Do the Knicks need A deadline move?

1/15/14 in NBA   |   TonyDhani   |   9 respect

Jan 13, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Iman Shumpert (21) and  Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and Knicks power forward Andrea Bargnani (77) and Knicks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (5) take the court for the final 0.2 seconds of the game during overtime of a game against the Phoenix Suns at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks defeated the Suns 98-96 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsEven with a loss Tuesday night in Charlotte, the Knicks have played exceptionally inspired basketball in 2014. Their winning percentage has jumped from 30% (9-21) to 75% (6-2) in the new year. Aside from the re-emergence of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony elevating his play, the improvement of the Knicks can be tied to a December 27th report that maligned owner James Dolan met privately with the team to tell them no personnel or coaching changes were imminent. Rumors had been swirling in the New York media that coach Mike Woodson was on the hot seat, and shooting guard Iman Shumpert was actively being shopped. The speculation seemed to take perceptible toll on Shumpert, whose play has also improved dramatically in 2014. Dolan’s deft move has had a visible calming effect on the team, which is very surprising for an owner who has a history of poor personnel decisions, managerial meddling, and an inexplicable relationship with Garden pariah Isiah Thomas. As the trade deadline approaches, should Dolan consider reversing course?

Woodson has been criticized for having too long of a rotation and micro-managing lineups from the start of his tenure as head coach. Injuries to Tyson Chandler, Pablo Prigioni, Metta World Peace, and Raymond Felton have largely spared Woodson from the paralysis of choice, but the Knicks are on pace to have their entire lineup healthy within the next 2 to 3 weeks – ahead of the February 20th trade deadline. At full health, the Knicks figure to have to have 12 rotation-quality players:

PG: Felton/Prigioni/Udrih
SG: Shumpert/Hardaway/Smith/Prigioni
SF: Anthony/World Peace/Smith
PF: Bargnani/Stoudemire/Martin/Anthony
C: Chandler/Martin/Bargnani

With the typical NBA rotation at about 9 or 10 players, a logjam is on the horizon. In the backcourt, the development of Hardaway Jr. coupled with the disciplinary troubles of J.R. Smith have thrown shooting guard minutes behind Iman Shumpert up for grabs (Smith was a conspicuous healthy scratch against Charlotte). A further complication in the distribution of backcourt minutes is Woodson’s tendency to play dual point guard lineups. In the frontcourt, the success the Knicks have had with Anthony at power forward creates issues dividing playing time between Bargnani, Stoudemire, Martin, and Chandler. Should the Knicks stay the course of standing pat on their roster or dangle a piece to see if someone bites near the deadline?

Any potential deal has to be weighed against the injury risk on the roster. Stoudemire’s fragility, World Peace’s recent history of knee trouble, and Martin’s age are worrisome factors. Depth is at a premium on the Knicks with so many players that are potential injury risks. However if a team, particularly in the west (thinking Phoenix), thinks they are a piece short of a playoff run, the Knicks should listen. Parting with any draft picks is a non-starter, as the Knicks have already traded away first rounders in 2014 and 2016.

Of course the elephant in the room is Anthony’s free agency. There has been no indication the Knicks are prepared to deal him, save one wild rumor involving a swap for Blake Griffin. If the Knicks can continue their winning ways and make a decent playoff run, Anthony will be swayed to stay. They should be exploring every possible avenue to improve the team, including a deadline trade – even if it goes against a decree from the owner. 
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