Last night, the New York Knicks had the misfortune of watching Iman Shumpert drive the lane, stop, and sprain his MCL. At least that’s what early tests are calling it. The sprain was to his left knee, the same knee he tore his ACL in during the 2011 playoffs.
The timing was unfortunate for several reasons. One, Iman Shumpert was the Knicks’ best trade chip heading into today’s trade deadline. His name was floating around several New York Knicks rumors, and the team was demanding either a first-round pick in return for him, or to attach Raymond Felton to whichever team reeled in Shump.
Additionally, the Knicks also lost one of their most effective players. Shumpert’s per-game statistics are the worst of his career, and he’s largely been a disappointment, but nonetheless, the advanced numbers show he’s still important to the Knicks. Shumpert is third on the Knicks in net-rating, according to NBA.com/Stats, behind only Jeremy Tyler and Kenyon Martin who aren’t regular parts of the rotation. Shumpert has played nearly every game, and the numbers show the Knicks’ offense is three points better with Shumpert on the floor than off, and their defense is a whopping seven points better with Shump on the floor than off.
If the Knicks were going to stand pat at the deadline and instead opt for a playoff-push, their chances just diminished. The Knicks were already dealing with injuries and ineffective play. Now Shumpert fits both categories and the Knicks lose their best back-court rebounder and perimeter defender. The Knicks are 3.5 games out of eighth place in the East. But how much is that playoff berth worth? To win, maybe, one or two games against the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat? Their aim should be the sixth seed, so as to avoid the Heat and Pacers, but they are a full five games out of that spot. Do we really see the Knicks playing five or six games better than the Nets, Hawks, Bobcats, Pistons, and Cavaliers over the final 28 games?
No. Instead, the Knicks should embrace a lost season. Embrace a tank. However, tanking is only good with one thing: a first-round draft pick. The NBA trade deadline hits in less than four hours today. The Knicks should be hoarding assets. Hold on to Shumpert, hold on to Tim Hardaway Jr. Gather draft picks. Find a suitor for Tyson Chandler who’s willing to give up a first-round pick. They’ve got to be out there. Deal Beno Udrih for a young player such as Jordan Hamilton (reported yesterday) or a second-round draft pick.
This summer is big for the Knicks as they try to convince Carmelo Anthony to re-sign. If he’s willing, he’ll have to put up with another mediocre year, surrounded by a similar cast as this year, minus Tyson Chandler. But then, the Knicks will also have several young players, plus draft picks, and of course, the glorified 2015 cap space when Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani come off the books.
And if the Knicks can’t convince Anthony to hold on for one more year, it’s still not the worst thing in the world. They could sign-and-trade him for assets in return. The Knicks — if they’re smart — will still have cap space in 2015. And, of course, if they play this deadline right, they’ll have new rookies coming to the team. Forming a young core is essential in the NBA, and the Knicks could start that with Hardaway, Shumpert, perhaps Jeremy Tyler, and whatever picks they can scrap up this year. In 2015, they could simply sign the centerpiece talent they desire.
But it would all have to start today. Scrap this season — fighting for the eighth seed to lose in five games isn’t worth it. Though the near future seems important because Anthony’s future with the team is involved, the Knicks should be thinking down the road by initiating a quick retool.
The Knicks need to deal for a draft pick now.
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