Following their playoff run to the second-round, the New York Knicks have made some moves to capitalize off of their recent success. They signed Donte DiVincenzo, re-signed Josh Hart, and added several promising undrafted free agents (Jaylen Martin, Obidiah Noel, Dmytro Skapinstev and Jacob Toppin), among other notable transactions. However, even with the roster mostly set, some rival teams had reportedly called about two young Knicks: Miles McBride and Jericho Sims. The team also has a positional problem to sort out.
NBA Rumors: Young Knicks in Trade Talks, Plus Backup PF in Mind
Trade Interest in Miles McBride and Jericho Sims
The Athletic’s Fred Katz released a mailbag column with several intriguing questions on multiple Knicks players. One aspect was the possibility of a superstar trade if the team’s younger players develop and increase their trade value. Katz noted that if certain young players (e.g. RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley) take a leap, then it’s expected the team would want to keep them around. However, he also noted:
“The Knicks have built toward a clear goal: They want to trade for a star. They’ve compiled middling salaries because they believe it will help them deal for a max player. They’ve loaded up on as many first-round picks as they can get. They have desirable players still in their early 20s.”
Katz specifically left out McBride and Sims when discussing young players who would be involved in blockbuster deals. Though both players are on such “middling salaries” and have yet to make Tom Thibodeau’s rotation, the Knicks were reluctant to include them as “throw-ins” in previous trades.
“They like those two too much just to give them away,” Katz wrote. “I couldn’t see either Sims or McBride moving unless their salaries were necessary to make a major trade work.”
Despite McBride’s limited appearances (nearly 12 minutes per game in 64 games), he still showed glimpses of offensive improvement and an increased effort on defense. McBride hardly played with New York’s G League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks. However, he still lit up the scoreboard. In seven games over two seasons, McBride put up nearly 28 points, 10.6 assists and 2.7 steals per game on 48/49/76 splits. At last season’s G League Showcase Cup, McBride played two games and averaged 22.5 points, nine assists and one steal. He shot 16/27 (59%) from the field and 9/14 (64%) from deep.
It’s clear McBride has taken a step forward with his development. However, with the amount of guards already fighting for minutes in Thibs’s rotation, it’s worth seeing how he develops throughout training camp and the regular season.
The bouncy 6-foot-10 Sims got more opportunities than McBride. In 52 games (16 starts), Sims averaged 3.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He also shot 77% from the field (mostly through dunks) and 75% from the free-throw line. Sims displayed his bursts of athleticism and how useful it was on both ends. However, he must also develop his offense around the basket. Like McBride, Sims also rarely played for Westchester. However, he performed well in last season’s Showcase Cup. Sims played two games and averaging 19.5 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Josh Hart: New York’s New Backup PF?
Another aspect that Katz touched on was the Knicks’ lack of a backup power forward—or so fans thought. Of all the areas the team improved on, they elected to not draft or sign a rotation-ready four. Trading away Obi Toppin certainly did not help those matters.
However, the answer to the power forward problem may be right under the Knicks’ noses: Josh Hart. According to Katz:
“Using Hart as a power forward mutes some of his best traits. He’s a tier-1 rebounder for a guard or wing, but he isn’t as dominant by the standards of a big man. But this also isn’t 1982. Or 1992. Or 2002. Or even 2012. Brute backup fours — the Reggie Evanses of the world, who didn’t roam the NBA landscape that long ago — no longer exist.”
Hart’s possible role as a power forward is a strange yet conceivable one. He already uses his 6-foot-5 frame to excel as a rebounder. He is also unafraid of contact, evidenced by his 36% free-throw rate last season. Hart also has experience as a power forward in certain lineups. Josh logged around 113 of 750 minutes (15%) there last season. The last time he spent a significant chunk of time as a four was during his 2019-20 campaign with the New Orleans Pelicans, where he spent nearly 300 of his 1,755 minutes there (17%).
There’s always a possibility that incoming Knicks forward Isaiah Roby proves himself in training camp or Thibs elects to go a different direction if Randle gets hurt. However, if none of those come to fruition, fans could see Hart in the paint more often.
The Last Word
The Knicks still have some questions to answer heading into training camp. However, latest reporting shows that McBride and Sims are currently safe from the trading block. Plus, the team still has a ways to go before getting serious about a blockbuster trade. And while the Knicks don’t have a clear-cut backup to Randle, Hart could make a very solid case to be awarded that opportunity.