Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy reported earlier today that the New York Knicks have asked the Atlanta Hawks about their interest in a trade that would send Josh Smith to New York in exchange for Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert.
The dirty little secret behind this deal? It sets the Knicks up to potentially make a run at LeBron James if he opts out of his contract after the 2013-14 season.
First of all, let me be clear. I believe that the Knicks think this deal gives them a better chance to win the championship this year. This trade would not be a salary dump.
However, Smith becomes a free agent after the season, and if the Knicks chose to, they could let him walk for nothing.
It would severely hamper their chances to win it all in 2013-14, but it could also potentially give them the salary flexibility to chase the best player in the NBA.
As of right now, the Knicks have eight players under contract for the 2014-15 season. They are, in order of salary: Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert.
If the Knicks make this trade with Atlanta, that number falls to six with Stoudemire and Shumpert gone. From there, the Knicks would have to hope that Kidd and Camby retire either after this season or next.
If that happened, the Knicks would have $45,690,043 on the books for the 2014-15 season. Assuming the salary cap rises, that would give the Knicks between $13-15 million in cap space. That's quite a bit, but not enough to sign LeBron.
But if the Knicks could unload Novak? That would put them right in the max salary zone for a shot at LeBron.
On paper, teaming up with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler makes more sense than joining the aging Lakers. New York offers the kind of market that Cleveland just can't. If LeBron truly wanted to leave Miami, the Knicks would offer a very interesting opportunity.
Before you get too excited, I have no idea if this is actually what the Knicks have in mind. For all we know, they might be interested in Josh Smith as a franchise cornerstone.
However, it's entirely possible that GM Glen Grunwald has an eye on LeBron. The Knicks failed in their last pursuit of King James, but the opportunity to play with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler might be enough to finally lure him to the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
All salary information found at hoopshype.com
Follow Sam Quinn on Twitter @Rhinos_Cry_Too