Iman Shumpert is no stranger to trade rumors. Since his rookie season, new destinations have popped up out of the blue on a regular basis, so it's no surprise to hear once again that the New York Knicks are considering trading him.
According to NJ.com, the Knicks are exploring a trade with the Philadelphia Sixers that would see them relieved of Amar'e Stoudemire's contract, at the expense of giving up Shumpert as compensation.
Of course, the strange thing this time is that the Knicks are under new management. This is the first time we've heard a Shumpert trade rumor under Phil Jackson's regime, which is strange given that the Zen Master supposedly sees him as part of the franchise's future, as per the NY Post.
What's more, the trade wouldn't be consistent with the pragmatic approach Jackson has displayed so far in his tenure as president in New York. The Tyson Chandler trade showed he values two things: youth and the opportunity to sign a max free agent in 2015. This trade would give up one of the Knicks' best young talents, for little return in terms of cap space.
On the surface, getting rid of STAT's contract makes sense for the Knicks, but we must remember that he's expiring next year anyway, and that, on its own, getting rid of his contract a year early does very little for the Knicks' immediate future.
Cutting roughly $25 million off the payroll sounds nice, but once you remember that Andrea Bargnani is still under contract and that the Knicks still have cap holds for everything ranging from Carmelo Anthony, to empty roster spots and even the mid-level exception, they'd still be over the cap regardless.
There's a lot more that goes into a team's cap situation than simply the players presently under contract for next season and the Knicks' overall salary commitments right now are heavier than they seem. Basketball-Reference currently has their cap hit down as $94.2 million, which is obviously enough to keep them over the cap without STAT and Shump.
The only tangible difference this trade would make for New York is the opportunity to get under the luxury tax threshold, giving them access to the full mid-level exception of $5.2 million.
Given the other rumors floating around, that extra money would almost certainly be used to try and attract Pau Gasol (although even then it's still not enough to meet his value).
Essentially, the Knicks would be trading away Shumpert just for the opportunity to offer a contract to Gasol that's still below his value. Getting rid of one of your best young players (and frankly one of your better older players) just to make a run at an aging power forward is not a smart move for a team that should be thinking long term right now.
Things get a little more favorable if the Knicks are also able to unload Bargnani. Such a move would put them only slightly under the cap, but would open up a sign-and-trade as a possible way to bring in a free agent.
In theory, that puts them in play for any free agent, but outside of a pipe dream like LeBron James or Chris Bosh (players that the Miami Heat wouldn't willingly trade for anything New York can offer) there aren't many better free agents this year than the likes of Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo who'll be available in 2015.
Looking at the big picture, Shumpert is the kind of guy the Knicks should want. He may not develop into All-Star, but there are few young players in the NBA that display the kind of potential he has on the defensive end.
Shumpert is a restricted free agent next year, and if anything New York should dedicate a lot of their attention this season to Shumpert's development. Under a new regime, this is his opportunity to prove himself, and while he may eventually be moved at the deadline, moving him now means moving him before you truly know what you have.
Even as a free agent, Shumpert's cap hold will be fairly reasonable, and at this point in his career, so will the contract he eventually signs, be that with the Knicks or another team. Unlike with Chandler, there's no real advantage cap-wise to moving him this summer, even if they don't eventually re-sign him.
There's no denying that Shumpert had a rough 2013-14 season. His numbers didn't stand out in any way, and he appeared to lose his confidence on both ends of the court.
We did see flashes on the Texas road trip of the player Shumpert could be, though, as he averaged 20.7 points a night on 69 percent from the field. He will never be a great isolation player, but he is someone who can hit open shots consistently and find ways to score through off-the-ball movement while putting in work on the defensive end.
Just a year ago, we were praising Shump for coming back from what was a potentially career-altering injury, with him having used the time off to work on developing a consistent jump shot. That same player is in there somewhere, and the chance to work under a new head coach could bring it out of him.
Jackson deserves to be praised for the moves he's made so far, adding to the core with young players like Shane Larkin and Cleanthony Early. However, now is the time to add to that pool of young players—not to trade from it—and while a little immediate financial flexibility may sound good, patience is what will ultimately turn this team into a contender.
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