Interest in prospective trade targets rather than incumbent assets abounds within the New York Knicks organization.
Desperate for a point guard with more savvy and better stamina than Raymond Felton, ESPN's Marc Stein says the Knicks may be knocking at the Atlanta Hawks' door:
Knicks' focus leading into Thursday trade deadline is upgrading at point guard. And word is a new name intrigues them: Atlanta's Jeff Teague— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 17, 2014
UPDATE on Feb. 17 at 11 a.m. ET by Zach Buckley
Move along folks, there's nothing to see here. At least, that's the word coming out of New York, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post:
What makes such a deal a longshot for on-the-block Iman Shumpert is Teague has a long-term contract that would cut into the Knicks’ ballyhooed cap space for 2015 — the selling point they are using to convince Carmelo Anthony to re-sign.
The Knicks are expected to pass on Teague.
It's trade season, so the rumor mill is naturally churning. As is the case with a lot of what we'll hear before Thursday's deadline, this appears to be much ado about nothing.
--End of update--
Jeff Teague, 25, has spent his entire career in Atlanta. This past summer, the Hawks matched a four-year, $32 million contract offer tendered by the Milwaukee Bucks, thereby keeping Teague on the books through the 2016-17 season.
As Stein notes, though, Teague must want to play in New York before anything happens:
There are issues if Knicks make full-on play for Teague, who has right of first refusal on any trade after Hawks matched offer sheet in July— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 17, 2014
Assets are also an issue. The Knicks have few valuable players to assemble trade proposals around and are unable to deal a first-round draft pick that can be used before 2018.
The Hawks could simply be interested in moving on from Teague, who The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported wasn't thrilled about the thought of continuing his career in Atlanta over the offseason. Grantland's Zach Lowe previously noted that general manager Danny Ferry wasn't in love with his contract either.
Still, the Hawks are going to demand ample return on someone who's averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 assists per game.
Acquiring Teague also hamstrings New York financially beyond next season, which can and should be a deal-breaker.
Also: Teague not only must approve any trade but also owns long-term deal that slices into Knicks' projected flexibility for summer of 2015— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 17, 2014
In December, ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst revealed the Knicks' plan to embark on a free-agency shopping spree in 2015, when players such as Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and even LeBron James could become available.
Assuming the $24 million left on Teague's contract after this season decreases the likelihood of any coup coming to fruition.
Again, though, the Knicks are desperate. Other wells, such as the ones containing Toronto Raptors All-Star snub Kyle Lowry, are drying up.
But Knicks said to be investigating all PG options since they're convinced top target Kyle Lowry is NOT available between now and Thursday— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 17, 2014
In truth, the idea of trading for Teague isn't an unrealistic one—especially if Atlanta is motivated to make a deal. On its own, the willingness to take on salary isn't much. In conjunction with other assets, however valuable, it can work wonders.
Teague is also a clear upgrade over Felton—then again, who isn't? Though he doesn't space the floor (25.6 percent shooting from deep), Teague infuses additional playmaking into an offensive dynamic prone to long stretches of stagnancy.
Would Teague be a good fit on the Knicks?
Does that mean the younger Teague has enough moxy and backbone to direct veteran superstar Carmelo Anthony? Not necessarily. And remember, anything the Knicks do from here on out is with Anthony in mind.
"I haven’t had any in depth conversation with management about who I want to play with," Anthony told reporters while in New Orleans for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game. "What kind of team we should have. I’ve never had those conversations."
Conversations like those need to be had soon if the Knicks are seriously considering making a move before the Feb. 20 trade deadline. Nothing could be worse for them than acquiring a player who isn't on an Anthony-approved contract.
Salary information courtesy of ShamSports.