With speculation that Carmelo Anthony will opt out of his contract and test free agency, it's beginning to look more and more like the New York Knicks are headed for a full-blown rebuild. As such, having an actual draft pick would be nice.
Well, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Knickerbockers may be willing to part ways with 23-year-old guard Iman Shumpert to acquire such an asset:
Hearing: Knicks have explored possibility of swapping Iman Shumpert for late first-round pick heading into Thursday's draft— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 23, 2014
Stein lists the Oklahoma City Thunder, who own the 21st and 29th picks, as a potential trade partner:
Links to OKC are inevitable when subject of Shumpert comes up after OKC showed interest in defensive specialist at trade deadline— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 23, 2014
At first glance, this seems like a potentially suicidal move to the franchise that most critics would chalk up to "James Dolan being James Dolan."
Although Shumpert has struggled to develop into a consistent offensive option—his true-shooting percentage was at a career-low 48.0 percent last year, while his player efficiency rating (PER) was at a shockingly bad 9.6—he is, as Stein called him, a defensive specialist. Last season, when Shump was on the court, the Knicks allowed just 101.8 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com.
When he was off the court, they gave up 111.1.
One scout, via ESPN's Ian Begley, summarized Shumpert's potential back in November:
I think he could be an elite defender. He's got the range, he's got the wingspan and the quickness. He's got to want to do it, though. He's got to commit to it and I think at times he wavers on it.
Giving up that kind of difference-maker—especially a 23-year-old difference-maker—for an unproven rookie is not a move that is going to be received well.
However, this is a move that's all about the future for the Knicks.
While Anthony could still very well return to New York (money talks, and the Knicks can offer the most if he hits free agency), that's looking less likely by the second. Take away the far-and-away best player from a 37-45 team, don't add any draft picks and don't make a splash in free agency (which the Knicks aren't expected to do), and it's going to be very difficult to compete next season.
After what would be a nondescript 2014-15, Shumpert would be eligible to hit restricted free agency, per BasketballInsiders.com.
With 2014-15 likely a lost year for the Knicks and Shumpert RFA in 2015, trading him for late first rounder is a great idea.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) June 23, 2014
Like w/ the Hill/Leonard trade, teams that can turn 3rd-year players who aren't average or above starters into decent draft picks are smart.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) June 23, 2014
There are certainly variables here.
Would it be the Thunder's 21st or 29th pick? Although this a deep draft where solid pieces can be found throughout the first round, those picks are valued very differently.
Should the Knicks trade Iman Shumpert?
Also, what kind of contract do the Knicks expect Shumpert to attract in the summer of '15? Will teams be put off by his offense, or will they see the inherent value in his elite ability on the defensive end? Will he take a major step this upcoming season that further drives up his price?
If the Knicks believe they can ultimately keep Shumpert for cheap, or if they aren't getting enough in return, they should put an end to trade talks.
However, letting go of a player for a potential gem in a stacked draft class and more freedom in a potentially stacked 2015 free-agent class could certainly speed up the rebuilding process.