Dreams of David Lee

The Kings need help on the defensive boards, and also need another scorer who can finish around the rim. David Lee is one of the league's best defensive rebounders, he is an extremely efficienct scorer and he is a restricted free agent this summer. I'm not here to argue that he's a better option than Shock or Hawes, or that a three big rotation featuring Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and Lee is the future. But is a Lee acquisition via free agency feasible?

* The Pistons are on track to be $22 million under the cap. Players signed for 2009-10: Stuckey, Hamilton, Prince, Amir Johnson, Maxiell, Afflalo, Kwame Brown, Walter Sharpe. The frontcourt would obviously be a massive need. There have been rumors, though, that Detroit wants to nab one of the big '10 free agents; Chris Bosh's name has been really prominent. Detroit would have to renounce rights to Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace or wait for them to sign elsewhere before signing Lee to a big offer sheet.

* Memphis should have ungodly amounts of cap space (maybe $30 million) as well as a gaping hole in the frontcourt. Lee's agent is rumored to have killed a prospective Grizz-Knicks swap last June by telling Memphis Lee wouldn't sign an extension there, and that he did not want to play for the Grizz.

* The Thunder should have more than $20 million in cap space. Jeff Green currently plays power forward, the team recently signed Nenad Krstic to a three-year deal, and everyone on the planet expects the team to pick Blake Griffin if OKC lands the top pick, which they are currently the favorites to do.

* The Hawks might have a lot of cap space. But Mike Bibby is a free agent, the team has no other starting point guard, and Atlanta seems set in the starting frontcourt with Al Horford and Josh Smith. The team also has to deal with Marvin Williams' restricted free agency, and possibly Josh Childress.

* Despite the Darius Miles saga, Portland should have enough cap space to sign Lee (barring a truly massive contract for the kid). But with Joel Przybilla, Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge on the roster, and potential needs at point guard and small forward, I can't see a Lee signing happening.

* Letting Shawn Marion expire would get Miami near the cap space level required to play with Lee. But would a Lee/Beasley frontcourt work long-term? Miami would also be really susceptible to being slightly outbid by another team with cap space, and it looks likely that the Heat will postpone its cap space one year by taking on a longer contract before the deadline.

* Chicago would have to lose one of their larger contracts (Hinrich, Deng, Nocioni, Hughes) for an expiring contract or ship out Tyrus Thomas for almost nothing to get involved in any free agent market above the midlevel. There's also the Ben Gordon situation -- it'd have to be settled one way or the other before signing a Lee offer sheet. Lee seems like a great fit on paper, though.

* Minnesota would have to create a bit more cap space to make a run at Lee. They'd also have to figure out how to play three power forwards who can't guard the rim all at once.

* Indiana would be a decent fit, but they'd have to really trim some salary. The Bobcats would be a less-decent fit, and they would also have to trim salary.

***

To have enough space for Lee, the Kings just need to trade Brad Miller for an expiring contract.

Losing Brad and assuming the Kings pick within the top five and between #20-30 (Houston's pick), the Kings would have about $13 million under the cap. The max for Lee is just under $14 million -- I assume he will not get offered that much by any of the above teams nor any other teams out there in a sign-and-trade situation (nor the Knicks). Offering a starting salary of $10 million would seemingly knock out all other non-Knicks competitors; if Miami blows its wad over the next couple weeks, you might get Lee to bite at $9 million or slightly less.

What will the Knicks match, though? Never believe the New York papers, but it's been written recently that the team (meaning Walsh and D'Antoni) have decided they love Lee after watching him in the Seven Seconds or Less offense.

The Knicks want 2010 cap space. Four players are under contract (or a no-brainer team option) for 2010-11: Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. That's $24 million. Let's assume a $62 million salary cap. Without Lee on the books, that's almost enough room to conceivably sign two max-level free agents in 2010. It's certainly enough to sign one plus a slightly lower-dollar free agent (like Steve Nash). Add Lee at $9 million. That's $34 million locked up -- still enough for a max player and a Nash-level player. What about Lee at $10 million? Ditto. $11 million? Ditto. You'd basically need to max out Lee -- almost $14 million in starting salary -- to leave the Knicks unable to match, sign a max player, and sign a less-than-max #2 star. Whether the Knicks would want to pay Lee $14 million is another story, just as is the question of whether you'd want to pay him that much. (I'd say no.)

This blows up further if Walsh finds some mark to take Curry for '10 expiring contracts. Losing Curry with no '10-11 obligations in return would mean the Knicks could conceivably sign Lee this summer and two max players in '10, or forgo Lee and sign two max players and Nash in '10. !!!

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