In an intriguing three-team, six-player trade Monday night, Dion Waiters was dealt to Oklahoma City, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert were traded to Cleveland, and Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson and Lance Thomas were sent to New York.
Additionally, the Thunder sent a protected future first-round pick to Cleveland, which send its 2019 second-round pick to the Knicks.
Can we use the word “desperate” to describe what the Cavs and Thunder did in trading with the Knicks this week?
“That was the word that I used with all three of those teams,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on Tiki and Tierney. “I think there are different variations of the term desperate. Obviously the Knicks are bottoming out. They’re looking to the future. That’s one type of desperation.
“The Cavs are not living up to their potential and the tremendous expectations, so they felt they had to make a move and get more athletic on the wing and get somebody who can give them some scoring off the bench. And they hope that Shumpert and J.R. Smith will give them that.
“And then OKC, with the injury troubles they’ve been through with (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant, they’re still not in a position where they can feel they’re pretty much a lock to get in the playoffs. So they needed to bring in a guy like Dion Waiters, and they felt like they needed to do that so much that they went into the luxury tax for the first time in their history.
“So yeah, different levels of desperation, different motivations. But that’s the magic sometimes of NBA trades. Different possibilities and priorities kind of come together even though all three teams are coming from a different place.”
But wait, did the Knicks actually think it was wise to trade for Smith, who has been a volatile, mercurial headache for the vast majority of his career? Couldn’t his mere presence be a problem for a franchise gunning for an NBA title?
“It could,” Berger said. “And it’s yet another challenge on David Blatt’s plate. He’s got enough going on already, and now he has to try to rein in J.R. Smith. So I think it’s going to be both. It’s going to be a little bit on the coach on the floor, and in the locker room it’s going to be on LeBron to kind of set the tone and let him know what his role is, what’s expected – and hopefully they get it out of him.”
Smith, 29, is averaging 10.9 points per game this season – his lowest since 2005-06. He’s also shooting just 40.2 percent from the floor – also his lowest since 2005-06.
“The thing with J.R., he’s been so erratic both in his game and in between his ears sometimes that you worry about him,” Berger said. “But in the past, when he has been on good teams – when he was on a good team in Denver and when the Knicks were good a couple years ago – he’s been pretty productive. And so, that’s what Cleveland hopes they get out of him now.”