With the NBA trade deadline fast approaching on March 25th, one of the sports’ most iconic franchises in the New York Knicks is exceeding expectations and staying competitive. For the first time since 2013, they have a real chance of making one of the eight playoff seeds. Certainly, they have a good shot of being at worst a play-in team, at the 9th or 10th seed. Coach of the year candidate Tom Thibodeau has galvanized a real unity in this team and they show remarkable fight every night. However, injuries and recent close losses have shown that the Knicks should be in the market for possible deadline day moves.
With the changing expectations, many feel the Knicks need to adjust and take advantage of the opportunity. The Knicks are light at the guard spot. This has been further exacerbated with Derrick Rose not playing since Feb. 28th due to testing positive for COVID-19. There is good news on the horizon, however as he is due back this week. Elfrid Payton the only other starting point guard on the roster, has been out with a hamstring injury. Off-guard rookie sensation Immanuel Quickley has also missed time recently.
These battling Knicks have willed themselves through games. Often relying on Alec Burks to keep them afloat at guard as well as Julius Randle who every day is proving what a leader he is. Randle is handling an extraordinary offensive load and is the heart and soul of their resurgence. Teams are beginning to key-up on him though, and are packing the paint. A consistent three-point threat would help to offset this and help the team offensively, allowing Randle to flourish.
Let’s look at their possible deadline day moves while discussing the potential pros and cons and possible asking price.
New York Knicks Possible Deadline Day Moves to Boost Playoff Shot
Evan Fournier- (Shooting Guard/Small Forward), Orlando Magic
Evan Fournier is a top-level shooter, can create shots for himself off the dribble. Also, he’s averaging a career-high 19.1 points per game this year for the Orlando Magic. His 45% shooting from the field and 38% from three-point range is in line with much of his career averages. He would represent everything the Knicks are lacking in perimeter scoring.
He isn’t known for his defense, and with the fact he is an upcoming free agent, the Knicks may not wish to give up the kind of assets it would take to acquire him from the Magic as he would not be available on the cheap.
Lonzo Ball- (Point Guard), New Orleans Pelicans
New York desperately needs a point guard with excellent court vision and a threat from the perimeter. Lonzo Ball is a much-improved player from the outside- .375 to .385% from last year to this year. So too his scoring has gone up from 11.8 to 14.2 points per game. Perhaps the biggest upgrade is his free throw shooting- improving from a poor 56% last year to a solid 76%. He’s clearly an improving player at 23 years old showing plenty of upside. As a restricted free agent this offseason, reports are that he would be very interested in New York as a free agency destination. When assessing their possible deadline day moves, this trade would make the most sense for them in the short and long-term.
His father is very outspoken and has already spoken out this week saying he wants his son out of New Orleans and he has been critical of the way the Pelicans have used him. Lonzo is not in the kind of rush to leave according to reports. Furthermore, as of yesterday, reports have surfaced of a trade offer from the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls who are the current favorites to acquire Ball in a trade. It won’t be cheap to land Ball, it is believed they are looking at a young player and a quality lottery pick or two in exchange. Essentially, this trade is for the right to match an offer sheet in restricted free agency. It currently appears Atlanta or Chicago have the current leg-up on acquiring him.
A hypothetical trade of say Kevin Knox and the Knicks-owned Dallas 2021 may pick be enough to land Ball. The Knicks may wish to wait until free agency instead of giving up a 2021 pick in a loaded draft.
JJ Redick (Shooting Guard), New Orleans Pelicans
This may be the most likely route the Knicks go down. JJ Redick will be cheap to acquire, he has a house in Brooklyn, so he has ties to the tri-state area. He’s a buy-out candidate anyway, as the Pelicans are sellers at the deadline so a playoff team can acquire Redick.
He’s an elite shooter despite being 36 years old. He had terrific years in 2018/19 averaging 18 points per game and 19/20 where he shot an impressive 45% from three-point range. This deal would provide instant offense to a team desperately in need of an injection of perimeter scoring and solid ball handling.
His numbers have declined this year as he’s getting older, and his defense has been poor posting a net minus at the defensive end. Defense is what this Knicks team under Thibodeau is known for, so he perhaps isn’t a fit for this reason.
A second-round pick or two can land Redick plus perhaps a young player to sweeten the deal.
Andre Drummond (Center), Cleveland Cavaliers
A big bruising dominating center, Andre Drummond is an old-school throwback of dominance in the paint and always among the league leaders in rebounds at both ends of the floor. New York has long had an interest in him.
Pairing him with Julius Randle is a very difficult scenario to envision as to how they would fit together. Randle, while good from range, is dominant in the paint, so the paint area would be clogged with Drummond. Plus, the Knicks are strong at the center spot with Taj Gibson and Nerlens Noel providing elite defense this year. Mitchell Robinson who is one of the quality young centers, and better shot blockers in the league, is just coming back from injury so there probably isn’t a need here. He also simply doesn’t answer any of the Knicks’ needs at play-making and shooting.
His massive contract is inhibiting Cleveland from getting an offer that befits one of the better centers in the league, so he too is a buy-out candidate particularly from the Los Angeles Lakers or Brooklyn Nets as they compete for a title. He can be had for a relatively cheap second-round pick or a first-round pick down the line if a team is willing to absorb his contract. Few teams can absorb his salary without giving up significant players in exchange. The Knicks can but aren’t a good fit here.
Charlotte Hornets Guard Surplus – Devonte’ Graham or Terry Rozier
This is a question because Charlotte is very much in the running for a playoff spot competing with the Knicks for one of the latter spots, so it would be doubtful if the Hornets would wish to strengthen the Knicks. Also as it turns out this week, rookie star point guard LaMelo Ball has reportedly fractured his wrist which would potentially cost him the rest of the season. Charlotte had a surplus of guards, and prior to the injury, there was a chance that perhaps one of them would be moved, particularly Devonte’ Graham. Due to Ball’s injury, it now appears unlikely unless they choose to be sellers due to the injury.
Graham is a restricted free agent in the off-season so Charlotte may wish to test the market unless they wish to re-sign him. He can handle the ball and shoot and play either guard spot and would be an upgrade for the Knicks at guard. Terry Rozier has the ball-handling and the ability to score which would be terrific for the Knicks. Rozier has had a tremendous year averaging over 20 points per game, and 42% from three. He also has one more year left on his deal after this one.
No real downside to acquiring Rozier, but the Ball injury makes this deal extremely unlikely, as Charlotte will rely on him to carry the load. As for Graham, he is likely looking at an increased role with Ball’s injury.
Both would require a more significant haul than the Knicks may be comfortable with, most likely an established rotational piece or two and first-round picks.
Victor Oladipo (shooting guard), Houston Rockets
This is perhaps the most likely option in the list of possible deadline day moves. There are doubts, however, about whether this is the kind of upgrade needed for the Knicks due to his struggles this year.
GM Scott Perry is a huge fan of Victor Oladipo, and previously drafted him when he was at the Orlando Magic. There is internal debate about this move within the organization. On the one hand, he is still a very solid defensive player and averages 21 points per game for his career, and can score in a variety of ways. He is available as the Houston Rockets are definite sellers and he’s turned down a contract extension with them.
He has done nothing to improve the Rockets’ situation of a franchise-worst 20 game losing streak. He’s been a huge disappointment down in Texas with how inefficient he’s been offensively.
Oladipo has struggled to crack 40% from the field and is shooting a career-worst 32% from three-point range. His usage rate is still high, but it isn’t translating to wins for the Rockets.
Dating back to when the Rockets traded Caris LeVert for Oladipo as part of the James Harden deal, doubt was expressed at the time why Houston felt Oladipo was that much of an upgrade due to his injury history and inefficiencies on offense, especially with LeVert on the ascendancy in his career and a contract under team control. Houston may come to regret that trade as they are in a decline which visibly is shattering new coach Stephen Silas in post-game interviews. Oladipo, to be frank, has done little to stop the organization’s decline after losing Harden.
Some sources say Houston wants to maximize their return and receive first-round picks in return. Others say he can be had for relatively cheap. Teams may be reticent to give up first-round picks as Oladipo has expressed his preference to end up signing for the Miami Heat in free agency if they have an offer on the table. It would make sense for Houston to maximize their return for him as they continue to dominate the market on draft picks as part of their rebuild. I feel the Knicks should steer clear.
New York Knicks committed to the future on deadline day
Reports indicate that there will be no stars heading to the Knicks this deadline. A superstar like Bradley Beal, despite being in a losing situation, is remaining loyal to the Washington Wizards. Zach LaVine of the Bulls is another great player on a losing team who is also currently unavailable. These situations may be revisited in the summer.
As of right now, the Knicks are wisely in the market for players who won’t affect their long and short-term rebuilds. When weighing their possible deadline day moves, they are committed to developing the players they have. RJ Barrett and Quickley have made such strides this year under such a short time, and Randle has developed into an All-Star. For instance, Randle achieved a career-high 17 assists and a triple-double last week against the Magic. These guys, particularly Randle, are looking like franchise pieces moving forward.
Any acquisitions would be a complement to these players. Thibodeau has re-affirmed this. That said, the right player may be a playoff boost for the Knicks in a tightly contested eastern conference. With their stated desires, one player that makes sense for the Knicks to be willing to off-load is Knox, a young wing who currently doesn’t have a rotation spot. Ntilikina would only be available for the right deal.
Possible Deadline day moves to watch
Of the names mentioned in this piece, the names to keep an eye on for the Knicks are Fournier, Redick, and Ball as possible trade deadline moves. Of the names mentioned, Ball would be the one guy that could be considered a long-term possibility for the Knicks. Redick or Fournier would be smart options to provide instant scoring.
Since the All-Star break, the short-handed Knicks have suffered heart-breaking one-possession losses at the buzzer to the league’s best teams in the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers twice. The Knicks have to feel another scoring option would almost certainly have pulled out at least one win from those tight games. Its fine margins in this league and the playoffs are never a guarantee, so the Knicks would be wise to take advantage of this opportunity, but only at the right price.
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