COMMENTARY | Through the first half of the NBA season, much has been made about how the New York Knicks have grossly underachieved.
Entering the campaign with title aspirations, things have clearly not gone as planned as the Knicks would find themselves out of the playoffs if the season ended today. Notwithstanding this, and some terrible performances along the way, the news of the Knicks' demise has been far overblown.
Their struggles are not representative of a systematic breakdown like so many other disappointing teams in the Eastern Conference, such as having a terribly mismatched roster (Detroit Pistons), being a bit too old (Brooklyn Nets) or being a bit too young (Cleveland Cavaliers).
Instead, the Knicks' struggles can be easily fixed by addressing two main issues: an unhealthy frontcourt and inconsistent point-guard play. Both of these issues can be addressed in one fell swoop by acquiring Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder. I am not suggesting either a fantasy trade for New York that Oklahoma City would never agree to or something that would not be possible under the NBA's salary-cap rules.
Rather, there is a realistic trade possibility that would both catapult the Thunder into the driver's seat in the Western Conference and position the Knicks to challenge the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat in the East: Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and a future second-round draft pick for Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and the right to swap future first-round draft picks.
Why the Thunder Would Do It
Beyond any doubt, one of the main drags on the Thunder's starting lineup has been Perkins. His general lack of athleticism is not a fit with the fast-paced Thunder. This would be cured tenfold with the addition of Chandler, an athletic rim protector who will provide the team protection when Serge Ibaka strays out of the paint.
Also, any veteran leadership lost with Perkins would be made up for with former NBA champion Changer. At the same time, Shumpert would fill a need for an athletic two-guard and Felton can slide in and provide depth as the backup point guard.
While Westbrook has been out injured, Reggie Jackson has played at an extremely high level and appears ready to take over as the regular starting point guard. This will more than soften the blow of losing Westbrook. Plus, cutting ties with him now would once and for all quiet the "can Kevin Durant and Westbrook co-exist" talk that seems to distract the team every postseason.
Why the Knicks Would Do It
For the Knicks, the benefit is obvious: Westbrook would be by far the best point guard to call Madison Square Garden home since Walt "Clyde" Frazier. He would provide a sense of athleticism that the Knicks desperately need at the position, and create the kind of matchup nightmares they are usually faced with against teams with better point guards.
Perhaps even more importantly, Westbrook's arrival as a bona-fide star would further reduce the already small chance that Carmelo Anthony would leave the Knicks in free agency in the offseason, seeing that Westbrook is currently signed to a long-term deal. Finally, Westbrook would thrive under the bright lights on Broadway with his impeccable style and likable personality.
As great as Chandler has been for the Knicks, the fact remains that they have too many big guys on the roster for too few minutes. With Chandler gone, and once Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin get healthy, head coach Mike Woodson will have reason to employ a small lineup to give many teams trouble with the speed of Westbrook and company. Perkins would essentially be a throw-in but could provide some depth on the Knicks' second unit, which generally does not push the ball much anyways.
Finally, having to give up a first-round draft pick hasn't been an impediment for the Knicks in the past and would certainly not be when it comes to acquiring a superstar like Westbrook.
Assuming that Westbrook is able to return to the court soon, it doesn't make sense for the Knicks not to make a run at him. By acquiring such a superstar point guard, it is clear that the Knicks would quickly shoot towards the top of the Eastern Conference. Not only would that save this season, but it would also go a long way towards keeping Anthony in New York to build a budding dynasty around the two stars.
Del Pearson is a lifelong Knicks follower from Upstate New York. His favorite players of all time are Walt Frazier and Carmelo Anthony. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson44.
- Sports & Recreation
- New York Knicks
- Russell Westbrook