It’s official. The Knicks did not match Jeremy Lin’s offer-sheet, letting him to be signed to the Houston Rockets for $25.1 million over three-years.
Letting Lin leave for the Rockets could be a colossal mistake, or it could be financially savvy move that has little bearing on the team’s ultimate success. Nobody really knows, which only adds more confusion and heat to the debate. Lin could be the player that showed All-Star potential last February, he could be an above-average to average point guard like he showed in March, or he could end up a below average player.
The Knicks’ decision not to match Lin’s offer sheet, however, spoils one of their only hopes to grow, internally.
As has been greatly discussed, the Knicks have gotten significantly older this summer with the additions of Jason Kidd (39), Marcus Camby (38), Kurt Thomas (39), and potentially Pablo Prigioni (35). However, it’s not just about what the Knicks gained in age, it’s about what they gave up.
In the sign-and-trade for Marcus Camby, the Knicks sent back Toney Douglas – a 25-year old, whose time in New York had pretty much expired -, Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson – two young big men (25 and 23, respectively) with coach-able skills -, two second round draft picks, and $2 million. In the sign-and-trade for Raymond Felton (28) and Kurt Thomas (39), the Knicks, in addition to Jared Jeffries and Dan Gadzuric, also threw in the draft rights to this year’s pick, Kostas Papanikolaou, fellow Greek player Giorgos Printezis, and a protected, future-second round pick.
With the remaining Knicks, guys like Carmelo Anthony (27), Amar’e Stoudemire (29), Tyson Chandler (29), J.R. Smith (26), and Steve Novak (29), there isn’t a lot of hope for growth in their games. Though they all can improve facets of their games – Anthony at passing and defense, Stoudemire and Chandler at post moves on offense – these players are all in their primes and have likely reached their respective ceilings of potential.
Many of the anti-matching arguments stemmed from the fact that the third year in Lin’s salary balloons to almost $15 million, which would have reportedly created luxury tax implications of up to $43 million. Of course, with that, one must accept the fact that the Knicks will have over $60 million invested in Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler in the 2014-15 season, and they’re due to pay Kidd, Felton, Thomas, Camby, Novak, and Smith almost $19 million this season alone. With or without Lin, the Knicks already have a ton of money committed to their players, and will already be paying the luxury tax. And this is why the Knicks have put themselves in a hole.
Aside from Iman Shumpert (who is recovering from a major knee injury and may not return to being the same player he was), the Knicks have almost no youth to develop. They’ve traded away many of their picks, given away their talented overseas assets, and have also spent the annually-allotted $3 million that is quite helpful to buy late draft picks with. The team has no cap space, and because they’ll eventually be paying the luxury tax, they won’t be able to complete sign-and-trades to acquire players as they’ve done this offseason. The Knicks’ only way of adding players to their team for the next three years will be through the mini-MLE (three years, $9 million), and hoping to find a gem in the draft or through waivers.
Jeremy Lin, however, was that rare, exceptional gem. An undrafted player, picked up on waivers, who had the potential to change a franchise for the better. Lin, at 23-years old, shattered NBA records set by Hall of Fame players in their first career starts. He averaged (rounded to the nearest whole) 18 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals per game in his 25 starts. The only point guards to average 18 points and over 7 assists this past season – Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Tony Parker.
Now, perhaps Lin wasn’t going to evolve into an elite point guard, a player that leads a team to a championship. However, he was a player with an opportunity to grow into something bigger and better; one of the last chances for the team to grow into something bigger and better. What will happen in two years, three years down the line when the ages of Kidd, Camby, and Thomas render them in effective on the basketball court? When Stoudemire, Chandler, Felton, and Novak are all 30 or older, sliding out of the primes of their careers? When they have almost no ability to capture a young, promising player to grow and make the team better?
The Knicks, as currently constructed, are a good, solid team. But they’ve left themselves with almost no opportunities to be anything more than that.