By John Schmeelk
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With the trade deadline fast approaching, every team in the NBA is looking for that extra piece that will help them win a championship.
The Knicks are no different.
They are an aging, win-now club that would be willing to sacrifice part of their future if it meant a better shot at a title this season. That means if the right deal came along for Iman Shumpert (their only young asset), they would be more than willing to pull the trigger — and rightfully so.
But that deal won’t be coming around.
At this time of year, every team needs to zero in on their weaknesses. For New York, it’s all about perimeter defense. If the Knicks can figure out a way to cover quick guards, especially point guards, they will be a championship-caliber team. Is there anyone on the market with the potential to do that job better than Shumpert, come April and May? The answer: no.
It isn’t fair to judge Shumpert on what he’s done in the last month. To expect a player to be 100 percent in his first month back coming off of ACL surgery is lunacy. Derrick Rose still isn’t even on the court yet after an ACL tear of his own. Shumpert is going to get better as he plays, and there are still more than two months and 32 games until the playoffs start.
Does anyone really think J.J. Redick is going to have a better chance guarding Dwyane Wade, Jeff Teague, Deron Williams or Rose in the playoffs? He is a good defender but doesn’t have the raw physical defensive talent of Shumpert. Is Redick a better shooter? Sure, but if that makes the difference between winning and losing a championship or playoff series, I’d be shocked. The Knicks need to worry about defense, and helping Raymond Felton on some of the league’s most athletic guards. That’s all Shumpert.
It’s not to say Redick isn’t a good player. He is. So are Jared Dudley and Luke Ridnour. And if the Knicks’ problem was shooting or playmaking, I’d consider moving Shumpert for any one of those players. That’s not the case. It makes the decision not to make a trade very easy.
The Knicks have enough players in their rotation. They have three point guards that are good enough to play, and two shooting guards in J.R. Smith and Shumpert. Steve Novak, Chris Copeland and Ronnie Brewer all play small forward, and so can the Knicks’ shooting guards. Melo gets much of his time at power forward, with Amar’e Stoudemire eating up the rest of the minutes there and at center behind Tyson Chandler. Then you have the potential return of Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby, ready to give some defensive help at power forward and center.
Even with Wallace and Camby out, the Knicks have nine men in their rotation (Felton, Kidd, Prigioni, Smith, Shumpert, Anthony, Novak, Stoudemire, Chandler) with little room for anyone else. More than likely nobody the Knicks trade for will breach the end-of-game lineup of Felton, Kidd, Smith, Anthony and Chandler. Perhaps a big man like Kenyon Martin in free agency could be an option to guarantee depth with the age and injuries of Wallace and Camby.
Glen Grunwald will do his due diligence — and will make the Knicks better if he can. The team has struggled for more than a month, and a shakeup might be what the doctor ordered, but only if it makes the team better where it is weakest.
He also recognizes that mixing up team chemistry at this point of the reason is a risk in of itself, and there’s something to be said for this group continuing to get better together. The Knicks need to get better defensively, and that needs to be Grunwald’s No. 1 priority. For Knicks fans, there might be some rumors over the next two days — but don’t expect any movement.
Sometimes, that’s for the better.
– I don’t care about the rumors — no team in the NBA wants Amar’e Stoudemire. Ignore any trades that involve him and be happy for it.
– I have no confidence that Rasheed Wallace or Marcus Camby can stay healthy for the balance of the season. If the Knicks bring in a big man that can provide some defense off the bench, I’d be all for it. I’m not sure I like Kenyon Martin’s personality as a mix in the locker room, but someone else could be a better fit. Jermaine O’Neal has been rumored and it wouldn’t be a terrible move.
– Someone tweeted me and asked if I would trade Tyson Chandler for Josh Smith. To me, Chandler might be the most untradeable person on the team, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. With Dwight Howard hurt, he’s the best defensive big man in the league. Chandler has been inconsistent this year, but I’ll take him over just about anyone else.
– Raymond Felton is one of the people to watch in the second half. We know he makes the offense go, but now he needs to help get the defense where it needs to be with better on the ball ‘D.’ I think he has it in him. We will soon find out.
– All the Knicks are saying the right thing heading out of the All-Star break, talking about better defense and ball movement. I’ve heard all this before. I want to see it.
– I bet the week off will help these two Knicks the most: Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert.
– James White and Steve Novak were equally disappointing at the All-Star Break. I do agree that White got robbed on his two-handed dunk just inside the free throw line. That deserved something in the 47-48 range.
– The more I thought about it over the weekend, the more I like the idea of Smith in the starting lineup. He will spread the floor and give a defensive presence early in games, when the Knicks have struggled. It will also solidify Stoudemire as the go-to man off the bench.
You can follow John on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.
What would convince you to pull the trigger on a Shump trade? Knicks fans, be heard in the comments!