The Downside of Improvement

As Gallinari gets better, so do chances of trade offers

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    If the NBA were an actual sports league, Danilo Gallinari's improvement would come without any strings attached. If this were baseball or football, the sight of a high draft pick adding new facets to his game on a weekly basis would be met with nothing but mouths watering at the prospect of a future with such a player in the lineup.

    But the NBA isn't a sports league. It's a financial exchange with a sporting component. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has watched Donnie Walsh furiously try to slash as much salary as possible, results be damned, since he came on the job. He's done a very good job of it, and the fact that he also uncovered a player like Gallinari in the process would seem to be a win-win. 

    And it is, but not in the way you might be thinking. Gallinari now becomes a commodity to be dangled on the exchange, simply because the bloated carcass of Eddy Curry's career is still taking up space on the Knicks bench. Getting rid of Curry would drop the Knicks far enough under the cap to pitch LeBron James or Dwyane Wade with the chance to have a team built to their specifications over the rest of their career. If they could dump Jared Jeffries at some point, they could pitch them on doing it together. 

    That's a tempting scenario to pass up because of what Gallinari could be in two or three years. Every time Gallo fakes a three and puts the ball on the floor for a dunk and every time he blocks a shot on defense, the chance gets a little greater that another team will accept the cursed Curry for a chance to control Gallinari's future growth. Given the way he's run the team since taking over, the only thing that would seem to stand in Walsh's way would be the PR hit of giving up your best asset, but losing Curry will, if you'll pardon the pun, curry a lot of favor. 

    The wild card in all of this is what James and Wade will actually do. All the cap space in the world can't tell you that, which makes any play with Gallinari a tremendous gamble. It's a similar kind of gamble to the ones Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers made over the past few years, which should tell you all you need to know about the potential outcomes. 

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.