Is this some sort of way to earn a quasi 12th ring?
New York Knicks president Phil Jackson could not have done much worse Monday night in dealing away Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-way trade that netted the Knicks three non-guaranteed contracts and a second-round draft pick in 2019.
We’ve all heard of selling low, but this? This was a gift to the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers, who just became the first team to lose in Philadelphia all season. And also a gift to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have not had a wing scorer at the two-guard position since James Harden was wearing blue three years ago. They get one now in Dion Waiters.
The Knicks got out from Smith’s $6.5 million player option for next season, giving them about $30 million in salary cap space. But to get such a small return on a former first-round pick, Shumpert, and a former Sixth Man of the Year, Smith, is a head-scratcher. Nobody was willing to give up a first-round pick in the 20s for either of those guys, much less both of them?
New York now has the following to show from the last five NBA drafts: Tim Hardaway, who was forced to play small forward against Memphis last night in the Knicks’ 12th consecutive loss. New York now has the worst record in the NBA, 5-32, and a public holiday has been declared in Philadelphia.
New York also has waived center Samuel Dalembert, and it would not surprise me to see the veteran wind up in Cleveland as the rim protector it has been seeking since even before Anderson Varejao went down with a torn Achilles. The three players the Knicks acquired, Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk and Lance Thomas, have non-guaranteed contracts and can be waived by Wednesday with the Knicks having to pay them nothing.
Certainly Cavs GM David Griffin was under pressure to make something happen to boost his struggling team, which is currently without LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and is fighting off speculation over whether the next game David Blatt coaches will be his last. In Smith, they get a streaky shooter whose shot selection is about on par with that of Waiters, but whose change of scenery should be a benefit. When the Knicks were good two years ago and Smith won the Sixth Man award, he averaged 18.1 points per game. Even last season, Smith shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.
Shumpert gives the Cavs a strong perimeter defender and a natural two-guard to shuffle into the starting lineup, where Blatt has used everyone from Shawn Marion to Waiters to Matthew Dellavedova to Joe Harris.
The Knicks? They will now move forward with a starting five (if they ever take the court together) of Cole Aldrich, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Hardaway and Jose Calderon. Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani are guaranteed to stick around for the remainder of the season only because their salaries come off the books at the end of this season. If there is another move up Jackson’s sleeve, it could be the dumping of Calderon, who is under contract for $15.1 million over the next two seasons. If Jackson is this willing to tear apart the roster, teams will be lining up to give him a second-round pick for Calderon.
Jackson is clearly all-in on free agency, and he needs to be. The Knicks owe their 2016 first-round pick to Toronto from the Bargnani trade, and they also have dealt away their own second-round picks in 2015 and 2016 (to Houston), 2017 (to Utah), 2018 (Philadelphia has the right to swap) and 2019 (to Philly).
It’s going to be an even more insufferable season for the fans in New York, who should be reminded that the NBA record for consecutive losses is 26 by the Sixers last season, and by the Cavs in the first season after LeBron James left for Miami.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.