recently returned from a long-term knee injury. (Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images)
By Ben Golliver
Would the Knicks trade a fan favorite on an incredibly affordable contract in the middle of their best season in recent memory?
One would think not, but multiple reports Saturday indicated that the Knicks and Suns have discussed a trade that would center around New York guard Iman Shumpert and Phoenix forward Jared Dudley.
Yahoo! Sports reported the discussions.
As the Phoenix Suns try to reshuffle their roster for the future, their front office remains motivated to try to acquire New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. The Suns are willing to give New York a package that includes forward Jared Dudley and possibly a future first-round pick for Shumpert, but the Knicks have so far shown no inclination to do such a deal, sources said.
After regretting they passed on Shumpert in the 2011 NBA draft, the Suns pushed the Knicks to include him in sign-and-trade scenarios discussed for Steve Nash in July. In the past week, the Suns have scouted Shumpert in person, sources said.
HoopsWorld.com also reported talks between the two teams.
Source says Suns initiated Jared Dudley for Iman Shumpert trade talks. The Knicks are considering it. Other players/picks would be included. As I said last night, the Knicks are interested in Jared Dudley. However, they're hesitant to part ways with Iman Shumpert.
Dudley, 27, is averaging 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game for the rebuilding Suns.
Shumpert, 22, is averaging 5.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists for the Knicks this season. He returned less than one month ago from an ACL injury that he suffered during the 2012 playoffs.
New York would need to send out at least one more player to make the salaries match so that the trade could be legally completed.
The Knicks are currently 32-16 and in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. Any move they make involving a rotation piece between now and the Feb. 21 trade deadline would need to qualify as an absolute home run to be worth it. Shumpert, a 2011 first-round pick, proved to be a solid perimeter defender in his rookie season. He's young, hungry and on a subsidized rookie deal through at least 2014-15. For a team with an $80+ million payroll, that combination is priceless.
Before you laugh off this trade concept, consider that Dudley would be a good fit in New York basketball-wise. He's known as a solid vet and glue player who works hard on both ends and doesn't need the ball to contribute on offense. Dudley is a solid three-point shooter, too, knocking down 39.1 percent of his attempts this season. Much of New York's success this season can be attributed to the deep ball.
The hang-up would seem to be Dudley's contract, which runs through 2015-16 at more than $4 million a year. Make no mistake, Dudley is well worth what he's being paid, but the Knicks have already burned their amnesty clause on Chauncey Billups and have multi-year, big-dollar contracts on the books for Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler. They also have multi-year deals going to the likes of Steve Novak, Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. Acquiring Dudley without shedding other salaries will simply add to an already large luxury tax bill. Taking him on given those circumstances would amount to a bet that he is capable of putting them over the top as a championship contender this season or next. Otherwise, the price would seem to be prohibitive.
After parting ways with coach Alvin Gentry, Phoenix has the worst record in the Western Conference and is clearly headed for a long-term rebuild. Attempting to exchange larger future salary commitments for young prospects makes all the sense in the world, especially when Dudley's game is better suited to a playoff team rather than a perennial lottery-bound squad. Given his proven abilities and nice upside, Shumpert would be an excellent building block for the Suns. Timing-wise, though, Phoenix is at a leverage disadvantage. Contenders generally aren't looking to rock the boat this time of year and everyone assumes that if the Suns are shopping players now, those same players will still be available in the summer.
The questions facing the Suns, then, are two-fold: How much do they need to sweeten the pot to make this worth the Knicks' while and is that a price they will be comfortable paying?