After swapping Kevin Knox and a heavily protected 2022 1st-Rounder for Cam Reddish, Solomon Hill, and a 2025 2nd-rounder, subsequent action appears inbound. Exchanging a player primarily outside of the rotation for Reddish, who garners immediate minutes, increases the talent pool while adding rotational clutter. A corresponding move looms; there are not enough minutes to go around at the wing position. Injuries to Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker make the future rotation even murkier. A couple of different routes exist for the Knicks moving forward. Let’s analyze the trade landscape and how it pertains to the Knicks’ assets.
Leon Rose has been plotting a big-game hunt since the day he assumed his role as President of Basketball Operations. While he hasn’t caught anything yet, Rose has not yet pulled the trigger either. Rose and Company have been accumulating assets and waited, like the rest of the league, for a premiere star to become available. The scenario doesn’t seem impossible, but it’s likely a few years away.
Damian Lillard is probably out for the remainder of the season and hasn’t shown any indication of wanting out of Portland. PLEASE!!! Stop falling for click-bait until you hear a trade request from his mouth.
Donavan Mitchell, a native New Yorker, and avid Mets fan is a far more likely proposition. He appears to be the perfect candidate; a couple more disappointing playoff exits and who knows...for now though, we wait.
Zion is an interesting notion, especially considering the acquisition of Reddish. Looming factors will greatly impact the 2021 All-Star’s future; two specific variables hold enormous impact: Zion’s willingness to leverage the 5th year qualifying offer and the Pelicans’ desire to offer the max rookie extension. Either side could spook the other away; it’s likely they will agree on the max rookie extension. The Pels are simply too fearful of losing the star power, while Zion has too much injury history to deny the financial insurance. It is likely to be at least 3 years away from Zion making his way to New York. Blindly assuming Zion has tunnel vision of playing at MSG, his increasingly growing health concerns subside and that the David Griffin-run Pelicans continue their downward spiral, it would probably be two years into the extension deal where Zion could request a trade. Still a ways away.
Ben Simmons. I would love the defense...but no. Sorry, he couldn't last with Philly, it's not gonna fare any better in NYC’s environment.
The elusive big-name superstar continues to tantalize from a distance. We’ll get our day...hopefully.
Widening the lens, the trade market is incredibly buyer-heavy, at the moment at least. Limited teams are openly shopping players, even fewer who can be categorized as highly impactful talent.
it's plausible to assume the next talent-rung down of players will attract a boost in value as the deadline approaches. The saturation of buyer-heavy teams will likely lend itself to overbids; Leon Rose hasn't overpaid in any trades so far. I just imagine Brock Aller as the Hinkie-like angel over Leon’s shoulder, whispering about asset management while the red-faced devil, Thibs, screaming demands more veterans.
Mirroring last year's Derrick Rose trade, Leon has already secured a higher-caliber player in Cam Reddish early in the trade season at limited expense.
The Knicks have held a reported interest in a variety of players who got into the upper echelon of this year’s trade-deadline pool who may garner inflated trade offers. Jerami Grant, Myles Turner, and Jalen Brunson would each supply an impactful fit, but I question if our package could match that of the competitive landscape around the NBA.
Persisting factors give us the upper hand in trade negotiations:
Near the bottom of the league in team salary, the Knicks are timely positioned to capitalize on the surplus of teams above the luxury tax threshold who endeavor to shed salary. We’ve seen moves from teams desperate to shed cap already: the Rajon Rondo trade and the Bucks cutting Boogie Cousins.
Mitchell Robinson is arguably the Knicks’ greatest trade asset for this rationale. At such a low salary, contending teams can offload larger contracts and still get a talented player in return. I love Mitch more than most but he is an unrestricted free agent this summer; if his value garners a substantial offer, it may not be the worst course of action for the former 2nd-rounder.
Underperforming teams over the luxury tax are especially incentivized to wiggle their way below the tax. The Knicks have already capitalized on the Hawks’ desire to move below the tax; taking on Solomon Hill certainly played a role in the trade’s completion.
A duo of teams in similar situations stands out: the Celtics and Blazers. Portland, who's sitting well below where they hoped in the standings, may search to offload their complementary assets and take a shift towards youth at the deadline. Whether it’s a player of McCollum’s caliber or Larry Nance’s, the Blazers could look to capitalize off the market in a lost season because of Lillard’s abdominal injury. The Celtics’ main culprit for trade is Dennis Schroeder; he likely won’t be retained this off-season by the Cs and offloading his salary would move Boston below the tax threshold. While I doubt they would ship him to an Eastern Conference rival, who knows…the Knicks had an interest in Schroeder this offseason.
Rebuilding teams may also present enticing options; it's well known Orlando’s Terrence Ross and Houston’s Eric Gordon are available. Gordon’s teammate, Christian Wood could also be another option to satisfy for Knicks’ apparent desire for a stretch 5. Though he possesses an injury history, he is at a reasonable salary number with incredible talent.
I don't believe it's likely, but the idea of the Knicks becoming sellers at this deadline isn’t outside the realm of possibility either. If the team hits a poor stretch, it's feasible that Leon Rose could move off some vets and force an infusion of youth onto Thibs. We’ve seen the majority of transactions from the current Knicks brass completed simply for asset management. Not a rebuild by any stretch, but if the team dips in standings and the inflated market yields sizable offers for players like Noel, Burks, and Mitch, it may be in the Knicks’ best interest to capitalize.
In truth, we can only speculate what Knicks management will do next. Don't expect a trade for a star to happen at this deadline, but don’t plan on mere tinkering around the edges either. The reality will likely lie somewhere in between...let’s see you work some more magic, Leon.