Assuming LeBron James doesn't shock the world and make a last-minute commitment to the New York Knicks, David Lee will be heading to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade deal. According to Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group, the Knicks and Warriors have agreed in principle to a deal that would send David Lee to Golden State in exchange for Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf. However, if the Knicks do manage to lure LeBron to play in MSG, they will have to renounce their rights to Lee, voiding the proposed the deal with the Warriors.
The Warriors will reportedly offer Lee a six-year, $80 million deal, averaging out to roughly $13 million per year. And while either the Nets or Timberwolves could still make a push for Lee, it's exceedingly unlikely that it would happen, given that Lee would have to forfeit a lucrative sixth year in a contract to sign with New Jersey, and Minnesota doesn't have any players the Knicks covet more than they do Randolph.
From the Knicks' perspective, this trade is a complete coup; they recoup great value from a player they were going to let walk in free agency, in the tantalizingly talented Randolph and the sharpshooter Azubuike. The 21-year old Randolph is only a year removed from dominating the summer league last July, creating buzz that he was one of the best prospects in the game before he clashed with Don Nelson and found himself on the bench for much of the regular season. At a wiry 6-foot-11, Randolph possesses an enticing array of skills, although he is admittedly raw and is likely at least a few years away from putting it all together mentally and physically -- if he ever does. Still, young bigs with his potential are rare commodities, making him a high price to give up for a good but not great player in Lee. Turiaf is more salary flotsam to make the trade work, but Azubuike would likely get minutes in the Knicks' thin backcourt, with his accuracy from deep making him an ideal fit in Mike D'Antoni's system.
As for the Warriors, Lee is an obvious upgrade over Randolph over the short-term -- Lee averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 boards for the Knicks last season -- and along with Andris Biedrins should provide Golden State some heft on the boards. After playing in D'Antoni's uptempo system the past two seasons in New York, Lee shouldn't have any trouble fitting in with the Warriors, and his solid mid-range game should complement Stephen Curry in a pick-and-pop game. Still, giving up on Randolph so quickly to commit $80 million to the 27-year old Lee is a highly questionable move. As the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami explains:
Lee gets the edge on productivity and fit with Curry, and if that all works out, the Warriors still look like a 40-win team to me. Lee also gets the edge for marketability, but I don’t include that category, even though I know the Warriors always do and geepers, Mookie Blaylock was so darn marketable he led them to the marketing playoffs.
Randolph gets the edge on age, salary and suitability to fit on an elite team… all three categories, to me, are the most important when you’re a bad team like the Warriors.