Now that the Knicks (5-32) have jettisoned J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert -- and released center Samuel Dalembert -- they have now essentially rid themselves of any real thoughts of postseason play.
Sure, they were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference before these moves -- and in the midst of a 12-game losing streak -- but it's still the lesser of two conferences, so the playoffs still could've been in reach if they went on a couple of win streaks. But with Phil Jackson's most recent roster purge, make no mistake that New York has officiallyentered the tanking race -- whether the team will publicly admit it or not.
Jackson himself noted this was a move for the future, as it saves even more cap space for the valued 2015 and 2016 free agent classes, and puts the Knicks in the running for a high pick in the 2015 draft.
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Simply put, Jacksonultimately decided that if he's already losing with guys who have bloated contracts. Why havethem around to clog up the rotation? Might as well give more playing time to youngsters like Tim Hardaway Jr., Cole Aldrich, and Cleanthony Early.
Jackson sent his two swingmen to Cleveland on Monday for two trade exceptions he has a year to use, a 2019 second-round pick, forward Lance Thomas ($948,000), an extra $6.4 million in 2015 cap space -- and the aforementioned increased chance of nabbing a player like prized Duke center Jahlil Okafor with the No. 1 overall pick. By also waivingDalembert, it saved the team an extra $2 million, meaning Knicks fans will see plenty of unknowns and journeymen on the Garden floor.
The new look will reportedly start by bringing up D-Leaguers from their Westchester Knicks farm-team, like point guard Langston Galloway, who will likely be signed to a 10-day contract.
Jackson will have one more roster spot to fill once they waive trade throw-ins Lou Amundson ($1.31 million) and Alex Kirk ($500,000), creating even more salary cap space and rostermaneuverability.
The Knicks now have just four players under contract next season (Carmelo Anthony, Hardaway, Early, and Jose Calderon), as well as upwards of $30 million in cap space.
New York is third in the NBA this season with a payroll of $81.7 million -- but it dips to $34.16 million next season. They also have the privilege of having two of the top-four highest players in the league -- Anthony ($22.458 million) and Amar'e Stoudemire ($23.41 million).
That's a lot of money tied into a player that may get shut down for the season, and another who hasn't played a full season during his Knicks' tenure.
Here's a look at three players the Knicks could also move before the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
1. Andrea Bargnani -- He was brought to New York with such great promise, as he's a big (7-footer) who could stretch the floor all the way to the 3-point line. But he hasn't been able to find his shooting stroke, and is always injured. Thus, he and his $12 million cap figure are very expendable.
2. Jason Smith -- He's another big body that was used in Derek Fisher's big-man rotation that included Dalembert and Aldrich. But he's not a piece considered for the long haul in New York. And with a $3.278 price tag, he's also a desirable cap-space trade bait.
3. AmareStoudemire -- His expiring contract is the Holy Grail, because his numbers come off the books next season. But he's also still good enough to help a contender because, when healthy, he'd be a great sixth-man and quality locker room guy. It'll be difficult to find a taker for either him or Bargnani -- especially since Jackson would only want draft picks or expiring contracts in return. But should the Knicks be able to pull off the impossible, all of this tanking and purging could be worth it if the summers of '15 and '16 pan out the way it's being planned.