3 Trade Ideas New York Knicks Must Consider to Improve
While Phil Jackson retools the franchise from top to bottom, the New York Knicks are in the midst of one of the more dramatic roster overhauls in recent memory. In just four months as team president, Jackson has already shipped out two starters from last year's team in Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton and acquired several young assets.
While the trade with the Dallas Mavericks has been widely viewed as a win for New York, there's still plenty of work left to make next year's Knicks a viable playoff threat. The first domino to fall will be Carmelo Anthony's free-agency status, but beyond 'Melo's decision, the Knicks have a few moves they can look at to improve for 2014-15 and beyond.
They don't have the chips to return a star in any deal, but unlike the last few seasons, the roster now has a few youthful names at friendly prices that could be attractive to other teams in deals. As the team may be entering a strange cross between preparing for the future and attracting Anthony back with a formidable present-day roster, here are a few swaps that can work to accomplish both.
Sending J.R. Smith to Memphis
Knicks trade J.R. Smith and Wayne Ellington to Memphis for Tayshaun Prince, Kosta Koufos and a 2016 first-round pick
J.R. Smith has enjoyed some success in New York since 2011-12, but plenty of Knicks fans would be the first to admit that a breakup may be more promising for the team's future. A deal with the Memphis Grizzlies could accomplish a few things.
If Memphis attaches a future first-rounder to the final year of Prince's bloated contract, Phil Jackson could consider sending Smith to the Grizzlies, who could use an offensive boost along the perimeter. Smith's contract has a player option for 2015-16, which will impede the Knicks' planned spending next summer if he decides to opt in.
After a brutal shooting start to 2013-14, Smith actually performed well through most of the season. Over the Knicks final 45 games, Smith shot 45 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range. Infusing that type of scoring into Memphis' strategy could help them compete in the loaded West, while helping them unload Prince.
For New York, this would surely be a move with the future in mind, aiding a 2015 free-agency run and adding a 2016 first rounder to the plans.
Routing Smith to the Pacers
Knicks trade J.R. Smith to Indiana for Chris Copeland, Luis Scola and a 2015 second-round pick
Though sending talent to your perceived conference rival isn't typically advised, swapping J.R. Smith out for a package of Indiana Pacers could be worth thinking about for New York, if the opportunity presented itself.
Especially if Lance Stephenson doesn't return to Indiana this summer, the Pacers will be searching far and wide for offensive help in the backcourt. They have parts to spare, and a deal with the Knicks could help both sides.
In the triangle, Luis Scola could prove to be a worthy offensive piece. His deal expires after the season and is only guaranteed for roughly $1 million. Reacquiring Chris Copeland, who was an effective shooter for New York in 2012-13 and failed to earn a role on last year's Pacers, would only sweeten the pot.
Smith's deal is in line with Roy Hibbert's, David West's and Ian Mahinmi's, in that they all expire after the 2015-16 season, lining them up for a summer of cap space in 2016. After ranking 23rd in offensive rating last year, the team could surely use some talent on that end.
Trading Iman Shumpert to a Team Offering a First-Round Pick
The Knicks are trying to remain competitive in 2014-15 while also trying to position themselves for a prime free-agency run a year from now. While Shumpert may be a major contributor to the Knicks this upcoming season, he's also a chip that several teams have their eye on—and are willing to pay a steep price for.
Both the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder were interested in Shumpert this past trade deadline, with OKC offering a 2014 first-round pick for the 23-year-old, according to Grantland's Zach Lowe. While Shumpert's raw skill leaves room for optimism, swapping him out for a future first-rounder—if the opportunity still presents itself some time this upcoming season—would be hard for Phil Jackson to turn down.
The primary motive behind dealing Shumpert would have direct ties to next summer's planned spending spree. The swingman is set to hit restricted free agency a year from now, and the Knicks may tender him a qualifying offer of at least $3.7 million. If he doesn't settle for that offer and opts to test the market, his cap hold—the salary figure that counts against the Knicks' cap until he signs somewhere—will be 200 percent of his 2014-15 salary: so roughly $5.3 million, which certainly wouldn't help the Knicks in their quest to sign a max-level free agent or two.
Shumpert has great potential under Derek Fisher in the triangle, but the return New York can get for him, combined with the cap relief they'd be getting in 2015, may be too sweet for Phil Jackson to resist.