Knicks Target Steve Nash Early In Free Agency

Knicks Call Nash At Midnight, Discuss Sign and Trade

7/1/12 in NBA   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Blog Photo - Knicks Target Steve Nash Early In Free AgencyAs soon as free agency opened at the stroke of midnight, Steve Nash's phone was ringing with the New York Knicks on the line.

The Knicks are limited with what they can spend this offseason, but what they can pitch to Nash is the idea of winning his first NBA championship.

Nash, one of the best players we've seen in the past decade, was somewhat of a late bloomer as a pro, averaging double-digits in assists for the first time when he was 30 years old. However, he's put up incredible numbers since then, averaging 16.3 points on 51% shooting (43.7% from three) and 10.9 assists during his 30's (8 seasons). Nash won back to back MVP awards in 2004-05 and 2005-06, but he's still missing a ring.

Plenty of teams are in need of such a great player's services, and anyone with enough money would likely be willing to spend in the $10-12 million range. The Knicks, however, can't financially afford to give Nash that kind of money.

What the Knicks spoke with Nash about at midnight was the idea of a sign and trade with the Phoenix Suns (Nash's former team) that would send Nash to the Knicks and a few pieces to the Suns, allowing Nash to get a bump in salary compared to if the Knicks signed him off the open market. The Knicks would likely be able to give him something just above $6 million.

Now it's time for the pitch. If the Knicks want Nash to take a $4-6 million pay cut, they've got to give him a reason why it's worth it. That reason is a championship, something that other players in the Nash race (Suns, Raptors, and potentially the Nets if Deron Williams leaves) can't offer.

It was painfully blatant that the biggest thing missing from the Knicks' roster last season was a point guard. Linsanity was nice while it lasted, but we're basing expectations of the kid on a very small sample size. Even when Lin was playing great, turnovers were still a big issue. The front court is stacked, the bench is solid, and Iman Shumpert should improve on a very nice rookie year and give the Knicks a good shooting guard. What's missing is the point guard position.

Here's the Knicks' pitch: With Nash on the floor, you turn one of the most explosive pick and roll players (Amar'e Stoudemire, who Nash played with for several years in Phoenix) back into a deadly offensive weapon. That tandem will be paired with Carmelo Anthony, the league's most versatile scorer who can create a decent shot at any time, bailing out the offense if the pick and roll fails. Alongside those three will be one of the league's top interior presences (and reigning defensive player of the year) Tyson Chandler, and one of the top perimeter on-ball defenders in Iman Shumpert. Nash will also be able to swing it to guys like Steve Novak (the league's most lethal shooter from three) coming off the bench, and won't have to play overwhelming minutes at age 38 due to the presence of Jeremy Lin.

May 3, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) with the defensive player of the year award before game three in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden.  Miami won 87-70.  Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIREThe one concern may be defense. The Knicks don't have great individual defenders. It's basically just Shumpert and Chandler. However, they play fantastic team defense. Tyson Chandler is a centerpiece who can keep players in position while energizing and intimidating in the paint. The Knicks were 11th in opponent points per game last season and 10th in opponent field goal percentage. Those numbers are also a bit skewed by the D'Antoni days, before defensive-minded Mike Woodson took over as head coach.

"But who will guard LeBron James?" Well, the fact of the matter is that LeBron gets his numbers. When the Heat win, he puts up numbers. When the Heat lose, he still puts up numbers. The goal when playing LeBron is containing him, and the Knicks can contain him (27.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists against New York in 8 games last year).

Nash nearly led the Phoenix Suns to the playoffs last year, they missed by three games. Without Nash, the Suns could have competed with the Bobcats for worst team of all-time. That is how much of a difference Nash makes. He makes every player on the court better, and is also one of the best percentage-shooting guards of all time.

I'm not sure how much a championship means to Nash, but if he wants one, he better tell the Raptors to stop calling him and figure out this sign and trade with the Knicks. Keep in mind, the guy has been in the NBA for 16 years, he has money. And while he'll be taking a pay cut, it's not like the Knicks are asking him to play for free. He'll be making over six million dollars.

As a Knicks fan, I'm 99% sure that the Knicks giving Nash a call is just getting my hopes up for no reason, but I think it would be a great move for both sides. The Knicks need a point guard, and the ringless two-time MVP needs a championship. Let's make it happen.
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