Last week I commented on Rip City is Squatchy's post (http://www.blazersedge.com/2013/2/10/3975032/trade-for-the-future) about the idea to go after Iman Shumpert. Now that we're just a few days away from the trade deadline, I'd like to lay out the case a little further. Please keep in mind that I a.) Hate the idea of tanking for draft picks; and b.) really like Hickson and believe that in a perfect world we would keep him for our our primary back-up to LMA as well as occasionally playing them together. Now that we are past the break, sitting 3 games below .500, and looking more and more like we won't be able to keep JJ in the off-season, much less make a playoff run, the need to get something valuable for JJ while we still can is clear. (Spoiler Alert: I do not even touch the subject of our starting Center. I'll let you tackle that, dear reader.)
So where to start? Well there are two immediate hurdles to trading JJ: he has the authority to veto any trade (which he would to most teams in the league) and his UFA status this summer will keep most teams from offering anything good for him. This means we are more likely to send him to a contender than to a bad or even fringe playoff team (after all, they're in more or less the same position as we are.) An elite team that needs one last piece to challenge the Heat and/or OKC this year is our best bet. A look around the likely playoff teams this year doesn't turn-up many who need a back-up forward who can score and rebound but is a defensive liability.
One team in the Eastern Conference, however, seems to be in a unique front-court conundrum: The New York Knicks.
Their forward rotation and starting line-up lately has been almost as creative as Stott's Portland line-ups this year. Currently, with Amar'e Stoudemire still in limited minutes, Carmelo Anthony is starting at PF with Amar'e coming off the bench and Shump starting at SF playing about 20 minutes a game. Certainly, at some point Amar'e is going to have to play more minutes and start so that 'Melo can move back to the 3. Games against LeBron, Peirce, Deng, Wallace & Blatche, West & George, etc. are about to become way more important and competitive. Anthony's been carrying the offensive load above and beyond the call and Tyson Chandler is just as dominate on the boards as ever but with 'Sheed and Camby's return this season still up in the air, this could be unsustainable and dangerous as the competition gets fierce.
Enter an energized and extremely motivated JJ Hickson.
He already knows that he's in for a big pay day this summer and that a trip to the playoffs (and possibly the Eastern Conference Finals) would better his situation more than finishing out the regular season averaging 28 minutes and a double-double on a lottery-bound team will. Plus: Madison Square Garden, Word Up! JJ approves this trade.
The Knicks' four or five best players are locked-up for the next few years, they have a bunch of expiring contracts and no problem attracting free agents to the Big Apple so the desire to win now will out-weigh developing future bench assets. But most importantly; their primary target is Miami. And what is the reigning champion's main weakness? (or perhaps closest thing to weakness?) Rebounding.
Now why would Iman Shumpert fit on the Portland roster? Where in our depth chart would he sit?
Depending on where you look, Shump is listed as a PG, a SG and (where he's currently starting) SF. According to a (disputed) Sheridan Hoops article:
“There are major concerns (from people close to Shumpert) over how the Knicks are developing him,”...
“They feel he’s being played out of position (at small forward) and his confidence is suffering because of it. They understand the team is having success and it has to be the right deal, but they’d prefer Iman in another situation… And soon.”
His place is in the Back court and he knows it. But the guard positions are about as crowded as Grand Central Station in New York right now with Felton, Kidd, Smith and Prigioni all getting minutes. Iman is still fresh from knee surgery so his production isn't what it could be and what next season it should be. Last season his FG% was around 40% and just over 30% from behind the arc. He's not the most pure shooter so he wouldn't be taking many shots away from Batum, Wes, LMA or Dame and with an average 2.8 assists last year, he's not the ideal PG. But, if we're looking for a back-up play maker for Lillard, I'd say one has started to emerge this year in one Nicolas Batum. In games where he's struggled to make shots, he's taken on more of a point-forward responsibility running the court when Damian is getting a breather or getting trapped. Future rotations could take advantage of Nic running the team while Shump concentrates on being a lock-down perimeter defender. If we spent a portion of our cap space this summer on getting a potent scorer like Redick for the Back-up SG position, Stotts could draw-up some interesting and efficient bench rotations with Iman's defensive abilities. He's young (only 22) so he'd fit in well with the youth movement and with just under two million owed to him next season and a $2.7M team option in '14-'15 to finish out his rookie contract, he's cheap and could prove to be a valuable trade asset in the future should the right opportunity present it's self. That sounds like music to Olshey's ears, right? Plus, trading Hickson would almost ensure that we get our draft pick so there's still more asset-acquisition to be had for the 2012 draft-champion GM.
Now for the hard part: How do you make the money work? Because there's a roughly $2.4M difference between JJ's and Iman's contracts and the Knicks are over the cap, we couldn't do the straight-across trade. This would be so much easier to delve into if ESPN's trade machine was working properly and I could just include a few links, so if you are interested, you'll just have to get on the TM yourself and check my work but I'd say the most attractive option is this:
NYK get: Hickson ($4M)
PDX get: Shump ($1.6M) Ronnie Brewer ($.8M) & James "The Flight" White ($.8M)
According to virtual Hollinger, Portland's wins are -7 and the Knicks are +3
We might have to sweeten it with a second rounder or something but I think that is the best deals for both parties. Brewer and White are un-guarantied for next season so they wouldn't ruin our cap space, but either could be had for the minimum next year, I'd imagine, so the rest of this season could be an audition for the end of our bench next year. Also, in researching this I learned that Ronnie Brewer was born in Portland!
This option wouldn't be as good but I could live with it:
NYK get: Hickson & Babbitt ($1.8M) or Williams ($1.4M) or Smith ($1.3M) or Claver ($1.3M)
PDX get: Shump & Steve Novak ($4M)
The Knicks would only do this if they decide they're not interested in paying Novak for the next three seasons. They might be interested in one of our expiring guys or perhaps take on Claver as a project. We would be stuck with Novak for a few years but with a .447 3PT% this season, there could be worse reserve small forwards to have. There are probably multi-team trades that could work the salaries better while landing NY another bench shooter but I'll let you guys and gals think those up in the comments.
So what do you folks think? Would the Blazers/Knicks/Hickson be interested in doing this? Would it make us better? Would it make NY better? Should I stop writing novels on BEdge on my lunch breaks? Please let me know if you've got a better idea, even if it starts out with "TLDR"
Oh and go Blazers!