While the Celtics and Lakers are busy reliving the NBA's glory days in the 1980s, the local teams have pressing matters to deal with as well. The NBA Draft is just around the corner, and almost immediately after that the free agent feeding frenzy begins.
So although the Nets and Knicks stopped playing a long time ago, they've actually been busy of late.
In particular, the Knicks are an interesting topic. New team president Donnie Walsh goes into draft day holding the sixth overall pick, but there's some question as to how the Knicks should proceed.
Unfortunately for New York, question marks start popping up like crazy after the first four selections. Derrick Rose of Memphis and Michael Beasley of Kansas State are virtual locks to be the top two picks, with O.J. Mayo of USC and Jerryd Bayless of Arizona almost certain to follow.
After that? Let the crapshoot begin.
According to most experts, the next six best players are Italian forward Danilo Gallinari, forward Kevin Love of UCLA, center Brook Lopez of Stanford, shooting guard Eric Gordon of Indiana, point guard D.J. Augustin of Texas, and forward Anthony Randolph of LSU.
From the Knicks' perspective, all these guys have serious warts.
At first, Gallinari seemed the probable choice due to coach Mike D'Antoni's Italian League connections, but the latest word is that D'Antoni wasn't that high on him. Additionally, Walsh is the one pulling the trigger here, and he's never shown much of a taste for foreign talent.
The other players are even shakier options. Love is exactly what the Knicks don't need — another offense-minded forward who is out of shape. Ditto for Gordon, a sharpshooting gunner who will struggle on the defensive end. Randolph is an intriguing athlete but weighed in at a shocking 197 pounds at the Orlando pre-draft camp — he'll get killed if he doesn't put on some muscle.
As for Lopez, whose twin brother Robin also is a projected first-rounder, his stock may be seriously overestimated. "Don't take anyone named Lopez," as one executive told me. "Not Brook, not Robin, not George."
That leaves Augustin as the only real viable option, but taking a 6-foot-tall point guard at no. 6 seems a bit of a stretch, especially when his college career was more solid than spectacular.
There's one other option, however: trading the pick. Granted, that's a weird move to make for a team that's in a serious rebuilding mode. But in this case, the benefits could be huge.
Look at the big picture. The Knicks' oft-stated goal ever since Walsh took over has been to create cap space for the summer of 2010, when LeBron James and several other stars will become free agents. The hope is that the lure of New York can hook a big star in his prime, and that Walsh could then use the city's ample financial resources to finish off the team from there.
However, none of that happens without the first step, which is trading Zach Randolph and getting his $17 million number off the 2010 cap. And trading no. 6 could be the perfect way to do it.
Here's how it would work. The Knicks would find a team that was looking to add a high-scoring forward, and offer the no. 6 pick as a carrot. Nobody would take on Randolph's contract otherwise (at least, unless Isiah Thomas gets another job). In return, the 'Bockers would get a player or players whose deals expire before 2010, and a later first-round pick that would still enable them to add a piece for the future in this draft.
Fortunately, such a scenario is eminently possible — if they work with a team that has cap space. That would allow New York to trade Randolph, take back only one or two smallish contracts, and bank the savings for 2010.
And there's a perfect partner waiting in Philadelphia. The Sixers won 42 games last year despite lacking a go-to scorer and using a Band-Aid at the power forward spot. You can see how Randolph would fit then. And the Sixers' coach, Mo Cheeks, got results from Randolph when the two were paired in Portland.
Depending on the final salary cap number, which will be determined after the draft, Philly will also have about $9 million in cap space come July 1. That would allow them to take on Randolph in return for just a couple of minor players — likely two among Reggie Evans, Willie Green, and Rodney Carney. Philly also could draft Gordon at no. 6, filling a desperate need for outside shooting on a team that finished last in the NBA in 3-point shooting.
For Walsh, the idea would be to still come away with a draft pick out of this — Philly's pick at no. 16. One suspects he's already considered this possibility — for instance, the Knicks worked out West Virginia small forward Joe Alexander this week, who is widely expected to go around no. 15 and would make a solid choice to fill New York's hole at that position.
Obviously, this type of trade would take some serious coordination. Because the trade can't be made until after the draft, New York and Philly would have to use their picks to choose the other's preferred player, then hope the cap number comes in at a number that allows the trade to go through in the manner they'd originally agreed. That's a risk. And as we've seen with many trade ideas such as this, any number of other factors could blow it up between now and consummation.
Nonetheless, it's a tempting play from the perspectives of both sides. Philly answers its two most pressing weaknesses at a stroke with Randolph and Gordon and, potentially, makes a push to enter the East's upper crust. And New York gets in position to make a run at LeBron in 2010 while still coming away with a first-rounder this year. If so, Randolph might do far more for the Knicks by departing than he ever did in uniform.