Nearly two-and-a-half years ago, on the same November day in 2008, the New York Knicks traded their top two scorers for a chance at cashing in on something bigger.
So far, that move has paid off better for the players whom the Knicks shipped out than it has for the team that did the dispatching.
Still, it’s hard to blame Knicks’ president of basketball operations Donnie Walsh for shedding a combined 40 points game along with a couple of big contracts, when he traded forward Zach Randolph to the Los Angeles Clippers and guard Jamal Crawford to the Golden State Warriors.
The hope, of course, was to turn the Knicks into something close to what the Miami Heat have become, with LeBron James complimenting Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
While that didn’t happen in New York, the Knicks’ eventual consolation prize, landing the star forward tandem of Amar’e Stoudemire (received via free agency last summer) and Carmelo Anthony (acquired through a February trade with Denver) has seemingly positioned New York nicely for the future.
As for the present though, this wasn’t how the Knicks’ plan was supposed to pan out.
Granted, it’s hard to judge the Knicks’ playoff success in their new era since Stoudemire was healthy only for Game 1 (in which he scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds) during the Boston Celtics’ first-round playoff sweep over the Knicks in early April.
But, when Randolph and Crawford were each dealt out of New York, the Knicks believed they would have become contenders with new pieces faster than whatever teams Randolph and Crawford would be members of by now.
Instead, it’s been the other way around.
Injury issues not only severely limited Stoudemire, but also completely negated the other key piece in the Anthony trade – point guard Chauncey Billups – during the Knicks’ early exit against the Celtics.
In sharp contrast, Randolph and Crawford have each raised their games this postseason and both are unexpectedly still playing while the stars who replaced them in New York are forced to wait until next year.
Randolph, went from a Knick to a Clipper to the leading scorer (20.1 points per game) for the eighth-seeded Grizzlies in his second season with Memphis this year.
And, he was the biggest reason (leading Memphis with 21.5 points per game in the postseason) the Grizzlies made history in the first round as only the fourth eight seed (and just the second in the seven-game format) to ever beat a top seed in the NBA playoffs.
Similarly, since leaving New York for Golden State, Crawford, who averaged 14.2 points per game during in his second year in Atlanta, led the Hawks with 20.5 points per game in fourth-seeded Atlanta’s six-game, first-round upset over fourth-seeded Orlando.
Time will tell how much success the Knicks, Randolph, and Crawford will ultimately attain. Should New York put the right pieces around Stoudemire and Anthony, trading Randolph and Crawford will prove Walsh right.
If the Knicks can’t adequately compliment Randolph and Crawford’s replacements however, there could be some further regret for Knick fans as the scorers the Knicks traded away continue to help lead two of the NBA’s up-and-coming teams.
Chances are that over the long run, the moves to the clear cap space back in 2008 and settling for the additions of Stoudemire and Anthony after striking out on James will help make the Knicks legitimate title contenders fairly soon.
Despite where the Knicks, Grizzlies, and Hawks are in this year’s postseason, Stoudemire and Anthony are certainly upgrades over Randolph and Crawford in terms of star talent.
However, the only fair analysis is to judge by what we’ve actually seen to date – something which thus far, has continued the suffering for Knick fans.
The results as of now, speak for themselves. While Randolph and Crawford each led upsets into the semifinal rounds of their respective conferences, the team they left behind in New York is still seeking its first playoff win in more than a decade.