Free Agency 2012: New York Knicks Emerge As Favorites for Steve Nash

Jan 18, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash (13) moves the ball as New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert (21) defends during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

It’s no secret that the New York Knicks have been in pursuit of Steve Nash since Mike D’Antoni took over as coach in 2010.  And though Mike Woodson took over for Nash’s favorite head coach in Phoenix mid-way through last season, New York’s desire to acquire him remains.  Conventional wisdom said the Knicks were on the outside looking in on the Nash free agent sweepstakes this off-season, though, as they lack the requisite cap room it would take to sign a player of his caliber.  That thinking was only furthered in the last several days when the Toronto Raptors went harder than anyone imagined after their native son, offering Nash a three year deal worth 36 million dollars.  Though Toronto is hardly a championship contender, Nash’s Canadian basketball connections are limitless and combined with such rich money, it seemed likely he’d sign with the Raptors.

That all changed yesterday, though, as reports began to surface that the Knicks suddenly emerged as the leader for his services and Nash’s preference was to play for the organization closest to his favorite off-season home in SoHo.  Despite that no trade is imminent, sources say, and the main hold-up is whether or not New York is willing to offer a sign and trade package featuring second-year guard Iman Shumpert.  The Suns, understandably, want something of present and future value in return for their franchise centerpiece, and Shumpert – his first-round ACL tear and all – is by far the best piece the Knicks might ultimately be willing to offer.  Whether or not three years of a 40 year-old Nash is worth the steep price of Shumpert and any cal flexibility whatsoever is what New York has to consider here.

Putting Nash next to the Knicks’  Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire would no doubt mend many of the offensive wounds presented by the duo’s redundancy and lack of spacing and ball-movement, and given the stark improvement they made last year on defense behind Tyson Chandler, it’s easy to imagine the Knicks developing into a two-way force with Nash in tow.  The big question, of course, is whether that would be enough to unseat Miami as the favorite in the Eastern Conference.  The quick, easy, and correct answer is no, but this is an organization that’s always dreamed irrationally big in the present, even at the expense of the future.  Nash is the now, Shumpert is the then – if both sides want it badly enough, the Knicks will surrender their most promising prospect to the Suns and Nash will be wearing blue and orange come October.

Is that the right choice? No, Nash isn’t enough to push this flawed group to a championship and acquiring him limits the team’s long-term future.  But does it jive with the direction owner James Dolan and the Knicks have been diving into headfirst the last two years? Absolutely yes, and that’s enough to believe this deal will ultimately get done.