years with zero cap flexibility until Steph Curry comes up for an extension in 2013.
What makes this move so depressing is that those four as the best players on a team likely does not even put the Warriors in the playoffs next year, much less down the line when teams like Sacramento gel and still have money to spend and the older teams on the list still havenít declined enough for Golden State to overtake them.
At the beginning of the off-season, I was terrified the Warriors would blow the team up (minus Curry) for the new ownership, and this result is even worse than that because the team is nearly destined to be in the ď76ers Zone,Ē a term I use to describe teams that are too good to get lucky in the lottery and add major talent but not good enough to make any sort of impact in terms of the playoffs. Philly was in this bind for a long, long time and tried to get out of it by overpaying Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand. Worked out well.
One vision for this team would have been to get it to the new owner with a core of Curry, Randolph, Udoh (I guess), Turiaf, and Buike if he wanted to come for cheap. That team would have cost around $14M altogether and had the flexibility to either pull a Camby-esque deal or actually get a free agent. It also would have allowed the team to be patient and both stick it to teams while they had cap space a la Oklahoma City and wait for the right fits to come along (like OKC again or Portland). Alas, management has decided to go in a different direction.
Beyond that, the Warriors depth was what made this team work last year, to the extent that it did. While both Azubuike and Randolph were hurt for much of the season, their versatility and energy made the team hard to defend and the three players who left in this deal included two of the three on the team that were actually good defenders and Randolph who has potential on that end due to his length and energy.
They replaced those guys with David Lee who can spell defense, but hasnít played a lick of it in at least the last six seasons. One remarkable thing about Lee is that I attended his best performance of last year (at Oracle where he dropped 37/20/10): the Knicks lost that game by 11 and Monta, Biedrins, and Randolph all did not play that night.
There is a distinct chance that this works out for Golden State, especially if they are willing to be more conventional and play Lee and Biedrins together for periods of time (and Iím sure weíll see lots of Lee and Udoh as well). I just canít shake the feeling that it was a gigantic mistake to take three guys on reasonable contracts who all made sense with a long-term vision of the team to overpay the ever-loving hell out of a single player who is good, but not great, on the offensive side and abysmal defensively. I hope Iím wrong with every fiber of my being.
Grade for Golden State: D+
As a final note, there is also some personal anguish here because as someone who covered the Warriors for much of last year, I saw what these guys, particularly Ronny Turiaf bring to the table off the court. We see a ton of media pub for the guys who are squeaky wheels or prima donnas, especially when they are more notable off the court. I did not get to spend much time with Randolph because he was hurt so much, but Kelenna and Ronny were both class acts that were great with the media, including yours truly while more importantly being great teammates. Seeing Turiaf interact with Curry was one of the highlights of my Warriorsí locker room visits and wish all three former Warriors the absolute best of luck going forward. Take care, fellas.