5 Potential Trade Targets Who Should Be on New York Knicks' Radar
The New York Knicks aren't going to stand pat and wait for another disappointing season to unfold in 2014-15.
Instead, Phil Jackson and the rest of the front office are actively seeking out ways to make the 'Bockers more competitive, as they've done with the Tyson Chandler trade and the draft picks made on June 26. Now it's time to figure out what to do with all the guards.
As ESPN New York's Ian Begley reports, Tim Hardaway Jr. is being deemed untouchable, but the futures of the other backcourt members are up in the air:
Working to clear the logjam in the backcourt, the Knicks are discussing their potential trade options with guards J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Shane Larkin, a league source said Sunday.
'They’re working on trying to make a move in the backcourt,' the NBA source familiar with the Knicks’ thinking said Sunday.
The idea that the Knicks are trying to make a trade to balance the roster isn’t earth-shattering. President Phil Jackson and GM Steve Mills have mentioned the Knicks have a surplus in the backcourt, with Mills saying last week the Knicks are 'heavy' at shooting guard.
New York doesn't have too much leverage and has to worry about balancing the salaries of incoming and outgoing players (thanks to being well over the cap), but there are still a number of non-guards whom the team could target.
It's important to remember, though, that these are not rumored deals, just speculation as to how to make the Knicks more competitive now and/or in the future.
So what would you do?
Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger
Potential Trade: J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert for Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger
If the Knicks are intent on getting rid of some of the backcourt glut while bringing back quality players who can contribute right away, they're going to have to part ways with both J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
The former would give the Minnesota Timberwolves immediate production off the bench, while the latter is still brimming over with potential as long as he's used in the right system.
For Minnesota, getting rid of both Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger allows them to free up playing time for Shabazz Muhammad and Glenn Robinson III. Plus, Zach LaVine is fully capable of developing into a point guard, so there shouldn't be too much worry about adding more 2-guards into the mix.
But for the Knicks, finding help at the 3 is necessary, especially because Carmelo Anthony is fully capable of lining up at the 4 in a smaller lineup. In fact, 82games.com shows that Melo actually fared better at power forward in 2013-14:
|Position||PER for||PER against||Net PER|
Though he struggled a bit more on defense at the bigger spot, the offense he brought to the table was just fantastic. Not only can he stretch out the court and beat defenders off the bounce, but he's at his best when allowed to post up and play with his back to the basket.
With Brewer picking up defensive slack and Budinger potentially breaking out, everything works nicely. Don't forget that the Arizona product is only 26 years old and could easily improve drastically if he can actually stay healthy.
Potential Trade: J.R. Smith for Thomas Robinson and Victor Claver
Even after signing Chris Kaman this offseason, the Portland Trail Blazers could use more scoring off the bench.
According to HoopsStats.com, Rip City scored only 23.6 points per game with its second- and third-unit players, a mark that left it in dead last. The Washington Wizards were the only other team on the wrong side of 25.
Even if players like Kaman and Steve Blake will help shore things up, the Blazers still desperately need a go-to scorer off the pine. And that's where J.R. Smith comes in, as there's really not a role in which he's more effective, especially when he'd be the clear-cut leader of that bunch.
It might seem illogical for Portland to give up second-string players in return, but it has more talent in the frontcourt than the backcourt. Thomas Robinson is expendable, and Victor Claver is just a throw-in to make the salaries work. After all, Meyers Leonard, Kaman and Joel Freeland are still providing minutes for the biggest positions on the court.
So would the Knicks want T-Rob?
Given their lack of high-quality players who list the 4 as their natural position, absolutely. The former Jayhawk may have already played for three different teams since he was the No. 5 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, but he's only 23 years old and is still waiting for a prolonged opportunity to shine.
Robinson still hasn't started a single game and has spent over 20 minutes on the court only 22 times in his young career. Nevertheless, he clearly improved last year, looked excellent during the Las Vegas Summer League and brings the rebounding and toughness that New York could use in the frontcourt, especially after trading away Tyson Chandler.
Potential Trade: J.R. Smith for Brandan Wright and a 2015 second-round pick
Let's allow Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan, who originally proposed the framework of this deal, to take it away:
In Smith, Dallas could successfully plug the hole left in Carter’s wake while giving them a player who, at just 28 years old, offers much more in the way of offensive versatility.
The Knicks, meanwhile, would land their desired expiring project, along with a player who—if all goes well—could easily be brought back on a fresh, affordable tender next summer.
With Dallas now committed long term to Dirk Nowitzki and Parsons, owner Mark Cuban likely won’t have a whole lot of cap room next summer to begin with. Which is why taking on Smith—his boons as well as his burdens—wouldn’t be near the risk it might for other teams.
It's the contract that is so key.
Brandan Wright will turn 27 prior to the start of this upcoming season, but he's still carrying plenty of untapped potential in that lanky 6'9" frame. Wright has always been an insanely efficient player and a solid rim-protecting big, representing the perfect type of investment for the Knicks.
If he pans out, fantastic. He'll be re-signed next offseason and brought back in a bigger role.
If he doesn't, though, the Knicks have just cleared up more cap space for their inevitable spending spree in the summer of 2015, which will also allow them to have one more draft pick in a solid class of incoming prospects.
Potential Trade: J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert for Thaddeus Young
It's hard to imagine the Knicks landing a better player than Thaddeus Young, who could help make this team quite a bit more competitive right off the bat.
The Philadelphia 76ers might be hesitant to part with the combo forward, but Shumpert's potential has to be tantalizing for an organization that is just collecting assets for the time being while trying to avoid winning too many games.
Right now, Philly has Michael Carter-Williams at point guard, Nerlens Noel at center and a large group of players who aren't quite as intriguing. Eventually, Joel Embiid (center) and Dario Saric (power forward or small forward) will join the club, but there's not a high-upside prospect at shooting guard. There are plenty of players who could become starting-caliber contributors but not much more.
Shumpert could change that and would immediately help the team's defense.
For the Knicks, the appeal is much more obvious.
Young is coming off a season in which he averaged 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. While his stats were inflated by both his role on the team and the pace at which Philly played, he'd still be a valuable contributor for the Knicks, especially if the development of a three-point stroke wasn't fluky.
With Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr., Melo, Young and Samuel Dalembert, the Knicks could very well work their way back into the playoffs. Young is a high-quality sidekick, after all.
Potential Trade: Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni for Cody Zeller and a 2015 second-round pick
Cody Zeller was not very impressive during his rookie season.
The big man from Indiana averaged only 6.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game for the former Charlotte Bobcats, largely failing to justify the No. 4 pick that was somewhat surprisingly used on him last summer. However, he's only 21 years old and has plenty of time to continue adjusting to the NBA scene.
For the Knicks, having upside in the frontcourt is simply more useful than having it in the backcourt, given the current composition of the roster. That's even more true when the swap also allows Phil Jackson to pick up another second-round draft pick.
Plus, Zeller has more upside than Shumpert at this stage of their respective careers, and Charlotte should be willing to part ways with him for less than market value. After drafting Noah Vonleh, he's more replaceable than before, even after losing Josh McRoberts to the Miami Heat.
And if recent comments are any indication, Zeller might not be working as hard in Charlotte as he should.
"Summer league is no indication of how the team or individually how you’re going to be in the season," the young big man told NBA.com's Steve Aschburner. "Everyone is trying to use it to get better at this time of year. But for me, I’ve got two or three months till the beginning of the season."
Would he be training harder in New York?
Jackson should be willing to figure it out.