For the first time in nearly a decade, the New York Knicks' roster is close to perfect. All 15 blue-and-orange clad servicemen are able-bodied and willing to compete for their leader, head coach Mike Woodson. Every Knick, from Carmelo Anthony to James White, has contributed to the team's 27-15 record.
Unlike every February since the Isiah Thomas era, the Knicks likely already have their optimal group of 15. But there's always room for improvement.
While it's not likely that Glen Grunwald commits to any major overhaul of the team's roster in-season—the team's most successful season in close to 20 years—this conversation would be deficient if we didn't touch on the scenarios that could station the Knicks at the top of NBA trending topics for as long as such lists exist.
Amar'e Stoudemire to the Los Angeles Lakers for Pau Gasol
Odds: Slim to None
It makes sense on the surface. Pau Gasol and Amar'e Stoudemire have both been demoted to reserve roles on their respective teams. Their salaries match up. Stoudemire would be reunited with the head coach he enjoyed his greatest success under, as well as with Steve Nash, the maestro during his pick-and-roll prime as a Phoenix Sun.
Realistically, this deal is probably as done as it will ever be.
Most importantly, and rather unexpectedly, Stoudemire appears healthy and dominant in his bench duty on the Knicks. He's graciously accepted his new capacity and is helping the Knicks win simply by being a piece to the 15-man puzzle.
Gasol, conversely, didn't take a liking to his recent rank-reduction in La La Land. “It’s hard for anybody who considers themselves one of the top players in the world to say, ‘Okay, I’m okay with coming off the bench,’" Gasol said, according to CBS Sports.
As previously stated, the Knicks won't likely be inclined to shift any major pieces during the season. The same might be said for Los Angeles now, too. Following their 105-96 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, they could be on a winning track as well.
Gasol has expressed that he will play out the season as a Laker, putting any trade conversation on the back burner. The forward's compliance is the final nail in the coffin for this deal that was never likely to get off the ground anyway.
Chris Paul Finally Forcing His Way to New York
Odds: Basically Zero
It's hard to erase the memory of Chris Paul's infamous toast at then-Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony's 2010 wedding in New York City. “We’ll form our own Big Three,” Paul said, referring to the ultimate alignment of stars at the Garden between newly-signed Amar'e Stoudemire, Anthony (who would be traded to the Knicks seven months later) and himself.
Paul is now—at least temporarily—a happy Los Angeles Clipper. The game's top point guard seems to get more comfortable with each tossed lob in the building that's seen a changing of the guard—a change that he's largely responsible for.
We don't know exactly how meaningful Paul's words were at the 2010 reception, and after all, there's been a lot in the last 31 months to sway his view.
But then there was this:
Jared Zwerling @JaredZwerling
Melo & Chris Paul walked through media room here in Vegas & Melo said, referring to CP3, "You'll see him in NY in a couple years."(smiling).7/11/2012, 10:05:25 PM
Still, there's been no real evidence from Paul that he'll be leaving Lob City when his current deal expires after the season, except for various I'll-weight-all-my-options type statements.
The only way for New York to obtain Paul would be via trade, since the Knicks won't have the cap room to sign him outright, and sign-and-trade deals (like the one that brought 'Melo to the Big Apple) are now nearly extinct under the new CBA.
Any trade involving the Knicks and Paul would likely have to be a deal involving three or four teams, as New York alone likely wouldn't be able to provide the Clippers with their presumably and righteously sky-high asking price.
But due to the extended silence on the Paul trade front for over a calendar year, it's safe to assume he won't be going anywhere. A long-term deal will likely be worked out in Los Angeles, and the duo of Paul and Blake Griffin should reign the Staples Center long after Kobe Bryant exits the game.
Now that we've settled the more outrageous moves the Knicks could (but won't) pull the trigger on, let's focus on some feasible options for Grunwald's New York squad.
Minnesota's Lou Amundson to New York in exchange for Ronnie Brewer
Odds: 65 Percent
With Iman Shumpert recovered from knee surgery and back on the MSG hardwood, the Knicks' need for Ronnie Brewer is essentially gone. Brewer was signed on the league minimum salary to act as a stop-gap until Shumpert's return.
His most recent appearance consisted of a five-second stint to close out the first half against the Atlanta Hawks. This is generally the type of burn he sees nowadays, thanks to Shumpert's return and to a dramatic drop-off in production since the season's first month.
For New York, especially with Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace's health statuses largely mysteries, they could use some help defensively in the paint. Luckily, the Minnesota Timberwolves are paying a defensive-minded forward the league-minimum to sit on their sideline.
Lou Amundson signed with Minnesota on a one-year deal after most teams passed on the California native until the conclusion of the summer. He's appeared in just 19 games in 2012-13 and played only eight minutes on average.
Amundson doesn't provide much on the offensive side of the floor, but neither does Brewer. A swap would be beneficial for both clubs, as the Knicks would be receiving a post-defender, and Minnesota would be getting a solid defender to add to their injury-riddled backcourt.
Milwaukee's Mike Dunleavy to New York in exchange for Steve Novak
Odds: 55 Percent
Last year's three-point king, Steve Novak, isn't enjoying the same success he ran into last season. He's still shooting lights-out from downtown—his 44 percent clip is third league-wide—but the shooter is suffering from a different issue in 2012-13. He can't get a shot off.
Teams have learned how to play the sharpshooter, and his attempts have dramatically decreased in the last year.
He's averaging just 4.6 three-point attempts per game and just three in his last nine games. Compare those numbers to last season; once he entered the Knicks' rotation full-time, Novak was launching 6.1 per contest, according to Basketball-Reference. He's knocked them down at a 48 percent mark during his most recent stretch but only for 4.9 points per contest.
A trade to the Milwaukee Bucks would be a homecoming for the Wisconsin-bred Novak. It could be a storybook reunion for the Bucks who are in the midst of a playoff push, and it'd be a smart business decision as well. Novak is arguably the most lethal long-range threat in the NBA and is under an affordable contract through the next three seasons.
In return, the Knicks would be receiving a player who can stroke it from three—although with a bit less success than Novak—and who is dangerous in more areas than Novak. Dunleavy is a solid offensive player off the dribble and can contribute better team defense than Novak.
Swapping shooters would also free some money off the books for New York, as Dunleavy's contract expires after this season.
Los Angeles Clippers' Ronny Turiaf to New York in exchange for Kurt Thomas and James White
Odds: 40 Percent
Going back to New York's troubles with rebounding and defending the paint, the Clippers currently employ an old friend who could help the Knicks in their weakest department.
Ronny Turiaf averages under 12 minutes per game for the sizable Clippers. He signed there last summer on a one-year, league-minimum deal following a stint last year with the Miami Heat and could benefit from a change of scenery.
The Knicks could offer an athletic James White to the Clippers, who certainly fits the mold of their run-and-gun, "Lob City" approach. New York could also throw in Kurt Thomas to assume Turiaf's rare minutes, while also doing right by the 17-year veteran and putting him in a winning situation.
This season, Turiaf sports a D-rating of 101 (per Basketball-Reference), which would place him second on the Knicks. He previously played in the Big Apple under Mike D'Antoni during the 2010-11 season.
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