We’re less than a month into the 2013-14 NBA season, but the New York Knicks have already seen a year’s worth of negative storylines. They’ve quickly plummeted to the bottom of a bad Atlantic Division; J.R. Smith has been up to his usual antics (a five-game suspension to start the season followed by a $25,000 fine for threatening tweets towards Brandon Jennings); there have been chants calling for the firing of Mike Woodson at recent home games; and Carmelo Anthony accused the team of “not even trying” after the 20-point loss to the Hawks last Saturday night.
It’s early, sure, but the problems that the Knicks have aren’t going to fix themselves over time. Even with Tyson Chandler coming back some time next month, New York just doesn’t have the personnel to compete with Indiana or Miami, the real contenders in the East. Andrea Bargnani is lost on the defensive end. Amar’e Stoudemire looks like he aged about 10 years in the offseason. Raymond Felton is suddenly one of the league’s worst starting point guards, making the decision to let Jeremy Lin walk without getting anything in return during the summer of 2012 look more and more foolish by the day. J.R. Smith’s shot selection is, somehow, even worse than it was last season.
If the Knicks really want to compete for a championship this season, then they’ll have to bolster their roster — A.K.A make a trade. And, fittingly enough, they already discussed trades with the Boston Celtics, and those talks have reportedly revolved around Iman Shumpert and Rajon Rondo. At 23 years of age and with solid upside, Shumpert is pretty much the only trade asset the Knicks have.
But if the Knicks decide they aren’t willing to deal Shumpert, then it’s officially time to blow it up and build for the future. And as crazy as it sounds, that would mean trading Carmelo Anthony. In return, the Knicks would, ideally, get as many draft picks as possible (since they seemingly have none for the next 50 years) and some expiring contracts. The expiring contracts would, obviously, allow New York to chase LeBron James and other big-name free agents next summer.
So, I came up with five different trade scenarios for New York. The first three are deals that would, presumably, make the Knicks contenders this season, and the last two are blow-it-up trades.
Okay, here we go:
*** *** ***
Trade Scenario No. 1
Knicks receive: Rajon Rondo, Gerald Wallace
Celtics receive: Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., Amar’e Stoudemire
Why it makes sense: If this trade were to fall through, the Knicks would get exactly what they need — a star point guard to pair with Carmelo. Rondo could make his return from ACL surgery at some point in December, perhaps around the same time that Tyson Chandler’s sprained knee is fully recovered. If the Knicks could just tread water until that point, they would still be in decent position to make a run at a top-four seed in the East.
They wouldn’t be as talented as Miami’s Big Three, but Rondo, Anthony and Chandler would perfectly complement one another. A great passer and floor leader? Check. One of the NBA’s most potent and efficient scorers on the wing? Check. A big man that dominates on the glass and on the defensive end? Check. Couple that with a supporting cast of Metta World Peace, J.R. Smith, Bargnani, Pablo Prigioni and Kenyon Martin, and the Knicks would have a legitimate chance in a seven-game series against the Heat or Pacers.
For the Celtics, it’s become pretty apparent that they aren’t willing to do Rondo/Wallace for Shumpert/Raymond Felton/Stoudemire. Well, how about getting another young asset in addition to Iman Shumpert? Tim Hardaway Jr. was the Knicks’ first-round pick in the 2013 Draft, and he’s already begun to show promise in his rookie season, averaging around eight points per game in just 18 minutes of action per night.
The Celtics have to realize that once Rondo comes back, they will immediately be better than most of the other teams that are also clearly tanking this season. And, in today’s NBA, that’s a bad thing. The Cs should and probably do want to lose as many games as possible this season in order to get in good position to draft Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins or one of the other coveted 2014 Draft class members. Dealing Rondo in this package would not only help them do just that, but it would also immediately give them two young pieces (Shump and Hardaway Jr.) to begin to build around.
And, while Amare’s max deal looks terrible, it would actually be better for the Celtics to take on his contract than it would be to keep Gerald Wallace, who is under contract until the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, one year longer than Stoudemire. If the Celtics plan on being players during the 2015 free agency period, swapping Wallace for Amar’e makes sense.
Potential problems: Unfortunately for the Knicks, there are plenty of underlying problems here. First off, Shumpert and Hardaway Jr. are each natural two-guards. Why should the Celtics want to trade one of the NBA’s top-three point guards for two young players that play the same position? The best case scenario is that they both pan out and the Celtics are thus forced to trade one of them.
Danny Ainge also knows that he can get something much better in return for Rondo than what the Knicks are able to offer. Like any team going through a rebuilding period, the Celtics want to hoard as many draft picks as they can, and the Knicks — thanks in large part to the Carmelo and Bargnani trades — have been completely depleted of those.