Grading the New York Knicks' Trade Deadline Performance

Josh Cohen@@arealjoshcohenCorrespondent IIFebruary 21, 2014

Like most things in this taxing season for the New York Knicks, the trade deadline came and went unremarkably, with talk of improvement but no real progress.

Not that the Knicks could have really done that much even if they wanted.

The team has traded its first-round picks for the 2014 and 2016 drafts, as well as every second-round pick between 2014 and 2017. Due to the so-called Ted Stepien rule, NBA teams are prohibited from trading first rounders in consecutive drafts, so New York is left without a pick to trade until 2018.

That left general manager Steve Mills with only one player vaguely resembling an asset that the Knicks felt comfortable dealing. That was Iman Shumpert, who sprained his MCL on the night before the trade deadline. Mercifully for Knicks fans, Tim Hardaway Jr. garnered nary a mention in the final batch of rumors.

Beyond Shump, all Mills had to work with were his unproductive, plodding disappointment of a starting point guard who is locked into a three-year contract (Raymond Felton), and a disgruntled, little-used backup with an open wish to move elsewhere (Beno Udrih).

Try as they might, the Knicks were unable to complete a satisfactory deal for any of those three guys.

And so they will play out the final 28 games of the season with the same discombobulated bunch that has compiled a 21-33 record.

However, inaction does not necessarily make New York a deadline loser given the team's limited options, so let's examine who the Knicks could have had and who they were left with.


Iman Shumpert

Let's start here: Given that the Knicks were apparently deep into Shump-centric negotiations, it was foolish to play him against the New Orleans Pelicans and risk injury.

Fortunately for all partiesespecially considering he injured his surgically repaired left kneehis prognosis is mild. Shumpert will be back in a couple weeks, so that's good news, and per ESPN's Mark Stein, the Knicks were still able to dangle him in front of the Los Angeles Clippers until the very last minutes of trading.

As first reported by Adrian Wojnaroski of Yahoo! Sports, the Knicks were "shopping Shumpert hard," discussing a package of the talented albeit regressing wing and Felton for the Clippers' Darren Collison and another player to make salaries match.

Per Chad Ford of ESPN, the Knicks preferred Reggie Bullock as the second piece, but the Clippers wanted to throw in Matt Barnes instead. Considering LA was to take on Felton's long-term deal, Barnes was the more likely addition.

Even though the Knicks would have been taking on the quicker point guard with the cheaper contract in Collison, the upgrade from Felton would have been too slight to warrant giving up Shump.

He's tentative, erratic and altogether broken on the offensive end, while his once-fundamentally sound defense has become too heavily predicated on wild gambles and help efforts that leave openings that his overmatched teammates cannot cover.

Yet Shumpert is still a great athlete who has proven greater worth in the past, before he became a permanent resident in Woodson's heavily populated doghouse. He's still on a rookie contract, and as poorly as he has played, New York would not have gotten fair value for him in the Clippers deal.

Hopefully, he can be salvaged. It doesn't look likely under Woodson's tutelage, but at least there's still a chance to get something more out of Shump.


Raymond Felton

There's no hope for Felton. The usual fat jokes don't even scratch the surface of how much derision he deserves for his play this season.

He's shooting under 40 percent from the field, under 30 percent from long range and under 70 percent from the line, all while operating as a blue and orange turnstile defensively. Name any facet of a basketball game, and Felton has been a minus in that regard for 32.4 minutes per game.

Clearly the Knicks feel they made a huge mistake when they executed a sign-and-trade for him in the summer of 2012, giving up pieces in order to saddle themselves with what is now an albatross.

How much does New York want him gone? Well, per Stein, the Knicks' valuation of ditching Ray was roughly equal to their valuation of receiving a first-round pick.

Looking at a deal that actually went down today, that's about right.

When the Washington Wizards needed to move Eric Maynor in order to acquire Andre Miller from the Denver Nuggets, the Philadelphia 76ers stepped in as a facilitating third party. Without giving up anything of their own, Philly received Maynor and his $2.1 million player option for next season, along with two second rounders for the trouble.

Felton is guaranteed $7.7 million over the next two years, so it makes sense that the Knicks, with their bloated cap sheet, would be so keen to part with him.

Then again, parting with Shumpert just to jettison Felton gives the Knicks only a little flexibility at the expense of one of their few young assets. His deal is unsavory, but it seems to be a lesser evil.


Beno Udrih

Trading Udrih was a no-brainer, but New York ended up getting scooped twice.

He's a decent second-unit floor general who likes mid-range jumpers too much and doesn't care for defense nearly enough, but somehow Beno had two different franchises vying for his services, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

The Miller trade took Washington out of the Beno sweepstakes, but, as Stein reported, Maynor going to Philadelphia cleared the way for Denver to swap Jordan Hamilton for Udrih.

Like Udrih, Hamilton becomes a free agent this summer, which means his prospective stint as a Knick could have been as short as a couple months.

Nevertheless, this would have been a savvy move for New York. Udrih had fallen out of Woodson's rotation, so replacing him with a raw, young swingman, even one with as little NBA success as Hamilton, is a positive step. The potential reward would have been meager, but the risk was nonexistent.

Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets saw that same value in Hamilton and swooped in to offer Aaron Brooks, a quicker player and a better scorer than Udrih. Denver opted to trade with Houston, leaving New York and Beno with a desire to deal but no more suitors available.

The thought process was right in the Knicks' efforts to trade Udrih; they were just too slow to finalize it.


Final Grade: B-

Standing pat is not going to substantively improve New York's dwindling playoff odds, but none of the possible moves would have done so either.

Felton's contract is still on the books, but if the Knicks want to package him with Shumpert, they'll be able to try again in the offseason. Considering Shump's stock can't be any lower than it is now, New York is actually gaining value just by keeping him and presumably getting a bit of improvement out of him.

The Udrih trade to Denver would have been a case of the Knicks turning nothing into something, so it stings that New York couldn't complete the deal. Then again, it would have provided a meager gain, if any. The Knicks will certainly be no worse off without Hamilton.

So the Knicks, unable to make a splash, did not do anything. With the deadline passed, there's nothing to be done now but to shrug and hope things change with the same guys as before—basically the sentiment behind the whole season.


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