ICYMI last night, what with the Knicks lighting yet another dumpster fire to heat Madison Square Garden against the Celtics yesterday, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! broke news of a trade between the Toronto Raptors and the Sacramento Kings, wherein Toronto sent the overpriced Rudy Gay, along with two throw-in players, to Sacramento for Grevis Vazquez, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons. (You might recall that earlier in the season, ESPNís Marc Stein had reported that Sacramento was having internal discussions on whether or not to pursue Knicksí shooting guard Iman Shumpert.)
Rumor has it that point guard Kyle Lowry might be the next piece to be moved by Toronto General Manager Masai Uriji ó itís been speculated that the Knicks could pursue Lowry, who would be an upgrade over the struggling Raymond Felton. The seven player Gay trade has obviously shifted the landscape, so itís worth wondering how the move might affect the Knicks.
In acquiring Gay, Sacramento has likely divested itself of any valuable trade pieces going forward. Remember, in late November they acquired Derrick Williams from Minnesota in exchange for Luc Mbah a Moute. Theyíll now build around a core of Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Williams and Isaiah Thomas, but the cupboards are pretty barren after that. As to the Knicks, itís hard to see anything left on the Kingsí roster that the Knicks would want and would realistically be able to get, especially for Shumpert. Unless, of course, the Knicks take a hatchet to their foot and do something crazy ó like trade for Travis Outlaw ó you can count Sacramento out as a potential suitor for Shumpert.
Toronto, on the other hand, is now an intriguing team. Theyíve got a lot of young talent and the always impressive Ujiri Factor. The ex-Denver general manager is a wizard at getting opposing franchises to do what he wants ó heís twice tricked Dolan the Knicks into giving up unnecessary assets for players. Now, by dealing Gay, who most considered absolutely untradeable, Ujiri has rid himself of one of the NBAís worst contracts. Logically, with Andrea Bargnani and Gay gone, Lowry sure seems likely to be the next Raptor domino to fall.
Lowry makes $6.2M this season, the final year of his contract. From the Knicksí standpoint, there arenít a lot of trade combinations that would allow them to acquire him, and any deal would likely have to include Felton because the salaries must match and New York is over the cap. Trading J.R. Smith would work under the cap, but the Knicks probably donít want to deal him and Ujiri isnít going to lock himself into that kind of long-term contract. The problem with trading Felton, of course, is that most NBA executives wonít ignore the point guardís tenure in Portland. After being traded to the Blazers by the Nuggets, Felton pouted and got fat(ter). He was lousy on the court and a pain in the ass off it. Ray has since made it very clear that he loves playing in New York City. Additionally, Felton is a very average NBA player. Then again, Ujiri is a wizard and heíd probably flip Felton somewhere else for far more than heís worth.
If we assume that Toronto is willing to take on Felton in a trade, the Knicks have two other assets that may be intriguing tothe Raptors: Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. Felton and Shumpert for Lowry would salary wise, but Felton and Hardaway for Shumpert would require that an additional contract be included.
As has been reported elsewhere, Shumpert remains the most likely candidate for a trade and he probably has the most trade value of the three weíve discussed. If the Knicks are still intent on trading him, it does seem like they have yet to find a deal they like. All indications are that the Knicks really like Tim Hardaway and want to develop him, which is all well and good, but the Knicks already have the 28-year-old version of Hardaway in Smith. The two guards are eerily similar players, and logic would dictate that Smith should be more expendable than Shumpert. But thatís logic. The Knicks donít do logic.
It remains to be seen, however, whether or not Toronto would even have interest in these scenarios. Lowry is a good player and his expiring contract is desirable. Heíll have plenty of suitors around the league. Shumpert is a potentially valuable piece for the Knicks, mostly due to their lack of good wing defenders, but heís hardly a blue chipper. His defense hasnít been great this year and heís yet to develop much of an offensive game outside of good spot-up shooting. For teams coveting youth and affordability, though, Iman remains an attractive piece.
If the Knicks still see themselves as contenders ó they arenít ó then trading for Lowry makes sense. Heís an upgrade over any of their current point guards, especially on defense, and by swapping out Feltonís deal for an expiring, theyíd improve their cap standing in each of the next three off-seasons, including the oh-so-important 2015 free agency period. That said, I truly believe that blowing up the current team and rebuilding for the future is the way for the Knicks to go. Lowry would be an upgrade, but he hardly makes them a contender. Trading Shumpert would be a mistake. New York needs to hoard young talent, not deal it away for short term fixes. Shumpert will be a useful player for a lot of years in this league, even if it isnít with New York. You donít deal young players with upside in exchange for a present-day band-aid. Actually, I should clarify; smart teams donít do things like that.
The 5-14 Knicks havenít proven themselves to be very smart, though.