Trade Ideas to Save the New York Knicks' Season

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured Columnist IVDecember 8, 2022

Trade Ideas to Save the New York Knicks' Season

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    MEMPHIS, TN - OCTOBER 19: Evan Fournier #13, Jalen Brunson #11, Julius Randle #30 and RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks look on during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on October 19, 2022 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

    With the unofficially official start of NBA trade season right around the corner, the New York Knicks are looking to shake things up.

    League sources told The Athletic's Fred Katz that the "Knicks have been active on trade calls leading up to Dec. 15, the date when most players who signed new contracts this past summer become eligible for trades." Katz mentions Evan Fournier, Immanuel Quickley, Cam Reddish and Derrick Rose as the names to watch most and also notes that New York hasn't "shown any interest in attaching draft picks to Fournier just to move him."

    This type of housekeeping runs counter to how the Knicks operated over the offseason, when their primary focus was the (ultimately failed) acquisition of Donovan Mitchell. Their latest activity suggests they're more concerned with simplifying numerous logjams peppered up and down the roster.

    That makes sense. New York is forever on the superstar prowl, but that trade market doesn't seem to exist at the moment.

    Still, this doesn't mean the Knicks cannot salvage what's left of this season by turning over some of the depth chart. One or two biggish names are floating around the ether. And more than that, shipping out problematic contracts and playing-time roadblocks can dramatically improve their immediate and long-term outlooks.

    These trade ideas were constructed with this in mind. And the focus won't necessarily be on shipping out the four names most commonly mentioned. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has already stopped playing Fournier and Rose. So while both will be used throughout this exercise, these deals are geared toward more meaningful changes than just-because transactions.

Myles Turner to the Big Apple*

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    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - OCTOBER 12: RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks shoots the ball against while defended by Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on October 12, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana.    NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    New York Knicks Receive: Josh Richardson, Terry Taylor, Myles Turner

    Indiana Pacers Receive: Evan Fournier, Immanuel Quickley, Cam Reddish, Obi Toppin, Dallas' 2023 first-round pick (top-10 protection via New York), Detroit's 2024 second-round pick (via New York)

    San Antonio Spurs: Mitchell Robinson*

    *Cannot be traded until Jan. 15.

    Turner trade hypotheticals ring slightly hollow knowing the Pacers don't suck and actually might be plain good. But he's hitting free agency this summer. If Indy isn't sure he'll extend now or re-sign later or is unwilling to pony up for his new deal, it behooves the franchise to capitalize on his monster 2022-23 campaign, load up on assets, improve its own draft pick this year and recalibrate for maximum goodness next season.

    Building out a two-team deal around Robinson-plus-stuff has some merit. But the Pacers have bigs to develop in Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith, and Robinson is already sort of expensive, with three years and $42.9 million left on his pact.

    San Antonio has room for the latter. Not only can it absorb Robinson outright, but Jakob Poeltl's impending free agency muddies the team's future at the 5. The Spurs can also afford to keep both. Robinson's deal is on a declining scale; he'll be making close to backup-center money in the final year ($13 million). Richardson is on an expiring deal and doesn't factor into the long haul. Flipping him for a flier on what could be a defensive star isn't illogical.

    Indiana, meanwhile, bags two players in Quickley and Toppin still on their rookie-scale deals. Both are extension-eligible this summer, but the Pacers have more than one-and-a-half seasons to figure out their fit before restricted free agency.

    Toppin makes plenty of sense given how fast Indy likes to play—and how well he has shot the three-ball for most of this year. His defense leaves much to be desired, but Jackson and Smith (guarding well!) can help mask certain matchup problems.

    Quickley is less of a surefire mainstay. The full-strength Pacers have Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard, Chris Duarte, T.J. McConnell and Buddy Hield. But the latter two aren't future building blocks, and Quickley's defensive moxie will permit Indiana to run out some ultra-small lineups.

    Adding Dallas' first-rounder arms the Pacers with four picks in 2023. That's too many. But Dallas' might wind up being the second-most valuable of the bunch, behind only Indy's own, and team president Kevin Pritchard can always combine multiple selections to move up. Swallowing an extra year of Fournier after this one isn't a big deal, even with Hield already on the roster. And for as plucky as the Pacers have been, rolling the dice on soon-to-be-restricted-free-agent Cam Reddish deepens an otherwise undersized wing rotation.

    Whether the Knicks will accept this opportunity cost is debatable. Turner satisfies Tom Thibodeau's requirement to always play a rim protector but does so without cramping the floor. He's also headed for free agency and is bound to make more than Robinson. You only acquire him if you intend to pay him.

    Not to be overlooked: New York is exchanging a handful of multiyear commitments—most notably Fournier's deal—for expiring pacts. And Richardson is a good plug-and-play wing who should encourage Thibs to indulge lineups with smaller 4s.

    Punting on Toppin's future is tough. But he and Randle aren't both sticking long-term. If moving Randle proves too prohibitive, the Knicks have to weigh the prospect of jettisoning Toppin. And it can't be superstar-or-bust at this point. Toppin and Quickley are approaching their next contracts. Their market value is going to taper off in the eyes of rebuilding squads like the Pacers.

A Minutes-Clearing Dice Roll with Phoenix

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    PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 20: Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks looks to pass the ball during the game against the Phoenix Suns on November 20 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

    New York Knicks Receive: Jae Crowder, Dario Šarić

    Phoenix Suns Receive: Julius Randle

    This can at times feel taboo to admit, but we're all friends here, so let's be candid: Trading Randle is akin to optimization through subtraction. It not only clears the runway for Obi Toppin (who, again, already plays more), but it streamlines the offensive pecking order and opens up the floor.

    Lineups featuring Toppin, RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson are nuking opponents by 33.2 points per 100 possessions. This trade lets the Knicks expand upon that limited sample size while generating more touches for Immanuel Quickley and additional half-court breathing room for New York's centers. (Note: Keep this in mind from here on. This, among other things, is the upside of every Randle deal.)

    Šarić isn't really playing for the Suns. The Knicks are under no obligation to use him, either. He comes off the books after this season. Crowder has yet to play this year and might prefer a contending team over New York—especially if it's not open to keeping him long-term. The Knicks can try rerouting him elsewhere for additional value or simply lean into his playing the 4 alongside any one of their bigs at the 5...including Toppin.

    Getting out from under the final three years and $82.8 million of Randle's deal is equally appealing. Cap-sheet flexibility remains currency in New York, and ditching that money makes it easier to reinvest in the about-to-be-extension-eligible Toppin. Reaching that point without forking over a first-round pick or prospect to grease the wheels is a pretty big deal.

    Phoenix, of course, needs to accept these terms. Randle absolutely diversifies the offense. The Suns can use another self-creator who should be able to soak up spot minutes at the 5, drill catch-and-shoot threes and put set defenses in rotation. (Sam Cooper of The Timeline Podcast has been banging the Randle-to-Phoenix drum for a while and did a great job outlaying the value and risk he carries during a September appearance on The Knicks Film School Podcast.)

    Do the Suns have the pockets and gall to stomach Randle's commitment amid functional question marks? I'm genuinely asking, because I don't know. This deal adds an additional $4 millionish to their payroll, putting them more than $20 million into the tax. They can expand the parameter to offload Landry Shamet and actually save some cash, but that doesn't diminish the long-term implications. Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges and Chris Paul (partial guarantee in 2023-24) are on sizable contracts, and the injured Johnson should get puh-aid in restricted free agency.

    Failing the re-emergence of Kevin Durant trade scenarios, I seriously consider this if I'm Phoenix. It doesn't cost any draft equity, and this roster at full strength has both the talent and cachet to bring Randle off the bench and nix him from closing units.

Kyle Kuzma Ends Up in Orange and Blue

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    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 14:  Kyle Kuzma #33 of the Washington Wizards drives to the basket during the game against the New York Knicks on October 14, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    New York Knicks Receive: Will Barton, Kyle Kuzma

    Washington Wizards Receive: Julius Randle, Immanuel Quickley, 2023 first-round pick (Washington's own or Dallas' with top-10 protection), Detroit's 2024 second-round pick

    OR

    New York Knicks Receive: Will Barton, Vernon Carey Jr., Kyle Kuzma

    Washington Wizards Receive: Julius Randle, Cam Reddish, Washington's own 2023 first-round pick, Dallas' 2023 first-round pick (top-10 protection)

    Not unlike the Knicks, the Wizards seem interminably addicted to residing in the bottom of the middle. Acquiring Randle lets them float their continued play-in aspirations while restocking some of the war chest.

    Personally, if I'm general manager Tommy Sheppard, I prefer the second deal. Reddish has real upside on defense and has delivered some spark-plug moments at the other end. He doesn't play the same position as Kuzma (player option this summer), but he'll cost less to retain in restricted free agency and is still only 23.

    Getting back their own first-round pick from the Knicks would be huge for the Wizards. It probably won't convey this season anyway, but it's protected until kingdom come (2026). Re-acquiring it allows Washington to more aggressively skulk around the rest of the trade market. And depending on the day, that Dallas pick looks like it'll land somewhere between No. 11 and No. 20.

    Opting for the package with (Maryland native) Immanuel Quickley is totally fine. He provides a nice change of pace on-ball the Wizards don't get from Monte Morris (or a healthy Delon Wright), and his defense remains underappreciated.

    Randle may not be the cleanest fit for the roster. But the Wizards offense needs another self-starter from the outside-in whose volume won't billow in the wind—particularly if they're dealing Kuzma. Randle can run dual-big pick-and-pops with Kristaps Porziņģis, and staggering their minutes should ensure KP doesn't pout in the face of dwindling on-ball volume.

    Why pay Randle if you can just re-sign Kuzma? It's a fair question. Kuzma is the better, more malleable defender. The scoring and playmaking upside of Randle is still higher, and he's coming attached with some combination of picks and intriguing youngsters.

    The Knicks might be reticent to acquire Kuzma on the verge of his entering free agency. They shouldn't be. He provides rock-solid two-way minutes at the 4 these days and fits alongside any one of their bigs and immediately becomes their second-best player. At 27, he's someone they can look to keep around, and his next deal probably checks in cheaper on an annual basis than Randle's agreement. If Kuzma leaves, they're still out from under Randle's massive contract and the rotation warts he poses.

Clearing Up the Frontcourt with the L.A. Clippers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 06: Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks drives to the basket during the game against the LA Clippers on March 06, 2022 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

    New York Knicks Receive: Robert Covington, Luke Kennard

    L.A. Clippers Receive: Julius Randle

    No, this is not an overreaction to the Clippers' ranking 28th in points scored per possession. They have perked up over the past month but still place 20th in offensive efficiency.

    Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have both missed time. That's sort of the point. Injuries and absences are the expectation for the Clippers. Randle juices up their half-court offense, and he should have an easier time operating away from the ball on an L.A. squad that, at full strength, is constructed to open up the floor by using him at the 5 when Ivica Zubac fits.

    Most franchises in the Clippers' position probably shy away from Randle's pay grade. But team governor Steve Ballmer has unfathomably deep pockets, and this deal actually shaves money off the 2022-23 payroll and is roughly net-neutral in 2023-24.

    Shipping out Covington and Kennard shouldn't pain the Clippers. Covington is playing more lately but has seen his role diminish. Kennard's flame-throwing remains highly useful on this team, but steady playing time isn't assured when he's healthy given L.A.'s overarching perimeter depth.

    Covington is intensely intriguing for the Knicks. His defense remains stout enough to explore what he looks like up front alongside Toppin, but he also works with any one of New York's other bigs. Kennard doesn't do anything to simplify the guard rotation, but he has only one more guaranteed year left on his deal and is averaging more than 6.5 three-point attempts per 36 minutes for his career.

Exchanging Roadblock Deals with Miami

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 25:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Miami Heat is fouled during the fourth quarter by Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 25, 2022 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    New York Knicks Receive: Dewayne Dedmon*, Caleb Martin*, Duncan Robinson

    Miami Heat Receive: Svi Mykhailiuk, Julius Randle, Detroit's 2024 second-round pick

    (*Dewayne Dedmon can't be traded until Jan. 15; Caleb Martin can't be traded until Dec. 15.)

    Though the Heat have the picks to chase more of a megatrade, Randle is someone who can broaden their half-court offensive horizons without draining any draft equity. His three-point shooting is up and down, but he should thrive away from the ball when Miami has so many connective passers.

    Figuring out a package gets weird. Robinson's contract might be more problematic. He's owed $57.5 million over the next three years. Randle's commitment is steeper over that same span ($82.8 million), but he's more than a motion-shooting specialist.

    This would be easier if a Robison-for-Randle swap worked straight up. It doesn't. Caleb Martin's team defense and offensive malleability might be a touch too valuable to include as a buffer. But the Heat can't get to Randle's number without including him unless the Knicks take back Victor Oladipo (eh) or accept Dedmon and Omer Yurtseven (maybe).

    Using this exact structure carves out more room under the hard cap for the Heat and nets them a nifty second-rounder from Detroit. Dedmon hasn't played a ton since signing his new deal over the summer, and Randle can sponge up backup 5 minutes.

    Hammering out the Randle-Bam Adebayo frontcourt could get awkward. It should work. Adebayo's mid-range game is proven enough for him to clear out when Randle wants to attack, they can run dual-big pick-and-rolls (if Miami's offense is willing to incorporate them), and the quality of Randle's spot-up jumpers will improve.

    The Knicks should do this mostly to recalibrate their rotation. At the same time, Martin is an ultra-versatile player at both ends who will elevate their two-way decision-making. Taking on Robinson's contract isn't ideal, but his annual number is manageable enough to use as filler in other trades as his agreement ages out, and he represents pure, unadulterated three-point volume at his peak—something New York very much needs.


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass and accurate entering Wednesday's games. Salary information via Spotrac.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and subscribe to the Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes.

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