If there were any illusions after knocking off a Jimmy Butler-less Bulls squad Thursday night in the Garden, the Knicks were quick to remind their fans exactly what kind of team this was, getting blown out in Toronto on Sunday before going down in the final seconds, for what felt like the 18th time this season, to the Hawks the next day.
While it’s true that New York has been without Porzingis for the last three contests, as he rests a sore Achilles, and that Lance Thomas has also missed some time after getting his face busted open in the Great White North, there are just a lot of ugly signals bubbling up around this team. Derrick Rose’s absence last week has received enough attention, but today it was Courtney Lee’s turn to speak out, posting “Dumb and Dumber” on his Instagram after Hornacek benched him to try to shake up the starting lineup. Porzingis has talked openly about his frustrations for how badly this team is underperforming and Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose were quietly reported to be shocked by how relaxed New York practice culture is after coming from the grindaholic Tom Thibodeau in Chicago. Hell, Melo leads the league in ejections right now.
The Knicks were said to be sniffing around PJ Tucker a couple of weeks ago when they first began their precipitous slide down the standings. The Phoenix forward isn’t much of a starting caliber wing in today’s NBA, but he’s a strong, active defender who might be able to give this team a little more grit and toughness. With Phoenix starting to look to the future in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, it made sense for a playoff hopeful, or team right on the bubble, to see if he could be stolen out of the desert. Now, however, throwing out pretense about the playoffs or “superteams” it makes far more sense for the Knicks to approach this trade deadline as sellers, rather than buyers. The only question, though, is who could be on the block??
Let’s just start with the elephant in the room. The combination of Anthony’s no trade clause AND the trade kicker in his contract that would increase his salary 15% on a new team, make him almost impossible to move. Carmelo himself has said several times that he hasn’t considered waiving this clause, although there were leaked reports that he would consider trades that would land him with a banana boat member in Cleveland or with the Clippers in Los Angeles. Again, the size of his contract means that the Knicks would probably need to take back either Blake Griffin or Kevin Love to make the salaries match, which seems beyond unrealistic for those organizations to consider. Knicks fans, I know most of you are tired of this guy. But it doesn’t look like he’s moving anywhere.
For a league average starting point guard on an expiring deal, there doesn’t seem to be too robust of a market for Rose. Although there are a good number of teams with cap space, Rose’s $20 million is hard to fit into most cap projections and his recent game skipping can’t have done much to help his value. The only real team I can see being interested is the Sacramento Kings, who have been missing explosive point guard play for years now and are under some pressure from ownership to make the playoffs this first season in their new stadium. With the 8th seed in the West being as bad as it is, Rose would give the Kings a real shot to do so.
The Kings don’t have a ton of assets, which means unless they were willing to part with Rudy Gay’s expiring contract (seems a little counterintuitive in trying to make the playoffs) making the salaries match might be difficult. However, I wouldn’t be opposed to taking flyers on relatively young players like Willie Cauley-Stein and Ben McLemore if it meant getting some kind of pick in the deal. Parting with a first for Rose seems crazy, but then again, these are the Kings. Never underestimate Vlade Divac cooking up there in the front office.
(Also entirely possible that a team without cap space and nothing to lose trades for Rose to kick the tires for half a season. Brooklyn? Dallas? Philly?)
Nowww we start to get into the real meat of the roster. If you can ignore the rainbow jumper and no-look passes that make Jennings occasionally so electric to watch, you come to the fact that this guy has been downright terrible this year. Jennings signed a 1 year deal over the summer in an attempt to rehabilitate his career after ACL surgery and has become a kind of pass first, pass second, pass third guard who seems scared to look for his own shot and doesn’t play an inch of defense. Jennings has a tough attitude and seems decent from a chemistry standpoint, but I’d be happy to get pretty much anything for him at this point. The small $5 million salary, and the fact that his contract is expiring, makes him a pretty juicy option for a team headed into the playoffs that could use a little help at backup pointguard (Cleveland??). The Knicks would do well to take a second rounder and move forward into whatever future Ron Baker deigns to give us.
This one hurts. Outside of the rookies, Lee is on the best contract the Knicks have for 4 years/$50 million. His defense and off-ball shooting make him a perfect complement to Melo and Porzingis and he generally seems like a hard working, down-to-Earth guy. There is, however, the fact that Lee is already 31 years old and was just benched for Ron Friggin Baker when pretty much every single game is a must win. Lee’s three point shooting is excellent at 43%, but he’s averaging under 10 points a game with just 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He’s in no way an essential part of this team and the Knicks have gotten a bunch of good minutes out of Justin Holiday who’s four years younger.
What’s more, Lee is valuable. He’s on that excellent contract and plays a position of scarcity very well. Every single team in the league needs more 3 and D wings and the fact that he can be efficient without really needing the ball in his hands makes him easy to fit into any offensive system. It might be hard for the Knicks to part with their best signing of the 2016 offseason, but if it nets them a first round pick in this year’s draft, it’d be well worth the sacrifice. Sorry Courtney.
Lololol no one is trading for this guy.
The rookies, Holiday and Thomas, and Kyle O’Quinn should all be off the table, unless some team is willing to go crazy with a first rounder. But for a Knicks organization that has consistently deluded itself about their own ceiling, this is the year to finally break that trend. This team is going nowhere, and if they can get any kind of draft asset or young prospect for the guys above, pick up the phone, act quickly, and don’t look back. Phil, pull the trigger!