There's a lot of smoke coming off the phone lines the Knicks and Rockets are using to talk about a trade for Tracy McGrady and it's starting to smell pretty good for the Knicks. The most recent scuttlebutt has the Knicks getting McGrady, assorted hangers-on and a 2011 first-round pick for Al Harrington/Larry Hughes, Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries and first rounders in 2011 and 2012.
It seems like a lot to give up for a weak-kneed veteran point guard, but if you've been following the Knicks for the past two years you know McGrady isn't the key name in the deal. It's Jeffries and the $6.9 million he's due to be paid next season. If the Knicks get rid of Jeffries, they open up cap space that means they'll be in play for two of the big name free agents come July and that's exactly the position Donnie Walsh has tried to put the team in since he took over the job.
That's why, even with some big potential downsides, the Knicks would have to make this deal. If you've ever played poker, you've likely found yourself at a point in the night when going in on a pot would mean losing your roll if the cards didn't fall your way. The other option, folding and hanging around in hopes of a miracle, isn't a good move so you go all in and take your chances.
The downsides -- loss of Hill and a 2012 first rounder -- won't matter a whit if the Knicks hit a home run in free agency. They might not even matter much if they were to miss out on the LeBron/Wade/Bosh triumvirate and wind up with a couple of lesser options. Those lesser options could still get you in the playoffs, negating a good bit of any value lost in the first round swap in 2011. Beyond that, the Knicks will have Eddy Curry's expiring contract to play with and some leftover cap space to use in a bid for Chris Paul in the next offseason or other moves designed to build the team's long-term profile. The downside, then, isn't exactly a two week honeymoon in Detroit.
Then there's the upside. Let's say the Knicks make this deal and the Cavs pull off a deal for Amare Stoudemire and re-sign him and LeBron. If you're trying to sell your team to Wade or Bosh or Joe Johnson, what argument do you make that either one of them by themselves is going to be enough to get past the Cavs in the East? There isn't a particularly good one out there, but if you can sell them on doing it together, well, then you've got something.
When you weigh the chance to sell two superstars on playing together in New York against the loss of Hill and a 2012 first round pick you simply have to come down on the side of making the bold, risky play.