Maybe it’s time to accept that the New York Knicks just aren’t that good. Last night, after dropping an easy contest to the Sacramento Kings, the Knicks fell to 20-32 on the season and just 1-5 in February. Sure, they’re still only 2.5 games out of the eighth seed in the playoffs, but how much is that worth? A first-round matchup with the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat will surely just lead to a first-round exit.
The Knicks are 52 games into their season with just 30 remaining. At what point does a turn-around cease to exist? Maybe this team just isn’t that good. Several people thought with Andrea Bargnani’s injury, the Knicks’ return to small-ball would fuel them back into their winning ways, but since Bargnani went down, they’re only 5-5. .500 basketball isn’t a great place to be in this NBA age, and it’s about time the Knicks start thinking of their future.
Here are some trade proposals — some big, some small — that the Knicks should consider with the trade deadline fast approaching:
Why the Clippers do it: In this scenario, the Clippers get back a more seasoned, defensive-minded center in Tyson Chandler, who may be a better-suited player for the Clips’ title hopes. DeAndre Jordan, while young, skilled, and a dynamic athlete, still has much to learn about captaining a defense. Chandler brings championship experience and could act in a Kevin Garnett role for Doc Rivers as a defensive director. Iman Shumpert gives the Clippers a cheap, young perimeter defender who can spread the floor (plus Doc Rivers and Chris Paul would surely boost Shumpert’s offensive game), and Beno Udrih becomes the back-up point guard in Darren Collison’s place.
Why the Knicks do it: The Knicks don’t make much progress in clearing the books earlier than 2015, but it does jump-start a youth movement. Jordan is — as mentioned — young, athletic, and developing. He’s cheaper than Chandler, and when his contract expires in 2015, the Knicks would have the chance to re-sign him as a centerpiece (literally) when they rebuild the roster. Darren Collison is at the very least a replacement for Raymond Felton in the interim. Collison’s numbers won’t blow anyone away, but he did just average 16 points and 6 assists per game for the Chris-Paul-less Clippers in January. If he doesn’t work out, then he has a player option for next season which he may or may not exercise. If he does work out, then the Knicks have a point guard in his prime hitting free agency in 2015.
And finally, Matt Barnes is a veteran defender who can spread the floor. His contract is long, but by 2015, his contract has a team-option for $3.5 million, which the Knicks could decline to use their cap space.
Why the Suns do it: Frankly, this deal is probably in the Suns’ favor. Chandler would immediately become their best big man and could make them more competitive in landing a playoff seed in the West. With two years remaining on Chandler’s contract, he’d be a mentor to two young centers in Miles Plumlee and Alex Len. With the Suns utilizing both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, Chandler would thrive in the pick-and-roll game, not to mention helping their defense.
Why the Knicks do it: Losing Chandler hurts, but this trade would clear the Knicks’ books quicker as the team would receive Emeka Okafor’s expiring $14.5 million contract. In addition, the Knicks would receive the Suns’ 2014 first-round pick in a talented draft class. It likely won’t be a lottery pick, but the Knicks have consistently gotten value out of all levels of the draft, so they could surely use a rookie heading into a potential rebuilding period.
In this situation, the Knicks send their 2018 draft pick to the Boston Celtics for taking on Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract. The Celtics would send their 2016 first-round pick to the Toronto Raptors. So here’s why they do it:
Why the Raptors do it: The Raptors are in a weird situation between tanking and trying to win. One one hand, they have a respectable 28-24 record, first in the Atlantic Division, third in the East. With this trade, they still accomplish sort of the same thing. Lowry has been one of the five best point guards in the league this season, but as he hits free agency, the Raptors face an uncertain situation with him. In this scenario, they’d have Grievis Vasquez to take the starting role and Beno Udrih to play backup. In addition, they get a quietly good tanking piece in Gerald Wallace, who’s still capable of playing well, though, and they get a young wing player in Iman Shumpert to take Terrence Ross’s place. And, of course, they’d get an extra draft pick in the process.
The Raptors would still be good enough to make the playoffs, given the performances of DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Patterson, and Jonas Valanciunas. However, they’d still have young, building block pieces, and a little bit of cap space going forward.
Why the Celtics do it: The Celtics are in straight-forward tank mode. Winning games is not really a priority this year. Here, they’d get Amar’e Stoudemire, who while expensive, becomes an attractive trade piece next season for his expiring contract. Stoudemire might even continue playing well next to Rajon Rondo. Additionally, the Celtics unload the burdensome contracts of Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace while also receiving a draft pick in 2016. Terrence Ross is a nice young wing player to receive, too.
Why the Knicks do it: Again, the Knicks probably come out on top here, but it’s still a fair trade. They’d lose Shumpert and their 2018 pick, but in return, they unload Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract while getting a rental on Kyle Lowry with the chance to re-sign him this summer. Kris Humphries is also an expiring contract. Don’t look now, but with Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Humphries, and Lowry all coming off the books by this summer, the Knicks would actually be below the cap line (if I’ve done my math correctly). Chances are the Knicks would look to re-sign ‘Melo and Lowry, which isn’t a bad place to start to add to a core that would still feature Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni, and Tim Hardaway Jr.
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