Why trading Damyean Dotson makes sense

He is one of my favorite players. After begging to see him for seven months last year, I’d venture to say he’s a fan favorite among most Knicks’ diehards. I mean, what’s not to like? He gives you 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 36% from 3 (tied for 2nd among Knicks’ guards) each night – he’s been our most consistent, if not best, two-way player all season, despite DNPs and uneven playing time.

We, as fans, love him. We want more of him. Some of us would support a straight swap of his minutes for THJ’s. He’s an untouchable part of the talented youth that will help carry this franchise...wait, what?  Untouchable.

It shocked me to learn a lot of fans feel this way. Can’t trade Dot. He’s part of the future.

Respectfully, I disagree. The Knicks NEED to trade him.

Play the role of opposing GM for a minute. You’re playoff-bound. You need wing help. Would you rather:

A) 2.5 years of Timmy ($37M remaining after this year)
B) 
1.5 years of Lee ($12.8M next year)
C) 
1.5 years of Dot ($1.6M non-guaranteed next year)

If you answered anything but C, you’re lying to yourself.

For me, it’s simple. Cap space is a top priority, and the opportunity to stock up on draft assets, even small ones, is next on the list. Now when I say they need to trade him, I don’t mean they should give him away. The Knicks don’t need to trade him like Washington needs to trade John Wall. What I mean is, Steve Mills and Scott Perry need to shop him with a controlled and patient aggression. With rules.

The Knicks only make the deal if:

  1. Tim Hardaway Jr. is attached.
  2. Courtney Lee is attached.
  3. A draft pick is coming back.

I’m sorry if this upsets you. Trust me, I get it. I like him, too. A homegrown talent that’s been a bright spot in an otherwise dreary season. But have you considered the possibility that the dreariness is why he looks so bright?  He’s not the foundational 3-and-D glue guy that some might think he is. I don’t want to disparage, but:

  • His 3-point shooting is tied for 82nd in the League. Solid. Not great.
  • His Defensive Real +/- is near the bottom of the league. His DRtg is 115.  These “advanced” stats…I don’t know. Moving on.
  • His one elite skill, rebounding at his position, is not important enough to remove him from any trade conversation.
  • He’s regressed month-to-month in each of the following: points, rebounds, FG%, FT%, ORtg, DRtg, +/-, TOs, and, predictably, minutes per game. There’s no way to know if he’s playing worse because his minutes are down, or if his minutes are down because he’s playing worse. But the decline in MPG might suggest that Mills / Perry / Fiz aren’t sold on him as a surefire part of the future.

Despite all of this, you may still reasonably disagree with my position. You may look at it like, It’s only Year 2, and he’s shown clear two-way potential. Let’s build the rest of this thing and see what he’s made of. You may see him filling a role similar to the one Danny Green and Trevor Ariza have played on contenders. On champions. I can’t argue with that.

But he only has one year left on his contract (assuming his non-guaranteed amount is guaranteed in July). If the Knicks acquire a max player this summer – which requires  them to shed salary, which becomes more likely with a sweetener like Dotson – and if KP ends up signing a max deal, that puts two max contracts on the roster.

Are the Knicks really going to spend over the cap to re-sign Dotson the following summer? With the rest of their young talent soon commanding new contracts? Money has never been an issue for the Knicks, but to keep this thing sustainable, they aren’t going to overpay for every player whose Bird Rights they own.

Besides, what if I told you they could replace Dotson with a similar, younger player who could remain under team control for a longer period of time? You’d sign up for that, wouldn’t you?

While diamonds are hard to find in the rough, Mills and Perry just hit on a second-round steal AND an undrafted stud in their first draft they worked on together. And I am confident, or hopeful, that they could do it again. I believe it’s more than realistic that they could use Dot to facilitate a Courtney Lee trade (creating more cap space in the process), use their 2019 second-rounder on a Dotson-like SG/SF, and sign him to a four-year minimum deal similar to the one Phil Jackson gave Big Willy.

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard – former Knick great Justin Holiday just netted the Bulls TWO 2ND-RD PICKS!  A sub-25-year-old and two picks for Justin freakin’ Holiday.  

 

Dotson is the better player than Holiday. He’s younger, bigger, more athletic, better offensively, and when he’s not surrounded by armchairs, he’ll be a much more impactful defender than he’s shown here. A week ago, I was of the mindset that I wouldn’t move Dot unless he was attached to Lee or THJ; after seeing what the Bulls got for Holiday, I would pull the trigger on any deal that returns a similar haul.

If you want the Knicks to go big-game hunting this summer, if you dream about a KP/FA/Zion Big Three with Knox as the best fourth option in the League, if you believe in your front office’s ability to take a pick in the 40s and turn it into something good, then you need to get on board with this; Damyean Dotson’s departure may be a small but crucial step toward your dreams becoming reality.

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