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Going to skip the verbal foreplay that normally comes with my articles and get right into this one.

The Knicks (still) want Rondo. No, this is not based on one of the half dozen or so previous reports of the Knicks desires for the Celtics point guard, but instead, a brand new report from Sam Amick of USA Today.

While discussing the Knicks plans before the February 20th deadline, Amick had this to say about New York's Rondo-based dreams.

They know full well that making roster improvements sooner rather than later would increase their chances of Anthony re-signing, meaning the Knicks are known to be on the lookout for a blockbuster-type deal and still are hoping against hope that it involves Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.

Despite the consistent claims from Celtics general manager Danny Ainge that Rondo isn't available, the Knicks have a strong belief that he can be had if – in a nod to another show – the price is right. They can offer the likes of Amar'e Stoudemire (one season remaining after this one, at $23.4 million) while taking future money back (such as Gerald Wallace and/or Jeff Green) and helping Ainge clear the way for the summer of 2015 that is known to be a priority of his. (That summer is a major priority for the Knicks, too, but it appears the Rondo scenario is one of the few, if not the only, where they'd consider the impact of his addition great enough to justify taking on some money from that point on.) The Knicks can include Raymond Felton (a much cheaper point guard option) or Iman Shumpert (rookie contract) and even discuss beloved rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.

Yet what they can't do is offer the sort of draft-pick haul that Ainge covets and that could come his way from somewhere other than New York before the deadline passes. The Knicks don't have a first-round draft pick available to be traded until 2018, and that factor alone will likely be enough to keep their Rondo dreams from coming true. Remember this, too: If Ainge is going to do something with Rondo, his colleagues tend to think he'd wait until the very last minute before the deadline to do so.

This report got me thinking. We, myself included, have laughed off the Knicks as a potential Rondo suitor all season, and with good reason. New York cannot trade a draft pick until 2018 (LOL), and they're not exactly overflowing with young talent. And it's going to be just about impossible to pry Rondo away from the Celtics without at least one, if not both of those things.

But what if New York literally offered all of their assets, plus gave the Celtics huge long term cap relief? Would that be enough?

I used the trade machine to come up with what I figure is the absolute best offer New York could drum up. Here's what I found.

Boston trades: Rajon Rondo, Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green

New York trades: Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr, 2018 1st round pick, 2020 1st round pick, right to swap 1st round picks in 2017 and 2019.

If you're going to trade a star like Rondo, you need to get back some combination of the following three things:

1. Salary cap relief

2. Draft picks

3. Young talent

So how would this deal satisfy the Celtics in each of those areas?

1. Cap relief - Boston would save $2.4 million in 2013-14 (38% of the $6.2 million difference in outgoing salaries), $5 million in 2014-15, and then an unknown amount in 2015-16. The 2015-16 is unknown because Green can opt-out, but the Celtics would be shedding Wallace's $10.1 million albatross at the very least, with Green's potential $9.2 million cap hit coming off the books as well. The only guy coming from New York that is under contract is Hardaway Jr. at $1.3 million, which means the Celtics would be saving anywhere between $8.8-$17 million BEFORE we get into Rondo's $15+ million cap hit once he signs an extension. So this deal would basically hit the re-set button on Boston's books. Of course, they'd also be getting rid of their best player, and free agents don't exactly line up to come to Boston, cap space or no cap space.

2. Draft picks - New York can't offer an actual pick until 2018, which is a huge deal and the main reason why a deal for Rondo is unlikely. Draft picks 4-6 years in the future have a lot less value than picks in 2014/15 (obviously), but picks in 2018/2020 are not exactly valueless. They are still chips to be used in future trades, or to eventually add to whatever talent the Celtics have at the latter part of the decade. New York could also offer the right to swap picks in 2017 and 2019, giving the Celts some lottery tickets just in case the Melo-Rondo run goes awry. We have no idea what the Knicks will look like a few years down the road, but knowing James Dolan a dumpster fire at MSG is always a possibility.

3. Young talent - Meh. Shumpert is only 23, but a lot of the shine is off. After a promising rookie season he tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, and nothing has been quite right since. He struggled last season, and then underwent another knee surgery during the summer. Now in his third season, he's awful on the offensive end (6.9 PPG, 38% FG, 9.7 PER) and with only 1.3 seasons remaining on his rookie deal, he'll have a chance to hit free agency after next season. That means he'll either keep sucking (and have no value), or show his rookie season explosiveness (and get expensive before the Celtics are good again). He also plays the same position and is a very similar (although worse) player to Avery Bradley. He's a chip, but not a great one.

Hardaway Jr. on the other hand is in Year 1 of his rookie deal, and is under control for 3.3 more seasons for a grand total of $5.2 million. He's been very good this season, averaging 9.3 PPG in only 20 MPG, shooting 46% from the field and 40% from three. But much like he was in college, the soon to be 22-year-old is one dimensional. He's a scorer, and not much else. Still, he's talented and extremely cheap until 2017, making him a definite chip for a rebuilding team.

Bottom line: This is the absolute best offer the Knicks can put on the table, and I'm still turning it down if I'm Ainge. Salary cap relief is nice, but the Celtics are not in salary cap hell as it is. Using Rondo as a way to go from having $40 million in cap space in 2015, to having $49-58 million in space doesn't seem like the best way to use your best trade chip.

If you're dealing Rondo, you need either a legit young stud or a lottery pick in 2014 (or multiple draft picks over the next few seasons + young talent). In this deal you get one good young player with limitations, one so-so young player and a couple of picks half a decade away. It's not a completely embarrassing offer (like the Mavs rumor of Shawn Marion and Shane Larkin earlier this season), but it's just not worth it if you're Boston. Rondo is not 33 years old, he's 27 (soon to be 28), and can absolutely be part of the future of this team. And if a team wants to pry him away from the Celtics, they'll need to offer up more than the Knicks can.

RELATED

Report: Knicks still want Rajon Rondo, Celtics uninterested, unlikely to deal him before deadline

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Michael Dyer 2/08/2014 02:45:00 PM Edit
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