Why the Randolph Trade Was the Right Move

There has been plenty of talk regarding the recent Zach Randolph trade to the New York Knicks and I am baffled at how there are any negative opinions about it at all. One of the major sticking points I’ve heard is regarding Randolph’s contract, which will pay him $61.2 million over the next four seasons. Big contracts like Randolph’s have burned Knicks fans in the past with Allan Houston just coming off the books this year after signing a 6-year, $4.9 billion contract extension in 2001. Allan Houston is actually talking about a comeback now, after being the second highest paid player in the NBA the last two seasons.

But back to Randolph. Despite the $61.2 million that he will earn the next four years, the Knicks actually save money for a future season. The salaries of Randolph, Fred Jones and Dan Dickau equal $19,933,333 for this season, which is slightly more than the $18,927,240 that Steve Francis and Channing Frye will cost the Trail Blazers. However, Fred Jones and Dan Dickau are both in their last seasons for their current contracts, which means that they will come off the books after this year. For the 2008-09 season, Randolph will be the only one under contract, which will be for $14,666,666. Francis has two years remaining and Frye three, so the 2008-09 season will cost the Trail Blazers $20,343,769, which is more than $5.5 million in savings for the Knicks.

Randolph will make $16,000,000 in 2009-10 and $17,333,333 in 2010-11, which seems like a lot, until you realize who the Knicks won’t be paying in that time frame. 2008-09 will be Stephon Marbury’s last season under his current deal, which will pay him more than $42 million over the coming season and the following one. Malik Rose is owed almost $15 million in the same two seasons. For players with three years left (meaning their last year on the Knicks payroll will be Randolph’s third) include Quentin Richardson at $9+ million and Jerome James at $6.6 million.

In the end, Randolph does have significant money coming to him over the next four seasons, but his contract almost looks frugal next to the guys already stealing from the Knicks. Adding additional salaries to the cap has been something that Knick fans cannot seem to look past, but it’s essential when adding a player of such quality.

Speaking of quality, did you know that only 5 players in the NBA averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds last year? Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and, you guessed it, Zach Randolph. Not bad company to be in, especially when Randolph scored more than any of the other players in the group at 23.7 points per game. Randolph shot 81.9% from the free throw line, which would have been third on the Knicks. The Knicks struggled mightily at the end of the season and a lot of it had to do with poor free throw shooting, especially from their big men.

Zach Randolph will be 26 later this month, which is just before the prime of his career. There is nothing about Channing Frye that makes me think his prime will come close to Randolph’s, or frankly, any time soon (Frye is one year younger). Randolph is coming off the best season of his career and moving to the Eastern Conference should only help. He was able to average 23.7 points per game and 10.1 rebounds while playing against the likes of Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby, Dirk Nowtizki, Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer, and Amare Stoudemire. Power forward is much lighter in the Eastern Conference with Antawn Jamison, Al Jefferson, Chris Bosh, and Rasheed Wallace to name a few of the better ones.

There are a couple of knocks against Randolph’s defensive abilities, which make Eddy Curry look average. Stats can be deceiving though and I believe Randolph is better than what the stats say (or at least not as bad). He averaged 0.2 blocks per game last season, which is slightly worse than the 0.3 that Carlos Boozer averaged. Would you consider Carlos Boozer an awful defender? Though I think the Knicks will be signficantly slower on the defensive end with Randolph and Curry clogging up the middle, it’s not like the Knicks had Ben Wallace playing the 4. They did not necessarily get better defensively, but they didn’t get worse. Offensively, it’s not even a contest.

I was never a big fan of Channing Frye and last year just made those feelings stronger. At his age (which included four years in college), you would expect to see considerable growth from his first year to his second. Unfortunately, Frye was a victim of the sophomore slump, where is scoring went down from 12.3 points per game to 9.5, rebounds decreased from 5.8 to 5.5 and blocks went down from 0.7 to 0.6. I brought up the last two stats to show that Frye was very weak on the defensive end and he shows no desire to rebound despite being 6-11. At 24 years old, I would hope to see development instead of the step back that Frye took.

The last point which must be made is that in any trade situation, you always want to end up with the best player in the deal. The Knicks did that, while being able to shed salary for the 2008-09 season and acquiring one of the five players in the NBA to average 20 and 10. Overall, this was the right move for the Knicks and should drastically increase their win total to around 40.

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