The New York Knicks would like to do two things above all before the trade deadline: acquire a top-end point guard and rid themselves of Raymond Felton's contract. If at all possible, they'd like to do both at the same time.
It's a wonderful idea, in theory. But it isn't going to happen.
The Knicks aren't trading for Rajon Rondo, nor Jeff Teague, nor Kyle Lowry. They have been hamstrung by years of terrible trades and simply do not have the assets left to acquire a quality point guard. Fans can fantasize about these scenarios all they want, but a franchise up against a Thursday deadline better start working some realistic deals.
And while the Knicks waste their time trying to dump Felton and acquire their dream floor general, they might just miss a chance to get something of value from the one point guard who might actually have some value: Beno Udrih.
Make no mistake, a trade centered around a reserve guard like Udrih is not going put the Knicks over the top. And that might have mattered...six or seven weeks ago. But the Knicks have fallen far enough behind in the Eastern Conference that the club should be worried about cliches like "getting over the top." The truth is, they're already at the bottom of the mountain.
According to Basketball-Reference, the Knicks now have a 14.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. They now have to jump three teams—the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats—just for the honor of facing (and losing) to the No. 1 seed in the East.
These Knicks have no need for a player like Udrih, who has only played a little more than 10 minutes over the last month. He has earned the contempt of Mike Woodson ever since he accused the coach of singling out for the team's struggles following a Dec. 25 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, per ESPN New York's Ian Begley:
I kind of feel like when I do the right thing, it's not the right thing in some people's eyes. It's just tough. It's easy to point fingers when the team loses. But it comes down to, we are a team, we lose together. No matter who makes a mistake or who doesn't, it's still a team loss.
Begley also reported that Udrih has asked the team to be traded. So this guy doesn't want to be a Knick, and the head coach refuses to play him. Any trade at all would likely be addition by subtraction.
But the Knicks still have the potential to get something of value for Udrih. ESPN Marc Stein reports that the Denver Nuggets are interested in trading for Udrih:
Latest Knicks buzz: Hearing Knicks' long-running chase of Kenneth Faried now trending toward simpler swap of Beno Udrih for Jordan Hamilton— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Jordan Hamilton is a promising young small forward in just his third season. His three-point shooting has tailed off some this season (37.0 percent in 2012-13, 34.9 percent in 2013-14), but he would instantly become one of New York's better defenders.
And Denver is not the only team interested in the Knicks' bench barnacle. Per Stein, the Washington Wizards are also keen on throwing their hat into the race for Udrih.
Also hearing Wiz not ready to surrender longstanding interest in Udrih and still hopes to convince NYK to send him to DC instead of Denver— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
To acquire any useful piece for Udrih would be a small coup for the Knicks. More importantly, it could possibly distract the Knicks from making a bigger, dumber trade before the deadline.
The Felton Conundrum
Raymond Felton has been bad this season—quite possibly the worst starting point guard in the NBA. He has garnered nearly as much hatred in New York as he did during his disastrous 2011-12 season as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, when he became perhaps the most loathed player in the history of that franchise.
Not only that, but he is signed for two more seasons at nearly $4 million per year (including a player option). The Knicks, as the usually do, traded for Felton when at the nadir of his value in the summer of 2012. Nobody else wanted him, and then they signed him to a ridiculous four-year deal.
Now, they are stuck with him. His salary isn't that big, but the years (and his abysmal play) have made him virtually unmovable.
But the Knicks are going to try anyway! It is yet another classic trait of the league's most bipolar franchise. When they love a player as they once loved Felton, the Knicks throw caution to the wind in trading for him and signing him to an overlong extension.
But when that love fades, it is immediately replaced by the blind, seething contempt more suiting a spurned lover than a professional sports franchise. The Knicks appear to be in full-on "get Felton out of here" mode. Per Stein, they are even willing to go so far as to make the offloading of his contract one of the two prerequisites in any deal for Iman Shumpert:
As we reported earlier today: Knicks telling teams they will NOT part with Shumpert unless you furnish a first-rounder or take back Felton— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
True, Shumpert has been bad this season, but he is young, talented, and one of New York's few remaining trade assets. You don't move him simply to dump Felton's $4 million salary, particularly if you're only getting back a marginal upgrade at point guard (like, say, Darren Collison).
With any Felton deal, the Knicks risk turning a bad situation into a worse one. With a Beno Udrih deal, they risk absolutely nothing. Unlike Felton, teams actually want Udrih.
New York always dreams big on any potential deal. The front office wants everything, all at once. But that's not the way it works in the modern NBA. If they deal Beno Udrih before the deadline, they have the possibility to get something. That may not be everything, but it's better than nothing.
* All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.