The best result of NBA Draft week for the Knicks has already happened. It came Tuesday afternoon in a conference room at the Omni Berkshire Hotel, when David Stern revealed the league has presented a new system to the players union that would involve flex-cap system tied to a promise of at least $2 billion in collective player income.
The formula for this system would include a mid-range payroll target of $62 million per team, with the ability to go above that number, to a negotiated cap, if a team so desired. (For instance, in the NHL, there is a negotiated $16M range, which allows teams to go $8 million below the mid-point or $8 million above it. If the NBA had the same range, the actual cap would be $70 million).
NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver made it a point to insist that all of the owners were on board with the league's collective bargaining decisions and that the latest system proposal had unanimous support. You can bet it was well-received in Miami and New York, where the "Superfriends" strategy wouldn't have survived under the previous efforts by the NBA to install a $45M NFL-style hard cap system.
Perhaps it's really a moot point, since no one believed the players union would have accepted that kind of a deal anyway. But, still, this system would permit the Knicks (at $60M already for next season) to make a few additions via free agency to improve the roster. That's huge news for the Knicks, who have so many holes to fill (and also want to be sure they have enough cap room in 2012 to target Chris Paul or Deron Williams).
The union came out of the meeting saying the system is still a hard cap system, which, to them, has been the taboo word in these negotiations. But it seems clear that this is the foundation that both sides will need to work from to make a deal.
And if you're Chris Paul, who has been in New York and in attendance at these meetings, there has to be some relief that the league came off the hard cap that would have made it extremely difficult for him to have options in '12.
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Now, for some draft-related chatter:
* - Though Jimmer Fredette has now officially played the Stephen Curry role and declared his desire to be a Knick -- perhaps hoping to make teams who aren't completely committed to him decide to pass -- there is a great deal of pessimism within the Knicks organization that they can get him. The Knicks, according to multiple sources, have him very high on their board, but attempts to move up have proven to be too costly. Bottom line is it doesn't look like they're willing to give up important assets like Landry Fields and Toney Douglas for him. So if Jimmer wants to be a Knick, he's going to have to fall all the way to No. 17, which doesn't sound likely.
* - Add Alec Burks to the list of possible targets for the Knicks. The 6-6 shooting guard from Colorado (Chauncey Billups' alma mater) was once thought to be a top 10 pick, but has slipped dramatically during the course of the predraft process. Why? One reason is a shoulder injury that has limited his ability to show all of his skills. Here's the thing, while Burks has shown a great ability to get to the rim and finish, he's not a very strong three-point shooter. Burks still wants to give the Knicks a chance to see him and consider him at No. 17, so they'll likely have him in for a look before tomorrow night's draft.
* - Another player the Knicks are keeping an eye on for a possible draft night tumble is Jan Vesley, the Czech-born forward who has been promoted as a top 10 pick throughout the draft process. Vesley is believed to be a main target of the Washington Wizards, but in this draft, a lot is going to be based on how the selections set up. It's a long shot that the multi-skilled Vesley will fall as far as 17, however.
* - Yesterday we wrote about the bust-potential that surrounds Bismack Biyombo, but then we talked to a few more people who have seen him play and the opinion is much different. One person I spoke with from an NBA team likened him to Serge Ibaka and was blown away by his energy level and explosiveness. His poor showing in the European workout had a lot to do with the fact that it involved him participating in shooting drills and post-up moves, which just isn't his strength.
Biyombo is a lot like Kenneth Faried when it comes to workouts: what you really need to do is have bad shooters take shots and see how he gets to the rebounds. Have taller players post him up and see how he can defend them.
How would he fit next to Amar'e Stoudemire? And could he defend centers? Biyombo has the strength (245 lbs.) to handle most NBA bigs on the low post and despite his 6-9 height he does have a 9-3 standing reach and a 7-6 wingspan. As they say, you don't play with the top of your head, so the reach is what really matters.
That last part, of course, is a good argument as to why the Knicks will likely pass on Faried, despite what we attempted to suggest in yesterday's Fix. The point is, Amar'e can not be expected to play center anymore.
Biyombo is expected to come to the MSG Training Center on Thursday for a workout, but the Knicks already know him well. Will he fall to No. 17? That doesn't seem likely. In fact, I'm told if the Pistons pass on him at No. 8, he won't go beyond the Houston Rockets at 14.
* - Iman Shumpert is getting a lot of ink lately. We said yesterday that he injured his hip in the Knicks' workout when, technically, it was at his workout in New Jersey, which the Knicks attended (it's nice how the two franchises can get along without billboards and sabotage tactics). The hip hasn't been a major issue (just a hip flexor strain). There was a report that the Knicks tried to get Shumpert to stop working out for teams, but a person close to the player told me that wasn't accurate. The Knicks like Shumpert for his versatility on defense (he can guard both backcourt positions), but he doesn't have the kind of offensive game or shooting range they need to space the floor. He, too, may not be there at 17, with interest from teams such as the Suns and Rockets.
* - Trade rumors exploding at this point (as we told you yesterday, teams are looking to sell while there is still a system that allows such movement). The Suns are said to be getting offers for Steve Nash and there was a suggestion that the Knicks would move Chauncey Billups for Nash in a swap of veteran point guards. A very interesting scenario, but nothing that has gone beyond hypothetical. Yet.
The Timberwolves are also rumored to have discussed a scenario that would send Nash to Minnesota for the No. 2 pick. Really, T-Wolves GM David Kahn, the former basketball writer, has this year's draft buzzing. The Wolves are looking at everything. It is expected to be an extremely busy night for Jerry Zgoda, the Timberwolves beat writer for the Star Tribune.
Meanwhile, there are hints that the Spurs are shopping Tony Parker. Immediately Knicks fans want to know how to get him to New York. Acquiring Parker, who signed an a four year, $50M extension last fall, would mean the end of targeting Paul or Williams. But while a Billups-for-Parker swap would work financially, it sounds like the Spurs are looking to get a high pick, not just dump Parker's salary.
By the way, Parker is younger and fast and talented, but if you're so concerned about Billups breaking down with injuries, how much confidence can you have in Parker, who is often riddled with injuries?
* - Something we mentioned yesterday is worth reiterating here: moving back or moving out of this draft is definitely worth considering. If someone offered a 2012 pick to the Knicks for their pick at No. 17, it might be a better play, especially if the main targets are already off the table. Here's why: a 2012 first rounder has more value to you because the draft is expected to be deeper and it also gives you an extra asset to dangle when the time comes to make a package for another high-end player. That doesn't thrill fans who want immediate gratification, but it would be smart business.
Another plan could be to slip back a bit in the first round, especially if you can pick up an extra pick (perhaps in the early second round). Again, you don't just make a pick to make a pick. If the players you were targeting are not there at 17, it makes sense to slide back.
The Bulls have two late first rounders (28 and 30) and perhaps the Knicks would be interested in a swap to get two picks? Another team that the Knicks will likely talk with about picks is the Sacramento Kings, who have a valuable second round pick at No. 35 and another at 60.
* - Just a reminder that we'll host a predraft LIVE CHAT on Thursday morning at 11 a.m. We'll have the latest in rumors and draft buzz. And look for Newsday's 2011 NBA Draft mock, which will be posted Thursday morning.