Ball Don't Lie - NBA

The important thing to remember here is that budget counts. Cap space counts, luxury-tax help counts and potential counts, too. But in these times, budget counts the most. 

The Sacramento Kings were more or less worked over in this deal, in terms of talent. Considering the team's finances, though, what it wants to do in the future with Tyreke Evans(notes) and the sort of money it's pulling in at the gate, this was probably a deal that had to be made.

The deal? In the latest of many permutations, Tracy McGrady(notes) is heading to New York. An expiring contract and nothing more, despite the long-term outlook they've been trying to sell you through the media. The Knicks will no doubt play Tracy this season, but come July, he's gone. Come July, thanks to the work of Donnie Walsh, most of these Knicks are gone, and they'll have a real shot at signing two big free agents.

The Knicks will also grab Sergio Rodriguez(notes), a player that should immediately start, and most importantly, they somehow dumped Jared Jeffries'(notes) 2010-11 contract on some chump.

Some glorious chump. Rockets GM Daryl Morey procured Kevin Martin(notes), who was a borderline All-Star until injuries (quite recoverable injuries, mind you) hit last season, Hilton Armstrong(notes), the right to switch 2011 draft picks with New York, the Knicks' 2012 first-rounder and New York's lottery selection from 2009. "New York's lottery selection from 2009" doesn't read as nicely when you mention that the selection in question is Jordan Hill(notes), but he's young and cheap and there's still a chance he's not as ... challenged as he's appeared on the court thus far.

Sacto? Carl Landry(notes), Joey Dorsey(notes), Larry Hughes'(notes) expiring contract. So it goes, for them. Landry can play, Dorsey's OK, though the team is now 80 percent filled with power forwards. They didn't have to get rid of Kevin Martin in a basketball sense, but financial sense rarely makes basketball sense, and financial sense took hold here. This is a team in a climate that is going to force it to have to live off rookie contracts for a while.

Considering each team's particular realities, I'd say each outfit made out quite well.

The Kings are a competitive team with a whole lot of assets, but they're losing money. Dumping Martin's committed future salary, sadly, was in the best interest of the franchise. It had to be done. And the assets in return (further cap space, more players to toss about for other parts that fit this summer) aren't that bad. Carl Landry is the league's top sixth man. Dorsey can help. Hughes can ... Larry Hughes has an expiring contract.

New York somehow got someone to take Jeffries. The agents helped, the mood was right, and they had a price to pay in dealing those picks. But going for broke means you have to go broke at some point, and if some duo of deluded stars sees NYC as a fit, then those picks won't mean a thing. Probably. Maybe. Probably not. Even if LeBron James(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes) sign for (nearly) max contracts outright this summer with New York, it would be nice to add cheap talent around a top-heavy outfit. That's kind of what draft picks are for.

Daryl Morey? Listen, the 2011 pick is protected if the Knicks win the lottery. The 2012 pick is protected if New York lands in the top five. Those are reasonable protections worth minding. This isn't going to toss two all-world studs in Houston's lap. You're even going to have to wait until November of 2012 to see one of them, we think. New York could finish at .500, for whatever reason, and still pull a top-five pick.

But doing this much with McGrady's contract? Not merely moving it for similarly expiring parts and a possible pick? Getting Martin? The high end that could give you the second pick in the 2011 draft and the sixth pick in the 2012 draft? Morey, you magnificent bastard. This was a masterstroke. A patient, well-timed, masterstroke. You knew he'd wait until February. You knew he'd wait until trade deadline day. You knew he'd make it work. Goodness, gracious, sakes alive.

Gushing doesn't suit me, but this is worth admiring. Three teams worked the cap and the league and the context to their advantage, and fan bases (looking at you, Sacramento) should be happy with the outcome. This is a fantastic deal for all involved.

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