4 Trades That Could Take New York Knicks to the Next Level
If the New York Knicks want to pull off any trades before the Feb. 18 deadline, they'll need to be mighty sneaky. After a long history of trading away draft picks, there aren't many assets to spare.
The Knicks are essentially heading to the swap meet with Kyle O'Quinn, Kevin Seraphin and Sasha Vujacic to barter. Per ESPN's Ian Begley, the team isn't interested in any big deals that would have an impact on its future cap flexibility, so New York's most valuable players probably won't be on the market either.
So to obtain new players, the team may have to insinuate itself into a multi-team trade. Management will need to grease the gears for a more exciting swap of higher-value players between two other teams, and sneak out with a small-contract player who has to be jettisoned as the cost of doing business.
New York could have one of two goals heading into the deadline, depending upon how good their playoff hopes are. (Their first-round pick this year will belong to either the Denver Nuggets or the Toronto Raptors, so there's no benefit to losing out.)
A legitimate chance at the playoffs? That will favor small tweaks that maintain the core lineup and add some pieces to push them into that 8 seed or better. Admitting defeat? That may cause them to start making moves that could sacrifice wins this season for cap space or a brighter future.
Here are a couple sneaky deals that could give the team a boost in the second half of the season, and one to consider if the 11 games between now and the trade deadline go poorly.
Lose Kyle O'Quinn, Gain Timofey Mozgov
Knicks get: Timofey Mozgov from Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavaliers get: Markieff Morris from Phoenix Suns
Suns get: Kyle O'Quinn from New York Knicks; Mo Williams from Cleveland Cavaliers
As I explained last week, the Knicks need a better big man to provide defensive rebounds and rim protection at the 5 spot when Robin Lopez and Kristaps Porzingis need a break.
D-bounds are a key weakness for the team overall, which too often squanders great interior defensive plays by failing to secure the carom. The Knicks are one of the worst in the league at opponents' second-chance points.
Cleveland Cavaliers 7'1" center Timofey Mozgov can help them there. He's strong, agile and crashes the glass, and he's on an expiring $4.95 million contract, so he's no major commitment.
True, Mozgov is having a lousy season in Cleveland so far, but let us remember: Just months ago, he was an absolute stud in the 2015 playoffs (before being swapped out of the starting lineup when they went small against the Golden State Warriors in the finals). Mozgov averaged a nasty 10.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in the playoffs.
Fortunately, Mozgov's recent mediocre play and the Cavaliers' perpetual state of disgruntlement have made them forgetful and willing to move him. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported the Cavs' "have started to make calls on the market" for Mozgov.
New York doesn't have much to offer in return, but the dysfunctional Phoenix Suns apparently do. Per Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com last week:
Influential figures within the Cavaliers' locker room are open to the notion of trading for disgruntled Phoenix Suns power forward Markieff Morris, cleveland.com has learned.
Morris has made no secret of the fact that he wants out of Phoenix— his twin brother Marcus Morris told the Detroit Free Press that has not changed—and despite Morris' skills, he might be an addition by subtraction just because of his attitude. The jovial Kyle O'Quinn might not have the same talent, but he's good for a culture change.
The bigger add for the Suns, though, would be the Cavs' veteran point guard Mo Williams, now that Phoenix PG Eric Bledsoe is out for the season after knee surgery.
Lose Kevin Seraphin, Gain Garrett Temple
Wizards get: Kelly Olynyk and James Young from Boston Celtics
Celtics get: Kevin Seraphin and Sasha Vujacic from Knicks; Kelly Oubre from Wizards
As I explained last week, Washington Wizards shooting guard Garrett Temple would give New York a boost in those areas, at a discount. Temple is one of the league's leaders in fast-break points (2.9), despite only playing 24.5 minutes per game. Plus, he's a hustle player who can generate steals—five of them in the 106-101 win over the Milwaukee Bucks Jan. 13 alone.
Although he's been filling bigger minutes when Bradley Beal and Otto Porter have been out with injuries, Temple might be needed less when the team is back to full strength. His $1.1 million contract expires at the end of this season, so the Wizards might trade him before they lose him.
Washington has been inexplicably struggling with its defense all season, even from frontcourt behemoths like Marcin Gortat and Nene. So, the Knicks might be able to land Temple if they can help the Wizards add another defensive specialist to the frontcourt.
The Boston Celtics need offense. They could also use another option for a true center. Although they have some 7-footers on the squad, their go-to starting 5 is stocky 6'9" Jared Sullinger.
So the Wizards get Celtics long-haired stretch 4/5 Kelly Olynyk. The Celtics get Knicks' 7'0" center Kevin Seraphin, who will still bring them a soft, pretty jumper.
What persuades the Celts to cut ties with Olynyk, who is a core part of their bench unit, isn't Seraphin, but Wizards rookie swingman Kelly Oubre. When Beal and Porter went down (and Jared Dudley failed to step up), Oubre was inserted into the starting lineup, and he sparkled. He found his stroke behind the arc and played solid defense against the likes of Mike Conley and Tony Allen.
Wizards point guard John Wall himself said of Oubre, per Bullets Forever's Mitchell Northam, "He's shooting the ball with confidence and doing the little things and helping us out. His intangibles defensively is helping us."
If the Celts believe in the potential of Washington's young wing, they may relinquish Olynyk. Sasha Vujacic and James Young get shuffled around as well, to make the balance sheet work.
Get Mozgov & Temple
Knicks get: Timofey Mozgov from Cleveland Cavaliers; Garrett Temple from Washington Wizards
Cavaliers get: Kyle O'Quinn from New York Knicks; Ramon Sessions, Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair from Washington Wizards
Wizards get: Mo Williams and Sasha Kaun from Cleveland Cavaliers
Don't tell anybody, but if the Knicks front office is really, really sly, they might just pull off a two-for-one, and get both Mozgov and Temple for nothing more than O'Quinn.
Okay, it's a long shot, but New York might capitalize on the Wizards' backcourt surplus and the Cavs' locker room discontent.
On top of the whispers about unloading Mozgov, and the ruffled feathers after the 132-98 eviscerating loss to the Golden State Warriors, Mo Williams may be unhappy. Since Kyrie Irving returned from his injury, Williams had his minutes drastically cut, despite strong performances during Irving's absence.
As ESPN's David McMenamin pointed out Jan. 3, Williams arrived only 63 minutes before gametime the night before and was slow to cheer on the sidelines for his teammates.
The Cavs may not need Williams right now, but he could help the Wizards. Williams would be an upgrade from any of the current back-ups for John Wall. Washington will have room for him once they hand off some of their extra guards to Cleveland. Although the Wiz won't have enough minutes to spare for those guards, Ramon Sessions and Gary Neal, the Cavaliers will benefit from adding two flexible scorers.
The Wizards also get a taller reserve center, swapping the husky 6'7" center-forward DeJuan Blair for the 6'11" Sasha Kaun. (Blair and Neal could come in handy after studying at the School of Pop while playing for the San Antonio Spurs.)
The Cavaliers get a locker room with less resentment and a more flexible big man in Kyle O'Quinn, who can play either the 4 or 5.
Break in Case of Emergency
From Knicks to Miami Heat: Jose Calderon, Kyle O'Quinn
From Miami Heat to Knicks: Udonis Haslem, Beno Udrih, Chris Andersen
As of publication, the Knicks have a 22-22 record, the ninth place in the Eastern conference, and the playoffs in their sights. Yet a lot could change between now and the trade deadline.
If the next 10 games go horribly awry, the Knicks might start making moves for the offseason—freeing up cap space and unloading less desirable players. In that case, the banged-up Miami Heat might actually be good for something.
The Heat could gear up for a more powerful playoff run by taking on the Knicks' Jose Calderon, who's a better backup point guard to Goran Dragic than Beno Udrih. Calderon has also stayed healthy throughout the season, while both Dragic and Udrih have missed multiple games, Dragic most recently held back by a calf injury and Udrih by a pain in the neck. That frees up cash for New York, who owe Calderon another $7.7 million next season.
Miami also adds O'Quinn, a versatile frontcourt presence and a strong rebounder—something the Heat may need if glass-crashing dynamo Hassan Whiteside is slow to recover from the mysterious non-contact injury he suffered during Wednesday's 106-87 loss to the Wizards. O'Quinn's contract—about $4 million annually through the 2018-19 season—is a thrifty investment for the Heat, but perhaps not for the Knicks.
New York takes on contracts for Udonis Haslem, Beno Udrih and the intolerable Chris "Birdman" Andersen—all of which expire at the end of season, leaving the team with cash to spend on free agents.
Of the three, Haslem is the only one the Knicks should even consider keeping and re-signing in the offseason. This is a financial maneuver, plain and simple.
Let's save that deal for around Feb. 18 at 2:57 p.m. though, shall we? In the meantime, let's focus on making swaps that will help the team win games this season.
All stats are from NBA.com/stats and up-to-date as of Jan. 21, pre-gametime.