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Eastern Conference Contender Hoping for ‘Big’ Offseason Trade

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson and Brooklyn Nets wing Mikal Bridges

The New York Knicks’ season ended less than 24 hours ago but they’re already thinking of ways to build off their Cinderella season.

While New York now undoubtedly has two stars under contract thank to Jalen Brunson‘s evolution, the Knicks are “still targeting the upcoming summer as the time to trade for the next big name,” per The Athletic’s Fred Katz.

Knicks Hoping for ‘Big’ Offseason Trade

As the 2023-24 season winds down, the dust is settling, bringing the situation that various teams face into focus. For the Knicks, sifting through the sediment may be the best way for them to acquire a third star. If so, there are at least four teams that could be trade partners in a blockbuster deal.

In the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets are the most fascinating options.

Donovan Mitchell

Following their second round exit, Donovan Mitchell’s future was thrust into the spotlight. He’s been linked to the Knicks for years due to his New York connections. However, with Mitchell miffed by how much the Cavs relied on him, he may look for a team that doesn’t require him to do so much heavy lifting. That’s not to say he doesn’t have the will to take over games anymore. Just that he recognizes the truth; if he has to be a superhero every game, his team hasn’t put a good enough team around him.

With that said, Mitchell can become a free agent next offseason. If he and the Cavs don’t reach a contract agreement soon, they could read the tea leaves, pushing him out before he leaves them. Such a scenario might lead him to the Knicks, who can offer a trade package with Mitchell Robinson, Bojan Bogdanovic, and first-round picks.

Mikal Bridges

The Nets have fewer reasons to trade their face of the franchise, even if he played below expectations in 2023-24. To that point, Brooklyn’s already trying to build around Mikal Bridges as a foundational piece. Averaging 21.2 points and 1.0 steal per game on 37.3 percent shooting from 3 since being traded to the Knicks, Bridges has developed into an upper echelon two-way player.

That’s one reason why he’d appeal to New York, as they don’t have any players that are elite at both ends. However, the ‘Nova Knicks’ could continue enhancing their chemistry with a Bridges trade as well. Another Villanova product, Bridges was a college teammate of Brunson, Josh Hart, and Donte DiVincenzo.

A City of Stars

With the ever popular franchise taking their place among the East’s top teams, quite a few of them could put New York on their list of preferred destinations. After all, it’s a glamorous city with a lot to offer anybody but especially the rich and famous. To that point, there are two stars who could leave their team as free agents in the offseason: LeBron James and Paul George.

With a sign-and-trade, the Knicks may be able to acquire one of James or George in what would be the biggest splash this summer.

LeBron James

James has already displayed an interest in playing for the Knicks, all the way back to 2010. However, what makes New York appealing in this scenario is that a head-to-head comparison with the Los Angeles Lakers favors the Knicks.

New York will have the better coach; one who has instilled a special type of toughness in the team. Furthermore, in acquiring James they would have a Big 3, a model that the Lakers have been reluctant to adapt. Anthony Davis has the edge on Julius Randle in terms of production and defense but not availability or scoring versatility. Brunson is a more reliable scorer and leader than any point guard in L.A.’s LeBron era outside of the season that James was the point guard himself. Lastly, just consider that the Knicks finished the 2023-24 regular season with more wins than the Lakers.

In the famous words of ESPN pundit Brian Windhorst: “Why is that?”

Paul George

George hasn’t shown nearly as much fascination with the Knicks as James. Nonetheless, he fits New York’s needs even more from a positional standpoint, as he can play either wing spot.

Though James can technically play every position, George is a more natural two-guard because of his ball-handling and shooting ability. That said, while James would likely spend the bulk of his minutes at the forward spots, George can comfortably play beside Brunson in the backcourt. This is ideal because both Hart and OG Anunoby are primarily small forwards.

In that same vein, George fits better because of the perimeter defense he’ll offer. Again, James isn’t incapable of this. However, he’ll turn 40 years old early next season; his overall activity and mobility are both behind the California native.

Whether the Knicks can convince George to agree to a sign-and-trade may ultimately come down to money though. If they clear the cap space, they’ll at least get his attention.

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