Reader “Cliff” characterized yesterday’s Darko for Q-Rich trade as a stiff for a stiff. I think he’s mostly right.
Q’s body is a lot older than his 29 years. His back is collapsing in front of our eyes. Last year he played 72 games, which isn’t terrible, until you remember that he hadn’t played more than 65 games in five of the previous six years. His back could go at any time. Even when he does play it limits his explosiveness. He’s purely a 3-point shooter at this point. Too one-dimensional to be effective. And although his .365 shooting on 3s last year was decent enough, his .393 FG% was not.
I think it’s safe to conclude that Q would never be a productive player for the Knicks again. He’d just take away time from Chandler and Gallinari, who should be getting all the minutes at small forward.
Darko, on the other hand, isn’t a waste of space. Don’t get me wrong, he’s very limited. But I think he could be useful in a very specific role.
He averaged 0.8 blocks last year in just 17 minutes a game. That’s better than every Knick except Chandler, who was at 0.9. His per-36-minute rate of 1.8 blocks kills every Knick. So right away he’s the best shot blocker on the team. Depending on how effective Jordan Hill is, of course. Guards had no problem driving on the Knicks last year because there was no chance of a big hand interfering with their shot. Now there is.
Darko also averaged 9.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. That’s higher than any Knick except David Lee. Even if Darko just backs up Lee at center he’ll be able to collect some boards. Lee’s backups last year couldn’t do that.
Darko just turned 24. Does that mean he’s still getting better? Eh, probably not. When he signed with Memphis in ‘07 I expected him to break out a little. Never really happened. He’s a role player. He doesn’t have offensive moves and he’s not enough of a leaper to be a weapon in the run-and-gun. But he can play help defense in the paint and he can rebound a little. Give him 15-20 minutes a game and he gives the Knicks an element they lacked last year.
For those who hate him, don’t hold his draft status against him. Yes, he was picked ahead of Carmelo. And Wade. And Bosh. And Kaman. And Hinrich. And T.J. Ford. And 10 other players who are better than him. (And if I remember correctly, Denver was furious about missing out on him by one pick and being forced to take Melo.) So we can agree that he was one of the biggest draft busts of all time, right up there with Kwame Brown and Never Nervous Pervis Ellison. That doesn’t mean he deserves to be out of the league. He has a role, and it might as well be for the Knicks.
Think of it this way. If he was the 28th pick of the 2003 draft instead of the second, how would you feel about him?