Trading Talent For Cap Space?

February 21, 2010

As many of you probably know, the NBA trade deadline was this past Thursday. And, if you knew that, I’m sure you know that the summer of 2010 is known as perhaps the best free agent class that the league has ever seen. With names like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire, we have never seen so many marquee names available for the entire league to bid on at one time. We also have never seen so many teams give away talent for a CHANCE to sign one of these young studs.

Looking at the deals made just this past week, it’s very obvious which teams are thinking about the summer rather than the playoffs. Granted, these same teams probably didn’t have much of a chance at the post-season anyways, but it’s going to be disheartening to some fans when they see their team give away some of their best assets and not get anything in return.

The one team that everyone knows was looking to clear as much cap space as possible are the New York Knicks. Donnie Walsh has said that it is the team’s top priority to clear any and all contracts on the payroll that are signed past this season. After trading away Jared Jeffries, Larry Hughes, Nate Robinson as well as 2009 first round pick Jordan Hill, the Knicks have put themselves in position to make the biggest splash in free agency in the history of the league. Although only two of those players are worth mentioning (sorry Jared and Larry), Robinson was a fan-favorite and Jordan Hill has plenty of potential that any team would want. On top of moving these players, the Knicks will most likely be swapping first-round picks with the Rockets in 2011 and will be handing over their first in 2012 as well.

Like I said before, there is no guarantee that any of these big name free agents leave their current situation, especially the most sought after of them all, LeBron James. But by moving these long-term contracts and mortgaging the future on this great chance would allow the Knicks to sign not one, but two max-deal free agents. So even if they don’t land King James, a duo of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade is still a possibility.

But what if the Knicks don’t sign one of these top-tier free agents? If they miss out on LeBron, Wade, Amare and Bosh, what happens to this once storied franchise? With their first round picks in two of the next three drafts either gone or swapped for a lower pick, the chances to replenish the talent on the squad is minimal. The last thing the NBA wants to do is watch the team in their biggest market fade into obscurity for another four to five years.

Personally, I hope that all these players stay with their respective teams. Though the chances of that happening are slim to none (I believe Boozer and Joe Johnson will be on the move), I would love to see it happen and teach the GMs of the league a lesson. Sure, it’s always a good decision to keep an eye on the future, but let’s weigh the pros and cons. If you’re a team like the Los Angeles Clippers that doesn’t have much attraction to it, why would you trade away a budding young player in Al Thornton? Do you really think that any of these players are coming to play with the Clippers? Other teams such as Chicago, Washington, New Jersey and any others that are gambling their seasons away for this star-studded free agent class made learn a brutal lesson when instead of landing that big fish, they end up over-paying for a second-tier free agent to compensate for their loss.

As an NBA fan, my favorite part of the season very well may be the offseason. Between the draft, free agency, summer camps and possible trades, there’s plenty of news to go around with a meaningful game being played. This summer will heat up a little more than usual with the faces of the NBA deciding on where they will be for their foreseeable future. I’ll watch as intently as everyone else. I’ll cheer for the teams that do hit it big in free agency. Oh, and I’ll be sure to laugh it up at the teams that strike out and have a lot of ‘splainin to do.