The New York Knicks remain one of the most intriguing teams in the league as we approach the midpoint of the 2013-14 campaign.
While they aren’t close to being out of the playoff hunt at 13-22, especially with the 17-17 Toronto Raptors leading the abysmal Atlantic Division, there is a chance that the organization makes a major trade that drastically shakes up the roster ahead of the Feb. 20 deadline.
Two of the main candidates to be dealt right now are superstar forward Carmelo Anthony and reigning Sixth Man of the Year winner J.R. Smith. Let’s take a look at the latest buzz surrounding each player in this Knicks-centric rumor roundup.
‘Melo Speculation Runs Rampant
The Knicks earned a major win over the Miami Heat on Thursday and boosted their morale, but it didn’t do all that much to improve their prospects of making noise in the playoffs, let alone actually of making them.
As per ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Knicks are reportedly considering sending a proposal to the Clippers brass that would see two All-Star forwards swapping teams. Both sides are allegedly hesitant, but they are at least having internal discussions on the possibility.
Broussard notes that New York’s ideal scenario involves keeping ‘Melo in the Big Apple for the long run, but that is becoming less and less likely in the midst of this dismal campaign. The star forward is able to hit free agency in the summer, and it looks probable that he'll bolt for greener pastures the first chance he gets.
A former teammate agreed with that sentiment, telling Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: “I think he’s leaving. I’ve played with Melo for a long time and he knows he can’t win here. At this stage, all he wants to do is win. That’s why he’ll leave.”
If Anthony has his heart set on leaving, he will likely have to wait until the offseason. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told ESPN that the rumored deal was “stupid” and indicated that there is little chance his team pulls the trigger.
Who would win a Griffin for 'Melo trade?
The Clippers have enough firepower as it is right now, averaging 104.8 points per game. Griffin has also been playing exceedingly well, with the 24-year-old averaging 22.0 points on 52 percent shooting and 10.3 rebounds.
As a top-four team in the Western Conference, don’t expect the Clips to alter chemistry too much. They have what it takes to win with what they have and will likely just make minor moves along the way. It seems that the Anthony speculation will have to move elsewhere and undoubtedly will sooner than later.
J.R. Smith Has No Value in NBA
The Knicks' fall from grace has coincided with Smith’s drop from a bona fide game-changer coming off the bench to a constant distraction who is getting in trouble with the league and hurting his team’s chances of winning games.
Because of his struggles, last year’s Sixth Man of the Year award winner is now reportedly on the block, and the team brass is exploring potential trades, as per ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ian Begley:
Story going online now from @IanBegley & I: ESPN sources say Knicks, challenging as it sounds, have begun exploring J.R. Smith trade options— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 8, 2014
However, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports believes that New York is attempting to “scare” Smith into getting his act together and playing better, noting that his trade value is practically nil at this point:
Knicks trying to scare J.R. Smith straight with public, but empty trade talk. Of course, they understand there's no market for him.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 9, 2014
Begley noted that Smith has been fined $50,000 for “recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct” for his ridiculous practice of attempting to untie the shoes of his opponents during free-throw attempts. This is just the latest stunt from a player averaging 11.3 points on 34.8 percent field-goal shooting and 33.9 percent three-point shooting.
He was a healthy scratch in New York’s win over the Heat, proving that head coach Mike Woodson has had enough with his antics. As per Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, Woodson would not comment on the benching or anything relating to Smith after the victory.
The 28-year-old guard wasn’t shy about speaking to the media, though, informing Mannix that Woodson didn’t clue him in on the benching.
"There hasn't been any [discussion with Woodson]. I think that's the most misleading part of it. I could see if I was told [about the benching] but there was no conversation about it. My feelings obviously don't matter. I'm just worried about the team."
Will the Knicks find a taker for Smith?
Smith is fortunate to even have a team. According to SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria, an unnamed NBA executive ripped his talents when discussing the possibility of the Knicks finding a taker for his services.
"Is it April Fool's Day? Of course [they want to trade him], but only an idiot would take him. Can [Knicks general manager] Steve Mills trade him to himself?"
Unfortunately not, so it seems as if J.R. is here to stay in the Big Apple.