No matter how it ended up happening, whether it was Iman Shumpert‘s injury or general manager Steve Mills‘ unwillingness to give up a first rounder or Tim Hardaway Jr. in any trade, the New York Knicks standing pat at the NBA trade deadline was the best thing that could have happened.
Any help they could have brought in via trade would have been minor, at best, upgrades over what they currently have. The assets the Knicks do have and were willing to give up on Thursday are simply not good enough to attract the types of players the Knicks really need. And now, barring major and unwise moves this offseason, the Knicks will have to wait until 2015 when Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani and depending on what he decides this summer, Carmelo Anthony‘s contracts are all off the books. The only guaranteed contract the Knicks have in 2015 is Pablo Prigioni ($1,734,572). Though there are several players with team or player options that are almost guaranteed to be picked up: J.R. Smith ($6,399,750 player option), Raymond Felton ($4,540,000 player option), Hardaway Jr. ($1,304,520 team option) and Shumpert has a $3,898,691 qualifying offer. So, they will have money to spend.
What the Knicks likely wanted to do at the trade deadline was absorb more bad contracts in the hopes of bringing in one player who might help the team grab the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference this season only to inevitably be knocked out within the first two rounds. Darren Collison of the Los Angeles Clippers would have been the best pickup at point for the Knicks, as he is making a meager $1.9 million this season and has a player option for $1,985,500 next season that he is likely to decline. The Knicks could have re-signed him if he was a good fit or let him walk if not. To get Collison, the Knicks would have had to take back Matt Barnes, who has a team option for the 2015-16 season at $3,542,500 which the Knicks would have declined. Unfortunately, the Knicks couldn’t make this deal work likely because of Shumpert’s knee concerns. And even before he was injured, it was going to be a long shot due in part to the Clippers wanting nothing to do with bringing on Felton and his contract.
The Atlanta Hawks‘ Jeff Teague? He has three more years and $24 million left on his contract beyond this season. While he would be a great upgrade at the point this season, I don’t see him being the type of point guard that quarterbacks a team to a championship. Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors? I don’t know what it is, but there has to be some sort of saying for players putting together career years in a contract year. Lowry has been superb this season, but the soon-to-be 28-year-old has never put together a full season like this before. He will likely command a five-year deal this offseason, and the Knicks would have had to give it to him after giving up picks and talent to bring him in. As much as he would have been a great pickup, a 33-year-old Lowry on the Knicks is a scary thought for me.
And then there is Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics who — like many Knicks players — is eligible to become a free agent after next season. He will be in the spotlight of trade talks next season too, and depending what happens with the Knicks this offseason will be rumored to a New York move again. He will likely be traded if he tells the Celtics’ front office he isn’t re-signing, but the Knicks should steer clear. Rondo will be 28 tomorrow and 29 by the time he signs a potential max deal. The Knicks have a history of signing players when they’ve already reached their prime. Rondo’s prime came early, and thanks to a devastating knee injury it may be cut short.
The best thing that can happen now, after failing (thankfully) to make any moves at the trade deadline, is that Carmelo decides he wants out. That would give the Knicks all of next season to shed some of their expiring contracts for picks and young talent, something the Knicks have very little of, and start building the team from the ground up. With an infusion of younger players and a smart free agent signing or two in the 2015-16 offseason, the Knicks could soon be a threat.