Which PG Fits Knicks Best Amid Trade Rumors: Kyrie Irving, Jalen Brunson or Brogdon?
The New York Knicks enter the 2022 NBA offseason with avenues to cap space, trade assets and a lottery pick (the No. 11 selection in Thursday's draft).
What they don't have are excuses for letting their point guard problems linger any longer. Not when they have such a glaring hole on the roster and so many different resources with which to address it.
Fortunately, they seem ready to acknowledge as much. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Knicks "are working to clear salary-cap space" to pursue Jalen Brunson while also considering a trade for Malcolm Brogdon or even making a run at Kyrie Irving.
Assuming all three options are in play, which path should New York choose? We'll examine the pros and cons of each before identifying the top target.
Kyrie Irving holds a $36.9 million player option for next season, but talks of a new contract (or extension) with the Brooklyn Nets "have gone stagnant" and reached "an impasse," per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
If Irving becomes available, the argument for adding him is simple: He is the most talented of this trio—by a wide margin.
Since signing with the Nets in 2019, Irving has been a nightly source of 27.1 points (on 49.0/40.6/92.0 shooting) and 6.0 assists (against only 2.5 turnovers). He'd be the franchise's best offensive weapon since a prime Carmelo Anthony hooped inside Madison Square Garden.
The potential hangup here is, unfortunately, just as obvious: He simply isn't reliable.
On the court, Irving is objectively awesome, but getting him to the court has proved to be a massive challenge. Due to injuries and personal decisions, he has suited up just 103 times over the past three seasons combined.
Free agency arrives at the perfect time for Jalen Brunson, who followed his breakout 2021-22 season with an even more productive playoff run.
Armed with dizzying dribble moves, deft footwork and soft shooting touch, he pumped in better than 21 points per night against playoff defenses—on a reasonably efficient 46.6/34.7/80.0 shooting at that.
Brunson competes defensively, and the fact that he adds value off the basketball would make him an easy fit alongside RJ Barrett and Julius Randle.
Is he worth $25 million annually, though? This season was the first in which he has averaged more than 13 points or four assists, and even then he peaked at 16.3 and 4.8, respectively.
It's debatable if he'll actually reach star-level in his career, but it seems almost certain he'll soon collect a star-level contract.
Malcolm Brogdon's days with the Indiana Pacers became numbered the second they traded for Tyrese Haliburton.
With Chris Duarte also in tow, Indy seems to have its backcourt set for their near- and long-term future. Wojnarowski said a Brogdon trade is "likely" to go down this week.
The appeal with the Virginia product is twofold. One, he should be an effortless addition to the team, since he offers versatility at both ends; two, he shouldn't be prohibitively costly in a trade, as his health history could scare off potential suitors.
Of course, there's the rub with Brogdon, too. It's nice that his inability to shake the injury bug should lower his trade cost, but can the Knicks feel great about his health going forward? He has only cleared 70 games once in his career, hasn't topped 60 in any of the last three seasons and played a career-low 36 games in 2021-22.
Who Fits Best?
If cop-out answers were allowed here, we might argue an aggressive pursuit of Purdue guard Jaden Ivey is the Knicks' best option. We could also present cases for second-tier free agents (like Tyus Jones) or even green-lighting Immanuel Quickley to see whether he could handle a starting role.
However, those options aren't on the table, so if forced to pick between the three, Brunson looms as the preferred target.
For one, he's a free agent, so the Knicks would only be out his contract price and whatever players they'd have to give up in cost-cutting trades to sign him. Second, Irving is already 30 and Brogdon will be in December, while Brunson only turns 26 this offseason. That not only means Brunson offers the most growth potential, but it also puts him closest to RJ Barrett's timeline.
If the Knicks were closer to championship contention, then a bold deal for Uncle Drew or a potentially sneaky-good swap for Brogdon might make sense. Since they aren't, they can't lose sight of the future.
If they could sign Brunson, it's easy to picture him growing alongside their young players. If they added Irving or Brogdon instead, they might force more of a win-now mentality than the rest of this roster is ready to handle.