The Clippers didn’t win the draft lottery, which means you can scratch Baron Davis’ name off the list of possible targets for the Knicks this summer.
As this post outlines, the Knicks have a trade chip in Eddy Curry and his $11.2 million contract that expires next season. In most professional leagues, his contract would be treated as an irrecoverable loss in the books and a 6-foot-11, 285-pound pill to swallow. But in the salary cap structure of the NBA, Curry is more than a sunk cost; he is a desirable commodity for teams looking to slash long-term payroll.
For the budget-conscious, the selling point is simple: shell out $11.2 million next year on Curry and wipe their hands clean before the new CBA comes around. So which teams are sacked with bloated long-term contracts for otherwise useful players? Let’s take a look at three possible trading partners:
TORONTO RAPTORS: Point guard Jose Calderon has three more years on his contract, totaling about $30 million through 2012-13.
Why the Knicks call: They desperately need a point guard and they won’t find him in free agency. Think of Calderon as a Steve Nash-lite: an incredibly efficient PG with a pass-first mentality who couldn’t guard a chair.
Why the Raptors listen: With Jarrett Jack around, the Raptors are tying up $13 million annually over the next three seasons for their starting point guard slot. Dealing Calderon for the Curry contract would free up about $20 million to replace Chris Bosh next summer.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS: They owe center Emeka Okafor another $53 million over the next four seasons with the very reasonable assumption that he executes his $14.8 million player option for 2013-14.
Why the Knicks call: Only seven active players have averaged a double-double over their career and Okafor’s one of them. He’s a defensive specialist who can clean up the boards better than any free agent the Knicks could acquire this summer in free agency. Plus, as he’s the type of player that fits perfectly with LeBron James at the 5 position.
Why the Hornets listen: They trimmed their payroll several times this season to get under the luxury tax threshold and they could look to tighten the budget even further. Okafor hasn’t thrived alongside Chris Paul and with the money freed up by the Curry contract, they could look to sign a more athletic big next summer to keep Paul in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: They're on the hook for the remaining $36 million on center Andris Biedrins’ contract through 2013-14 assuming he uses his $9 million player option.
Why the Knicks call: He’s young, he’s efficient, and he’s very familiar with the up-tempo playing style. He is not a household name but he won’t need to be on this team. Biedrins has never needed the ball in his hands to be an asset and that unselfishness will be a must to fill out the Knicks lineup. They don’t need a big scorer from the 5 position, just one that accepts his role and fills in the gaps down low.
Why the Warriors listen: Don Nelson publicly soured on the 24-year old earlier this season after some uninspiring play and openly questioned his desire to live up to his multi-year contract. That’s an expensive resident of Nelson’s doghouse.
Tom Haberstroh is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider and an NBA analyst for Hoopdata.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @tomhaberstroh.