Before we get to tonight’s game, because these are the Knicks, another internal struggle has seeped through the crevices of Madison Square Garden into the eyes and ears of the public. As you’re probably all aware, recent talks between the Knicks and Toronto Raptors have been confirmed by members of the media, revolving the trading for one Kyle Lowry. In return, it’s been reported that Toronto would receive Raymond Felton, Metta World Peace and one of three assets from the Knicks: A first round pick, Iman Shumpert or Tim Hardaway Jr.
In an unlikely turn of events, both Frank Isola and Adrian Wojnarowski have written that talks stalled due to James Dolan’s reluctance to be perceived as getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop in a deal with Masai Ujiri. Any trade including Metta World Peace cannot technically be made until Sunday, so let’s take a look at the arguments for and against this trade (if it does occur. As of this writing, there are conflicting reports that the deal is ‘dead,’ or if there’s a chance it could be revived. Some are saying that the Knicks thought they’d come to an agreement, but those dastardly Canadians got greedy.)
DO IT, NOW, NOW. NOW!
Despite sharing what might be characterized as a bulldog mentality, Lowry is a definite upgrade over Raymond Felton. Unlike Felton, Lowry is a net positive on the defensive end, +.8 points per 100 possessions last year and +8 point swing on/off the court this season. Last year Felton’s presence on the court surrendered 3.9 points per 100 possessions, and it’s no secret Raymond’s futility on that end has played a huge part in allowing opposing point guards to burn the Knicks on a nightly basis.
On the offensive end, Lowry’s efficiency trumps Felton’s with relative ease. Not once has Felton’s TS% of an individual season been higher than Lowry’s, with this year’s disparity being just short of 10% in favor of Lowry. Lowry employs similar tactics to Felton on offense, but is far more accurate. Lowry would feel right at home in pick-and-rolls with Tyson Chandler and pops with Andrea Bargnani, even if his three-point shot is as inconsistent as Felton’s.
But, at his best, Lowry’s capable of producing gonzo numbers that stuff the stat sheet like so much… er… stuffing, much like the similarly-sized Eric Bledsoe (no, that’s not a one-to-one comparison, to be clear). Lowry is one of only 34 guards (point and two since 1986) to accumulate three or more triple doubles,. His passing is a nudge better than Felton’s, but his rebounding – albeit this year’s numbers lacking – is at another level. Lowry has already totaled 8 games with 10+ rebounds. In comparison, Felton has a mere 3 in 171 more games played.
Now Lowry’s had consistency issues (and a Feltonian problem with keeping in game shape), but even Lowry’s lesser outings would be an improvement on what the ‘Bockers have gotten from the position this season.
Long term, the deal would allow the Knicks to rid themselves of the 3 million or so that would be on the cap for the 2015-16 season. The majority of the Knicks’ current contracts expire in or by the summer of 2015, Felton’s contract extends through 2016 (with a player option that he will probably exercise). Shedding $3.9 million from the books could go towards the free agent hunt in 2015. If the Knicks want to reboot or restart in 2015, having one less contract weighing them down beyond that point helps. This assumes that the Knicks would not re-sign Lowry at the conclusion of this season.. We’ll discuss this further in a sec. Speaking of which…
DON’T DO IT. NO, NO, NO… NOT AGAIN, NOOOOOOOOOOO!
Although Kyle Lowry makes the Knicks better now, it’s worth noting the improvement won’t get New York over Indiana or Miami and will only last a few months (again, depending on whether or not they re-sig him). As big of an upgrade as Lowry is, the Knicks problems are not going to be completely solved by installing a new floor general. This isn’t a jab at Lowry as much as it is the makeup of this Knicks roster and the befuddling performance of their head coach during the 2013 Playoffs/first 21 games.
With Lowry’s contract expiring this season, there’s little chance he accepts a one-year offer or less money than he is currently making. Meaning, the Knicks can either trade away an asset for less than a season of Kyle Lowry or they get Lowry long-term but likely find themselves hindered in their pursuit of a second star to pair with Melo. Yes, I’m assuming he’ll re-sign. Whether it’s for the full max or not, is yet to be determined, but I’d be shocked if he was anywhere but New York next year at this time.
But Felton’s contract and play is an issue, no matter what direction the organization plans on taking their team. However, this doesn’t mean he must be traded now or in a package that must include a future asset. Felton may not have appeal as a starting point guard, but as one off the bench? Based purely off conjecture, teams could show some interest and wouldn’t require Shump, Hardaway or a pick. Even in a deal more similar to the Lowry one, there’s no need to pull the trigger immediately. Felton’s contract is arguably the bigger concern at this point and it can be dealt later this season or even next season. This isn’t a realistic possibility however, given Dolan’s history with patience (or the lack thereof).
Furthermore, why does this package have to be earmarked for Kyle Lowry? WhatH about Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns, the subject of trade rumors earlier in the season and whose prior front office was said to covet Iman Shumpert? Whether they are still looking to deal or not is unknown, but perhaps the Knicks don’t need to settle for Lowry if they really are bent on trading more future assets.
That’s what’s at the core of all this. Save for the brief period when Walsh was jettisoning contracts to free up room for a run at LeBron, “Sacrificing the future for a shaky present” might as well be the MSG corporate motto. Kevin McElroy‘s take on the Bargnani trade is as timely as ever:
That’s where the identity part comes in. That’s where a trade isn’t just a trade but a statement on what kind of a franchise you want to be… It’s about whether the Knicks are pivoting back towards an approach that made them a laughingstock and brought us a decade of atrocious basketball. It’s about whether lessons that should have been learned fell on deaf ears.
Even if Shumpert isn’t slated for a long and glorious career as a Knick, or if Tim Hardaway Jr. doesn’t blossom into much more than he is now, and even if that 2018 first-round draft pick turns into a bust, this would be yet another transaction piled onto the list of similar moves that tied this franchise to a cinderblock and tossed it in the Hudson River. At some point, the pin has to be reinserted into the grenade. I’m hoping today is that day.
Your move, Jim. (Dolan, not Cavan). Go Knicks!