On Sunday night, news broke that the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks had agreed to a trade in principle to send Andrea Bargnani to New York for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, their 2016 first rounder and 2 second round draft picks.
While the initial response from Raptor fans was immediate euphoria, with many going as far as calling their new GM Masai Ujiri a lock to repeat as executive of the year, I’d like to offer a different perspective on this trade.
Bargnani has been on the block for nearly a year. Bryan Colangelo’s unwillingness to trade his former number-1 pick despite shopping him actively was perhaps the former Raptor executive’s downfall in Toronto.
In this deal, the Raptors take back contracts they cannot amnesty. Novak is slated to make over $11M over the next three years, and Camby is expected to make almost $8M, with only part of his ’14-’15 salary guaranteed.
The first round draft pick Raptor fans were so excited to receive (due largely to the fact that they have become more accustomed to seeing first rounders going out in trades than coming back), will be in 2016.
To make matters worse, as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Denver Nuggets would have the right to swap picks with the Raptors, thus making the possibility that the pick would actually end up in the mid-teens a pipe dream at best.
The second rounders are essentially insignificant, since they belong to playoff teams and are likely to be in the late 40’s to mid 50’s.
Due to the fact that the deal was not approved before July 1st, the trade now requires the Knicks to add a player as Bargnani’s 2013/2014 salary is higher than his 2012/2013 salary, and Novak’s is lower. According to Frank Isola, the Knicks will include Quentin Richardson as part of the final deal which will be announced July 10th, on a three year contract with only the first year guaranteed.
The fear, as always, when trading a disgruntled player is that he goes and blossoms elsewhere. This isn’t as large a concern here, because whatever potential Bargnani has left, it is unlikely he’d fulfill it in Toronto.
In New York, with a rim protector like Tyson Chandler, and an elite scorer like Carmelo Anthony, Bargnani could not have found a better situation. Even if he struggles, they can move him to the bench as a sixth man and trade him the following year as a large expiring contract.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this trade is Bargnani’s contract. Ending the same year as Carmelo Anthony’s, Tyson Chandler’s and Amare Stoudemire’s, the Knicks would have four contracts expiring which would leave them with just enough cap space to make a run at three max players. They could also choose to simply tank for a year taking on one year contracts with a re-signed Carmelo, and go all in the following year when Kevin Durant is a free agent.
In the worst case scenario, the Knicks would have almost $74M in expiring contracts next offseason. That isn’t the type of cap flexibility you want to give a division rival which happens to be a hot-spot for free agents. Another run at Lebron? A year off to wait for Durant? A chance that Bargnani finally lives up to his enormous potential and the Knicks are a contender next season?
The Raptors have afforded the Knicks a world of possibilities, while acquiring next to nothing in return.