The Knicks currently hold the rights to 17 players for the upcoming 2007-08 season with 16 of them possessing fully guaranteed contracts. The League only allows a maximum of 15 players on the roster. The big question that remains for Isiah Thomas and the Knicks: which two guys won’t make the opening night roster?
Let’s first cancel out the obvious. The starting lineup will consist of Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson, Zach Randolph, and Eddy Curry. The first five guys off the bench will be David Lee, Renaldo Balkman, Nate Robinson, Jared Jeffries, and Mardy Collins. That leaves newcoming expiring contracts Fred Jones and Dan Dickau, veterans Malik Rose and Jerome James, and potential NBDL fixtures Wilson Chandler, Randolph Morris, and Demetris Nichols. Of course, Zeke would prefer to execute a three-for-one trade; that way, he wouldn’t have to squander two of his assets with buyouts in order to trim his roster to fit under the personnel maximum.
But who would they want to trade? And for whom?
The first name that comes to mind is Ron Artest. However, it is widely believed that the Kings refuse to deal with New York unless they include Lee or Balkman. It seems as if Geoff Petrie is overplaying his hand by expecting to get rising stars in exchange for the much maligned socialite with a pension for making the his organization look foolish - not to mention, Artest is already suspended for the first 7 games, which is nearly ten percent of the entire season. So why not trade the troubled Artest along with the remaining three years on Kenny Thomas’ exorbitant deal in exchange for the $6M in expiring contracts (Jones and Dickau), career starter Jared Jeffries, emerging playmaker Nate Robinson, and a 1st round pick?
That deal would rid the Kings of their primary cause for migrane headaches while immediately freeing up cap space, adding two young players and a potential lottery selection should New York fail to reach the postseason in the more competitve East. It would also bolster the New York starting five and give the fans a hometown hero known for his nasty defense - something the Downy-soft Knicks are currently lacking. This would also trim the Knick roster to a tidy 15 players, which is exactly Zeke’s final offseason mission.
Since it is unlikely the stubborn Petrie will find a deal he likes this summer, that leaves Isiah with the same problem: which two guys to dump? Nichols is still unsigned but is too talented to give up on. Jones and Dickau’s contracts could eventually be the key to a deadline deal that could propel New York into the postseason. Rose is the one guy in the locker room who brings heart and veteran leadership and winning experience. Chandler is Isiah’s latest claim to bolster his already gleaming draft resume. Morris is a youthful and talented big man who could become a very valuable trade chip. And finally, Jerome James - well, we’re not so sure Isiah is ready to admit defeat with the popular big fella.
If it were up to me, I’d shoot for a three-for-one or four-for-two trade. But given the unlikelyhood of Petrie realizing that the market value for his lunatic superstar is nowhere near the heights that he is telling himself, I’d be parting ways with Jerome James and Dan Dickau via buyout.