With the trade deadline approaching, the New York Knicks may once again make a move to clear up cap space for the now infamous 2010 off-season. Jared Jeffries, who is making $6.47M this season and $6.88M next season, was deemed virtually unmovable at the beginning of the season. New York, however, is in position to grab the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the defensive prowess of Jeffries has played a large role in helping the Knicks get to where they are now.
Think back to who the New York Knicks were last year. Granted, they still arenít anybodyís version of the 2004 Detroit Pistons, but they can actually D up every now and then. They rank 20th in defensive rating at 108.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, a subtle improvement from their 23rd ranked 110.8 points allowed per 100 possessions of 08-09.
Who do you put on Chris Paul? Dirk Nowitzki? The Knicks can actually put Jeffries on Paul one night and Nowitzki the next. Heís a versatile defensive specialist that can guard point guards, wings of various sizes and power forwards; thereís legitimate value in that for a championship contender looking to strengthen their bench. If youíre the Lakers in the playoffs and youíre worried Derek Fisher canít stay in front of Steve Nash all night, have Jeffries pester him. His box score is far from sexy, but if youíve had the chance to watch him annoy opponents you know his importance.
Jeffries doesnít have the shooting abilities of Shane Battier, but his influence defensively is similar. The Knicks give up nearly eight fewer points per 100 possessions when Jeffries is on the floor than when he is sitting.
Now, thereís even a growing sentiment that Jeffries is too valuable for New York to trade away for additional long-coveted cap space. Sticking to the original script for Donnie Walsh, however, letís take a look at possible trade partners.
The criteria here is simple: New York will be looking for an expiring contract, while the trade partner must be involved in the playoff race. Out of the 19 possible teams, 11 were automatically disqualified based on needs, lack of matching salaries or their own need for cap space next season.
Utah Jazz: Kyle Korver ($5.16M)
Korver has seemed to have lost playing time since his return from a knee injury recently. Mike DíAntoniís Knicks could also use another 3-point shooter in their ranks. The Knicks take a huge hit defensively of course, and while the Jazz may not love the idea of taking on additional salary next season, the trade has the potential to give them a better pick in this yearís draft as they own New Yorkís selection. Itís a potential win/win situation for the Jazz.
Los Angeles Lakers: Adam Morrison ($5.26M)
Morrison serves mostly as a pawn in this trade. He rarely sees the court with the Lakers and I canít see the Knicks working him into their rotation either, but it serves its main purpose and thatís getting Jeffries out of New York. I donít think youíll find many LA fans complaining about Jeffries coming off the bench instead of Luke Walton either, especially if heís the B team defender for someone like Dirk Nowitzki.
Milwaukee Bucks: Luke Ridnour ($6.5M)
A straight-up deal is more of a pipedream than anything else for the Knicks front office. While Brandon Jennings has the starting PG spot locked up for years, donít expect the Bucks to get rid of their only depth at the position. Ridnour could be the Knicks answer for a legit ball distributor either off the bench or even replacing Chris Duhon as the starter, but I donít see it happening unless New York added in Nate Robinson. Robinson and Jeffries for Ridnour and Kurt Thomas happens to work financially and would be a good fit for both teams. Robinson, however, would have to approve any deal heís involved in first.
Ridnour has had an excellent season, perhaps the best of his entire career.
Memphis Grizzles: Steven Hunter ($3.67M)
With just over three million in cap space, the Grizzles have more flexibility than any other team in the league. Memphis is currently a half game out of the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference. If they think adding Jeffries could help their chances to get in for the first time since the 2005-06 season, then giving up that flexibility may be an option for them. Hunter has been little use to the Grizzles, but DíAntoni could use a shot blocker so perhaps he will find playing time behind David Lee.
San Antonio Spurs: Michael Finley & Matt Bonner ($5.76M)
Bonner is coming back from an injury to his shooting hand and has been struggling as of late, but he was a valuable member of the San Antonio rotation earlier this season. Finley has had more than his fair share of injury problems as well. Jeffries would fit along nicely when the Spurs reserves come in and could spell anyone from Richard Jefferson to Tim Duncan. Bonner, a 3-point threat, would find time in DíAntoniís system while Finley could be a veteran presence in the Knicks locker room.
Consider everything from here on out a creative stretch to be filed in the unlikely column.
Houston Rockets: Brian Cook & Chuck Hayes ($5,647,750)
Cook is a salary throw in, so weíll strictly be looking at Hayes and Jeffries. Their games are actually fairly similar and while Jeffries gives you more options on the defensive end, Hayes is a better rebounder. With that said, this is pretty much a wash talent-wise and the Rockets would be foolish to take on the additional salary and years even if one could make the argument that it is a slight upgrade.
Toronto Raptors: Amir Johnson ($3.94M) and Antoine Wright or Rasho Nesterovic
This deal is possible, but more than unlikely. The Raptors are not looking to do the Knicks any favors going into the offseason as they are looking to retain Chris Bosh. Unless they deem that task impossible by the trade deadline, I donít see them dedicating any more additional dollars to next year now.