The Knicks have started off the season slowly with a putrid 3-10 record. Seeing as it has been THIRTEEN whole games and the Knicks suffered a critical injury to Tyson Chandler, who is arguably their most important player, now seems as good a time as any to completely freak out.
Last night’s loss to Portland was a microcosm of everything that has gone wrong with the Knicks this year. The lack of a real defensive anchor is visibly crushing them. They are completely incapable of getting stops in big spots, or stops in any spots really.
But regardless of the Knicks struggles, there has been significant debate recently about what the Knicks should do. People seem to think moving Shump for Rondo could be the Knicks saving grace, but that really wouldn’t do much for them this season considering Rondo’s injury. The Knicks are still likely to make the playoffs if Tyson comes back healthy and as soon as possible, but I don’t see them making much noise in any realistic playoff match-up. There are three or four teams in the East who would wipe the floor with the Knicks in a seven game series.
So what is Steve Mills to do? Well I think the time has come to truly examine their options. The Knicks assure us that Tyson’s injury should only keep him out for 4-6 weeks, but the problem is that the Knicks are big fat liars. Rasheed Wallace was day to day for months before the Knicks revealed he needed season ending surgery. Tyson broke his leg, and that’s not generally something people recover all that quickly from. If Tyson ends up having to sit out any more of this season the Knicks legitimately might miss the playoffs. If that happens I can’t imagine Melo would want to stay in New York, supermax or no supermax. The Knicks need to account for the idea that Melo may leave, and that involves being prepared to move him if things go south.
Now everybody relax. I’m not saying the Knicks should definitely move Melo, or that Melo isn’t a valuable franchise player, but if there is a way to spin his contract into a real chance to reboot this team, the Knicks at least need to look into it.
The question is would any team be able to meet New York’s lofty asking price?
This is where things become tricky. There are always teams like the Bucks or the Jazz who would probably be thrilled to have a big name like Melo. The problem is that they don’t have much in the way of movable parts, and Melo would probably just bolt after the season, which diminishes the value of his contract. The Knicks would ideally want to grab a couple of picks and few good young players. If they were willing to take on terrible contracts in lieu of young talent that opens up a potentially interesting trade with Boston.
The Celtics are obviously in the middle of a rebuild, but they are better then people think they are. The fact is that Celtics are probably too good, especially once Rondo comes back, to really have a shot at the Wiggins/Parker/Randle sweepstakes. They have some excellent young talent in Avery Bradley and Jeff Green, not to mention a ton of assets that they could move to bring in other players this season. I’ve come up with a trade scenario I believe might allow Melo to be successful, and one that gives the Knicks a chance to retool with draft picks in the next few years.
The Celtics would also give the Knicks 2014 and 2015 first round picks in this scenario. It would let the Knicks just bottom out and then rebuild slowly through the draft, while giving the Celtics a solid nucleus to build around. The Knicks also obviously pick up Rondo, which would probably be a sticking point in the deal. Maybe the Knicks would include Felton in the deal somehow, but regardless, there is potential here to allow the Knicks to reboot.
The Celtics might bite on this trade, as it also allows them to dump some terrible contracts in Wallace and Humphries and it gives them a young talent in Iman Shumpert, who I honestly still believe has potential to be effective as a combo guard despite what Twitter might think. Would the Celtics really make a second blockbuster trade like this in under 6 months? I don’t know, but it behooves the Knicks to float the idea.
This is the first of many scenarios that are a possibility, but the point is that things are getting bad enough that the Knicks need to examine realistic options as a fail-safe in case Tyson’s recovery takes longer than expected, or Melo gives an indication that he plans to bolt. The fact that Steve Mills was brought in specifically to re-sign Melo could be rendered meaningless if Melo decides he’s had enough following a 32 win season and a missed playoff birth in an atrociously bad Eastern conference. Even a 7th seed and first round exit pairing might be enough to scare Melo off. This team isn’t ready to win a championship anytime soon. Even if you buy into the famed 2015 rebuild, that’s not really a plan as much as it is a pipe dream. I have a few other ideas regarding potential trades that I will post later, (one including shipping Melo back to Denver in return for some of our old friends!) but for now the point is that Mills and Dolan need to take a long and unbiased look at this team and it’s future, and consider the idea that gutting it might be necessary. They did a successful reboot three years ago, but unfortunately Amare Stoudemire turned into a total quagmire and crippled the plan.
So feel free to flame me now, or later, or not at all if you don’t care what I think. I just thought I’d get the ball rolling on discussing something I feel needs to be discussed. Again, I’m not saying they need to trade Melo. I like Melo. I think he’s a franchise player who can win a title with the right supporting cast. I just have serious doubts that the Knicks are a franchise capable of building that team.