By John Schmeelk
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Free agency is war, or at least that’s how the Raptors are treating it. They must have been getting pretty nervous the Knicks were getting close to Steve Nash. For them to offer Landry Fields twenty million dollars over three seasons is the new definition of “An Act of Desperation.” To their credit, Toronto did make it all but impossible for the Knicks to complete a sign and trade for Steve Nash without including Iman Shumpert or Jeremy Lin. They will do anything they can to land their native son.
So the question remains: How far should the Knicks go to get Steve Nash? As I’ve written here a bunch of times, I would deal Jeremy Lin. Nobody knows if Lin can play at the same level outside of Mike D’Antoni’s system or stay healthy for a full season. We know what Steve Nash is, and he could very well be the linchpin that can make Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler work. Unfortunately, the Knicks are not going to deal Lin. They like his potential on the floor, but they also love his marketing persona.
How about Iman Shumpert? He has only played about fifty NBA games, and was a late first round draft pick. He is recovering from a torn ACL, as serious a knee injury as there is. With all that being said, I do not move Iman Shumpert. His athleticism and effort give him All-Star potential, and if he can get his jump shot more consistent he could become a top shooting guard in the league. He was already a top perimeter defender in his first year. From all reports, the Knicks love Shumpert just as much and want no part of trading him.
So where does that leave the Knicks? The answer is simple: Without Steve Nash. Unless he decides to take substantially less money to be a member of the Knicks, which is unlikely, he’ll be elsewhere to close out his career. With Deron Williams returning to the Nets, Steve Nash’s number one destination is now the Mavericks. The Raptors will look quite foolish if that happens, being stuck with Landry Fields with nothing to show for it.
The Knicks will go to plan B, which isn’t great. That means a veteran like Raymond Felton or Jason Kidd to share point guard duties with Lin. I like Felton since he can also defend both guard positions and run the picks and roll with Stoudemire. Kidd’s leadership is something that can’t be measured, and there’s a chance he might be able to get inside Carmelo Anthony’s head and help turn him into a winner. That may very well be more important than anything he can do with the ball in his hand. With their mid-level used on a point guard, any hope of getting a Marcus Camby or Rashard Lewis is gone.
It will also be interesting to see what the Rockets offer Jeremy Lin, and how painful they will make it for the Knicks to resign him. But fans shouldn’t worry because the Knicks will do everything in their power to bring Lin back. No team can outbid them, and no poison pill will stop them from matching any offer.
Unless Glen Grunwald has something else up his sleeve that surprises everyone like he did with Tyson Chandler last year, this is what the Knicks are stuck with. Without Nash, their chance of usurping the Heat next season is minimal. Jason Kidd or Raymond Felton would be nice, but they aren’t difference makers the way Nash would be. This group’s own self-improvement is going to make the difference. Carmelo Anthony’s growth as a player and Stoudemire’s health is going to be the key to the season’s success. It’s on them now because substantial reinforcements aren’t coming.
– Give Billy King credit. If Joe Johnson and his absurd contract was the price of getting Deron Williams to stay, then that trade was a no-brainer. The rivalry between the Knicks and nets next season will be a lot of fun. Both fan bases genuinely want their team to be better than the other. I still think the Knicks are better, but the battles between the two will be epic this season. I don’t want to give Deron Williams too much credit since he took the maximum money he could get. But you can tip a cap to him for staying with the team that gave up so much to get him, even at the expense of playing in his home town of Dallas.
I’ll continue to provide coverage of NBA free agency on twitter, and you can follow me at https://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk