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Numbers Game: Knicks clear cap room; Rockets land Martin

Scott Cullen
2/19/2010 1:26:38 PM
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In a blockbuster three-team nine-player trade, the New York Knicks got salary cap room and the Houston Rockets landed a proven scoring guard.

Numbers Game examines the trade that sent Tracy McGrady to the Knicks and Kevin Martin to the Rockets.

The Rockets Get: SG Kevin Martin, F Jared Jeffries, PF Jordan Hill, C Hilton Armstrong, the right to switch first-round picks with Knicks in 2011 (top one protected) and the Knicks' 2012 first-round pick.

Martin, 27, is injury-prone, but when healthy has been a productive shooting guard and will add a new dimension to the Rockets' offence.

Averaging 19.8 points per game this season, Martin has put up better than 20 points per game in each of the previous three seasons, but coming off a wrist injury, he's shooting just 35.5 from three-point range and 39.8% from the field overall, numbers that are below his career averages.

Martin's greatest impact for the Rockets is likely to come in future seasons, as a complement to a presumably healthy Yao Ming, as Martin's perimeter game should thrive with Yao commanding double teams in the post.

Under contract for three more seasons, at more than $36-million, Martin will be a crucial piece for the Rockets going forward.

Jeffries, a 28-year-old defensive specialist, is overpaid for what he offers and has a player option for nearly $6.9-million next season.  Having never scored more than 7.0 points per game in his career, Jeffries cna be a useful role player and provides more length than Rockets teammates Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes, who also offer similar less-tangible defensive benefits.

22 year-old Jordan Hill was a first-round pick, eighth overall, in 2009, but hasn't seen much action, getting only 10:30 per game in the 24 games in which he's played.  Hill's upside isn't great, but he could theoretically develop into a rotation player.  If not, Hill is under contract next season, for less than $2.7-million, after which there is a team option on his entry-level deal.

Much-traveled Hilton Armstrong will join his third team this season.  The 25-year-old centre hasn't been abel advance beyond a limited role in his four NBA seasons and that doesn't figure to change in Houston.  The Rockets can retain his rights for next season by making a qualifying offer of more than $3.8-million, or the Rockets could choose to let Armstrong go in order to clear the salary room.

Additionally, the Rockets got some serious sweeteners in terms of draft picks from the Knicks, as incentive for taking the Jeffries and Hill contract commitments.  The right to swap 2011 first-round picks with the Knicks and getting the Knicks' 2012 first-rounder is certainly intriguing for potential, especially if the Knicks don't hit a home run in free agency this summer.

Getting Martin and a couple of Knicks draft picks is definitely a sound way to build the Rockets for the future.

The Kings Get: SF Carl Landry, SG Larry Hughes and PF Joey Dorsey.

In his third NBA season, 26-year-old Carl Landry is enjoying a breakthrough campaign, averaging 16.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.  Landry knows his limitations and takes high percentage shots as a result, hitting 54.7% from the field, while avoiding three-point attempts altogether.

Landry will add some energy at a reasonable price, with a team option for $3-million next season.

Hughes, 31, is in decline, averaging 9.6 points per game this season; his lowest mark since putting up 9.6 points per game as a rookie and his 36.6% from the field is the worst mark of his career. 

While he can fit into the Kings' rotation for the rest of the season, Hughes' real value comes in the form of his expiring deal, worth more than $13.6-million, that will give the Kings salary cap flexibility in the summer.

Dorsey, 26, is a bruising power forward who has played only 10 NBA games in two seasons.  He's a fringe roster player and his contract has a team option for next season, so the Kings could clear more than $900,000 if they decline Dorsey's option.

Getting out of Martin's contract and allowing rookie Tyreke Evans to take over as the starting two guard makes the deal worthwhile for the Kings and adding a Landry to the rotation will help an improving Kings frontcourt.

The Knicks Get: SG Tracy McGrady and PG Sergio Rodriguez.

A former superstar, 30-year-old Tracy McGrady is recovering from microfracture knee surgery and his game has dropped off dramatically as his body has broken down.

In six games this season, McGrady has only played a little over 45 minutes total, scoring 19 points and grabbing five rebounds, while shooting a miserable 36.8% from the field.

Given the Knicks' roster right now, McGrady should get a chance to play for the second half of the season to try and re-establish some value, which is incentive for him to play well, but the Knicks are much more interested in his expiring contract, worth more than $23.2-million this season.

In his fourth NBA season, 23-year-old Sergio Rodriguez is turning into a decent playmaker and could get a real opportunity to shine in New York. 

Playing just 13:18 per game for the Kings this season, Rodriguez is averaging 6.0 points and 3.1 assists per game, hitting a career-high 35.7% on three-pointers and 46.3% from the field.

Given the struggles that Chris Duhon has experienced at the point for the Knicks this season, Rodriguez would seem primed to take minutes away from Duhon for the rest of the season. 

Rodriguez requires a $2.8-million qualifying offer for next season and it is possible that he could be in the Knicks' plans, but there is always the possibility that he'll be New York's point guard of the future because he's been a sound playmaker in limited playing time.

Of course, the players involved mean little to the Knicks, as the entire point of this exercise is to clear as much salary cap room as possible for next season, giving the Knicks maximum flexibility with which to pursue LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh (and failing them, others) on the free agent market.

There are no assurances that the Knicks will be able to make the ideal free agent signings, but at least credit them for making the moves necessary so that they have the financial wherewithal to make an attempt at a wholesale roster makeover in the summer of 2010.


Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.




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