Gamblers

So I was half right. Heading into the draft I envisioned a big splash from the Metropolitan area in the form of a trade. But while the Nets stood pat, and snagged Sean Williams at 17, it is not exactly surprising to see Isiah Thomas and the Knicks active in the trade market.

The Knicks roster seems to turnover on a semi-annual basis during the Thomas regime. As expected, NY selected DePaul product Wilson Chandler. Do not expect a big impact from Chandler immediately. He is raw, inexperienced, and probably would benefit from another season in college. Still, it is not a bad pick, Chandler is athletic and can play defense, allowing him to potentially contribute off the bat, while continuing to develop his offensive skills. Only time will tell on this pick.

Over shadowing the Chandler selection, the Knicks acquired Portland malcontent Zach Randolph in exchange for Steve Francis and Channing Frye. On the surface, the Knicks are better than they were yesterday. Randolph is coming off a career season, averaging over 23 points and 10 boards a game, from the power forward slot. In lieu of Garnett or O’Neal, Randolph is the most talented player available at the position. He will team with Eddy Curry to make one of the most formidable offensive frontcourts in the Eastern Conference, and will undoubtedly take some pressure off Curry. Randolph is only 25 years old, just entering his prime, has shown improvement each season, and does comes in without any major injury concerns.

If you are thinking this sounds too good to be true, you are right. Portland really must have wanted him gone to take an albatross like Steve Francis, and disappointing Channing Frye, in return. Randolph has an extensive criminal and disciplinary history, one that would yield a lengthy suspension in Roger Goodell’s league. The trade also presents another problem familiar to Knicks, salary cap issues. Jettisoning the Francis contract, set to expire in 2009, for Randolph, signed at the maximum through 2011, means the Knicks are now four years from digging out of salary cap hell. Based on the NBA salary structure, teams can have two superstars, the Knicks are now committed to building a winner around Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph. The franchise is in the hands of two immensely talented players with lots of question marks and baggage. Given their limited options, I applaud Thomas for making something happen, and nobody can argue the team is much improved. Plus he pulled it of without giving up any personnel. Let’s just hope Randolph can avoid the temptations of New York City, while Thomas can control his personality. The move can work. It can also turn into an NBA version of Pacman Jones.

Across the river, the Nets rolled the dice themselves, to a lesser extent, selecting Sean Williams with the 17th pick. BC unceremoniously booted Williams from the team in January thanks to another marijuana problem. Outside of that skirmish, all signs point to Williams being a good kid. BC coach Al Skinner supports him, claims he is very coachable. Nets GM Thorn even threw out his high SAT score as a positive factor. Not sure when standardized tests started translating into points, but lets go with it. I like the pick. Williams is a good shot blocker with an offensive game, both attributes the Nets current center lacks. With a veteran lineup full of scorers, guards, and small forwards, Williams can move directly into the starting lineup, complementing an ever improving Nenad Kristic to form a solid frontcourt. Of course, if Williams cannot put down the pipe, like his NFL namesake Ricky, the pick is wasted.

In the end, both the Knicks and Nets, left draft day better with better teams than they started with. As always, the verdict remains out until they take the court, but on the surface, I am excited for NY basketball.

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