The New York Knicks had hoped to compete with the likes of the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers for an Eastern Conference title but are near the bottom of the conference instead of the top. Heading into the weekend, their 6-15 record was good for next to last in the East and things haven’t been going according to plan in the Big Apple. Meanwhile, if the season ended today, the Raptors would be only a game out from the No. 8 spot. At 7-13, though, they have plenty of room for improvement, too. It only makes sense that both teams have been the subject of a few trade rumors this season.
Toronto’s Kyle Lowry is one of the better point guards known to be readily available. He’s been a good player for the team, but with his contract up after this year, his expiring contract is an attractive option for other teams.
That’s not the only reason Lowry is a desirable player. He’s having one of his better years, averaging career highs in points (14.6) and assists (6.7) per game this season. Lowry is an above average defender, too, as his career-high 1.8 steals this season will attest, and he ranks seventh in the Eastern Conference in that category. He is also a solid rebounder for a point guard, hauling in nearly four per game and when you add it all up, he is a capable starter in the league.
With Raymond Felton struggling, it makes sense for the Knicks to pursue Lowry. At what cost, though?
The two teams have been discussing a trade but it may have fallen through. According to the New York Daily Times, the Knicks almost bit on a deal to send Felton, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, and either Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway, Jr., or a first-round pick in exchange for Lowry. Owner James Dolan reportedly is having second thoughts on the deal.
While Shumpert’s value has taken a hit as he hasn’t improved much over his promising rookie year, at only 23, he still has plenty of time to get better. Hardaway, Jr. not only has pedigree, but has shown a real ability to become a viable scorer in the league. In his rookie season, he’s not only scoring eight points in only 17 minutes of action per game, but he’s shooting above 46 percent from the field. It’s early in his career, but he looks like a good one. In addition to one of those two players, Artest is still a veteran that can contribute even though his skills are in decline.
The deal might seem to favor Toronto, but it isn’t entirely lopsided. For starters, Lowry would be an upgrade offensively and defensively over Felton. He’s also younger and has the expiring contract, which could be attractive to the Knicks if they want to blow the team up next year and start over in free agency. That said, Dolan would be better off dealing Shumpert than Hardaway, Jr. or the draft pick, if he can get away with it. Even though he doesn’t do much more than score, Hardaway just looks like the player with the better long-term outlook at this point and trading away a first-round pick is never a good idea.
It’s easy to see why Dolan is having second thoughts. While Lowry does score and rebound more than Felton, he also plays more averaging nearly five minutes more per game. The two players also have a nearly identical assist-to-turnover ratio and both struggle with their shots (Felton makes 39.4 percent of his shots to Lowry’s 41.9 percent). There’s also the spotlight to consider. Playing in New York with all the pressure in the world is a more difficult task than suiting up in Toronto where Lowry really has little pressure to do much of anything. There’s no guarantee that he’ll have the same success playing Madison Square Garden where more will be expected of him.
This deal has stalled for now, but don’t be surprised if it goes through in some form. NBC Sports says that Toronto is also fielding offers from the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors, so New York may eventually give in before a deal with one of those teams can be reached. Dolan’s frustration with the Knicks has to be at an all-time high and a move or two will almost surely happen by the deadline. The only question is, how much does New York want to give up?