The Knicks plan for David Lee has got to be to keep him. I will be shocked if Walsh panics and gives up on such a solid rotation player, who is better than his stats, which are pretty good this year. This summer when Lee is a restricted free agent, there will not be that much money thrown around, and what is thrown around will go to stars and sure starters.
Think Shawn Marion, Allen Iverson, even Drew Gooden, all of whom will be unrestricted. I would be shocked to see any team put an offer on the table over six million starting salary for Lee, and I think the Knicks would match that type of an offer.
If I were Lee, I would think about the summer of 2010, when he can benefit from the increased raises that will be allowed starting that summer. He also will have some leverage with the Knicks if they do sign a star.
When the Sixers signed Elton Brand this summer, Andre Iguodala had that type of leverage, where a big signing can be deflated by the lost of a different key player over a few petty million dollars. The Knicks would have to hold his rights for six or so million I read, but that will likely fit into their plans.
If there cap figure is $18 million (hoopshype.com) in 2010, and they add six million for Lee, Robinson, and Duhon, that still puts them at $36 million, and plenty to get one superstar off the free agent waters. If they move Curry and Jefferies before that summer, they gain $17 million and sign a second superstar. IF they don't, then they simply wait one season to sign that second superstar. I see Walsh signing veterans to one year deals if need be to fill out the roster spots.
Lee's value came up in a few articles this week, and I think it is an interesting topic. His numbers this year so far, on a poor team, are in line with players like Biedrins and Okafor, Murphy and Gooden, and maybe Josh Smith. That said, I think his value around the league is not as a starting center, where his speed allows him to put up bigger numbers.
I also think his value around the league is only as a possible starting power forward, provided he is matched up with a scoring and shot blocking center. His true value is as a six or seven man, playing 30 minutes a night and killing the oppositions backup four and five, and being a pain for the starter to have to cover when they have to.
Based on what the above players are making this year, and the fact that Biedrins and Okafor are excellent shot blockers and better defenders at the center spot, I feel there is no doubt that Lee's value will be starting at seven million a year.
The Knicks can afford Lee, Duhon, and Robinson at seven million each into the future if they want to really build a future championship team.