While it is early in the NBA offseason, rumors about the New York Knicks wanting to obtain another “star” have been flying before they were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Two names that continue to pop up are Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis.
NBA Rumors: 4 Ways the Knicks Can Aquire Karl-Anthony Towns or Kristaps Porzingis
Why the Knicks Want Towns or Porzingis
Towns and Porzingis are talented big men who can affect the game on both ends. They both are versatile scorers, can stretch the floor with their shooting, and pass the ball well. Neither player is a defensive ace though they have improved on that end throughout their career. Towns and Porzingis are also capable shot blockers.
New York is coming off its best season in a decade. But the Knicks weren’t quite good enough to get past Miami in the second round, meaning that 2000 was the last time they reached the Eastern Conference finals. The big difference in the series was how Bam Adebayo dominated Mitchell Robinson.
While it was only one series, the Heat series highlighted that the Knicks needed an upgrade at center. Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein had solid seasons overall. However, both players are limited offensively. Neither are a threat from the perimeter nor great passers. As a result, both players are better suited to come off the bench.
Here is the thing. There is no guarantee that the Knicks can get either player. Towns and Porzingis are under contract with Minnesota and Washington. Porzingis has a player option for the upcoming season.
The only way that New York can realistically acquire either player is via a trade. The Knicks currently have 15 players under contract, with $172 million committed to the players. The Knicks have some flexibility, with Derrick Rose and Miles McBride holding club options. They also have three players with nonguaranteed deals, while Josh Hart has a player option that he plans to decline. The Knicks and Hart reportedly have a mutual interest in working out a new contract that is expected to net him a considerable raise.
Towns Situation In Minnesota
Minnesota had a disappointing season this past season. The Timberwolves acquired Rudy Gobert to team with Towns and Anthony Edwards in hopes of ascending to the top of the Western Conference. But the Wolves finished with a 42-40 record and were thoroughly dominated by Denver in the first round of the playoffs.
Granted, Towns only played 29 games due to injuries, which has been a problem for the three-time all-star in three of the last four years. But when the 27-year-old big man was healthy, he and Gobert didn’t jive as Minnesota hoped.
Minnesota was 16-17 when Towns and Gobert started together, which included the playoffs. The Timberwolves were also outscored by their opponents by 0.3 points a game when Gobert and Towns were on the floor together. That number increased to -4.2 points in the postseason.
Most of Towns’ 2022-23 numbers were below his career numbers. He averaged 20.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. Towns shot 49.5% from the field and 36.6% from the 3-point during the regular season.
While it would be surprising that the Wolves decided to break up their Big Trio after such a small sample of games. However, Minnesota’s salary cap situation could affect whether they trade Towns. The Timberwolves have 11 players under contract for the upcoming season and are more than $7 million over the cap.
The Wolves have some flexibility with five players with partial or nonguaranteed deals. But their more pressing concern is the 2024-25 season when they could have three players with max contracts — Gobert, Towns, and Edwards. Jaden McDaniels is also eligible for an extension this summer.
Porzingis’ Situation in Washington
According to multiple reports, Porzingis is still deciding whether to exercise his $36 million option.
Kristaps Porzingis Considering Picking Up $36M Player Option With Wizards https://t.co/tyU6pNroGx
— RealGM (@RealGM) June 15, 2023
Even if the 27-year-old does exercise his option, that doesn’t mean he will remain a Wizard. Washington is potentially going through a rebuild this summer, which includes possibly trading Bradley Beal. Porzingis has until June 21 to make his decision.
Porzingis was once considered a future franchise player in New York, but his relationship with the front office soured after he suffered a torn ACL in 2018. However, Steve Popper of Newsday notes that everyone involved with that past bitterness is now gone from the organization, and both sides may benefit from a return.
Porzingis is coming off a career year this past season. He averaged 23.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. Porzingis also shot 49.8% from the field, including 38.5% from the three-point line on 2.1 treys a game.
Trade Scenarios to Acquire Towns or Porzingis
While Minnesota may decide to give its trio of Gobert-Edwards-Towns at least until February to figure things out, the Knicks have enough assets and future draft picks to acquire him, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. The same can be said for Porzingis, as he and Towns are both slated to make $36 million in 2023-24. So, the trade packages could be relatively the same as the Knicks would have to send out $29 million in salary
The big difference could be that Minnesota would rather cut salary, while Washington likely wants young prospects/draft picks.
Begley’s Trade Scenario No. 1, the Knicks send out Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin, and Immanuel Quickly.
This could work for Minnesota and Washington though the Wizards would probably want a future first-rounder or two. Evan Fournier doesn’t expect to be with the Knicks in 2022-23, as he struggled mightily this past year. Despite being owed $18.8 million in 2023-24, Fournier is essentially on an expiring contract, as he has a club option for next season.
Fournier averaged 6.1 points while shooting a career-low 33.7% from the field and 30.7% from beyond the arc in 27 appearances this past season. Still, the 30-year-old veteran could be an available asset off the bench for the Wolves if he can regain his shooting form. A career 38% 3-point shooter, Fournier averaged 14.1 points and knocked down three treys a game in 2021-22 for the Knicks.
Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley are two youngsters who have shown the ability to be quality role players. Quickley is coming off a career season, posting career-highs nearly across the board. More importantly, the 24-year-old improved tremendously as a shooter this past season, posting a slash line of .448/.370/.817. Meanwhile, Toppin didn’t have a great campaign this season, but he has proven that he has the athleticism and motor to be an important contributor. Quickley is eligible for a rookie-scale extension, while Toppin will be a restricted free agent next year.
The Wizards probably would be less excited about taking back Fournier. However, in a rebuilding year and for a team that would be rebuilding, his leadership theoretically could help them, and they would only have to have him for one season. The Wiz were a below-average 3-point shooting team.
New York owns four first-rounders and three second-rounders in 2024. The Knicks also have two firsts in 2025 and one every year after that.
Trade Scenario No. 2 – Knicks Send Out Julius Randle, Toppin, and Quickley.
Julius Randle had an excellent bounce-back season in 2022-23. Randle is an outstanding scorer, rebounder, and passer. However, he is not the defender or shooter that Towns or Porzingis are. Randle has been pretty healthy during his career and much cheaper.
Randle is more explosive offensively than Towns. His game could take pressure off Gobert, allowing him to be the rim-protector and rebounder that he was in Utah.
On the other hand, Washington would likely send Randle somewhere in another trade. Randle has had an attitude issue throughout his career and probably wouldn’t be happy on the rebuilding Wiz. As a result, the Wizards would likely want a huge draft package as part of a deal.
Trade No. 3 – Knicks Send Out Mitchell Robinson, Toppin, Quickley, and Jericho Sims
Robinson is too similar to Gobert to play a ton of minutes besides him though Robinson would be an upgrade over Reid off the bench. But the Timberwolves’ bench would be much stronger, and Edwards and McDaniels could grow even more offensively as they would likely get more touches. Mitchell has three years and $42 million left on his contract though the money owed to him declines each year. That makes him valuable to both the Wizards and the Wolves.
Jericho Sims is an athletic 24-year-old big man who is on an NBA roster due to his high motor and athleticism. He is also very efficient around the rim. While the Wizards would be more intrigued by Sims, his contract is just partially guaranteed. Sims also has a club action in 2024-25.
Not sure if Minnesota would want Sims, especially with Toppin coming over in the trade. The T-Wolves want to re-sign Naz Reid (UFA) though that could change with the addition of Toppin. The Wolves also already have Nathan Knight, who is similar to Sims, on the roster.
Trade No. 4 – the Knicks Send Out RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, Toppin, and or Quickley
This trade is probably the one Washington would jump at. The Wizards would get the shooting and youth they covet in a trade. RJ Barrett is also someone the Wiz could build around, as he has four years on his contract left. Meanwhile, Quentin Grimes took significant strides in his development and is a career 38% 3-point shooter.
Minnesota would have to take a hard look at this one. The big question for the Timberwolves would be whether Barrett and Edwards are a good fit.