Let’s get back to those salary-clearing trades for a moment. The Knicks motivation for making the trades was imminently transparent. Their timing was not. Why would New York trade away its top two scorers in the beginning of the season when it had gotten off to a better-than-expected start? Why not try and make the playoffs this year? Those trades, maybe even better trades, would likely still be there later in the season, in the offseason, even next year?
One well-connected league executive theorized that the Knicks realized that they were in a position where they might end up just good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to do anything once they got there. Making a trade later this season and throwing away a real chance at the playoffs would be much harder to sell to their success-starved fan base. So would making a trade in the offseason, after a presumed first or second-round playoff exit.
All of which sets the Knicks up in a position to miss out on young (cheap) talent from lottery picks over the next two seasons.
This is exactly what happened to the Lakers during the interregnum between the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant years and the Pau Gasol-Kobe Bryant years. If it hadn’t been for Kobe Bryant’s ankle injury and Lamar Odom’s shoulder injury in the 2004-05 season, the Lakers never would’ve lost enough games to get the lottery pick that turned into Andrew Bynum.