Ex-Knicks are everywhere in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Thursday night, Zach Randolph had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in a Grizzlies win over Oklahoma City.
Tuesday night, Trevor Ariza had eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists, playing a key role in the Wizards’ Game 2 win over the Bulls.
Somewhere, Isiah Thomas had to be smiling.
The Knicks' ex-GM and coach had Randolph, Lee and Crawford on his roster between 2007 and 2008. He drafted Ariza in the second round of the 2004 NBA draft.
Randolph and Crawford were dumped in a trade in November 2008. It was Donnie Walsh’s attempt to clear cap space for the summer of 2010. That summer, the Knicks also let Lee sign with the Warriors. Ariza was dealt to Orlando in an ill-fated trade for Steve Francis.
None of these moves happened in a vacuum, of course. Trading Randolph and Crawford and letting Lee walk as a free agent cleared the way to sign Amar'e Stoudemire and eventually trade for Carmelo Anthony.
But it’s worth wondering what kind of team the Knicks would have developed into if Randolph, Crawford and Lee were still in New York.
“We had all those players while they were young,” Thomas said Thursday on Spike Lee’s SiriusXM NBA Radio show. “I can’t remember a time where the Knicks have had two All-Stars and a Sixth Man of the Year and they were all under the age of 29. I just wish we would have had the luxury of having a little bit more time to more or less let the tree grow and let it bear a little bit more fruit.”
All three players had productive campaigns in 2013-14.
Lee averaged 18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and put up a Player Efficiency Rating of 19.2. Randolph had 18.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season and had a PER of 18.4. Crawford averaged 18.6 points and three assists off the bench for the Clippers and put up a PER of 17.4.
If you add up Randolph, Lee and Crawford’s PER, you get 55. For comparison’s sake, if you add up the top 3 PER on the Heat by position, you get 58.1. If you add the top three PER on the Thunder, you get 62.3. The league average PER is 13.5, per hoopdata.com. So it’s fair to assume that the trio of Crawford, Lee and Randolph could be a part of a solid nucleus for the Knicks, particularly in the lowly Eastern Conference.
“It was a very young group. And we all want more time,” said Thomas, who served as either the Knicks GM or coach –- or both –- from 2003-2008. “And sometimes time is not the luxury that you have at your fingertips. But I wish that we could have kept that group together just a little bit longer as we’ve seen that they’ve grown into exceptional players and All-Stars in the league.”
Thomas made his fair share of personnel mistakes during his tenure with the Knicks. But it's hard to criticize Thomas' acquisitions of Lee, Randolph and Crawford.
Isiah on Melo's 'tough choice': Thomas wonders if Anthony will be patient enough to remain in New York during what is expected to be a mini-rebuild.
“He’s got a tough choice,” Thomas said. “I’m only echoing his words. He said he wants to stay in New York but he also wants to win. The Knicks right now will have a transition period at least for another year or two until they can get all the pieces in place. Will he be patient enough to give them the time to do that? Or will he look elsewhere to see if there are other pieces in place or another city for him to go and play in? That’s a tough choice that he has that’s staring him in the face and I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes right now.”
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