5 Trade Packages to Land New York Knicks the Star They Crave
The New York Knicks may have struck out in last summer's free agency, but their star-hunting ways may continue via the trade market.
Thanks to first-round picks from the Kristaps Porzingis and Marcus Morris trades and young talent such as RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox, the Knicks seem well-positioned to add a star player should one become available.
"It's the best path for us," one Knicks front-office member recently told SNY's Ian Begley.
Waiting for a disgruntled star to ask out may take a while, however. They've also seen significant improvement from 2019 No. 3 overall pick Barrett, who looks like he'll become a star.
If the Knicks want to add some star power to their roster (without giving up Barrett in the process), here are five deals that should be possible.
Terry Rozier Gets Another Fresh Start
Knicks Receive: G Terry Rozier
Hornets Receive: G Frank Ntilikina, F/C Taj Gibson, F Iggy Brazdeikis
While Rozier may not be considered a star to most teams, the Knicks sure seem to view him as such.
There's no way New York should have to give up any picks for Rozier, given his up-and-down first season in Charlotte after signing a three-year, $56.7 million deal. The surprise play of Devonte' Graham has forced the Hornets to play both of their undersized point guards together, resulting in a net rating of minus-6.0. Charlotte should be happy to move forward with the 25-year-old Graham and flip Rozier, a year older and with a much bigger contract, for whatever it can get.
Since the Knicks clearly value Rozier, a deal could benefit both sides.
When Graham sits, Rozier has resembled more of the true point guard that Charlotte hoped it was getting. His assist percentage more than doubles (15.0 to 30.7) when allowed to run point with Graham on the bench, while Rozier's turnover percentage (10.0) stays the same even with the increased passing.
The Knicks have tried numerous bodies at point guard this season, but neither Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr. nor Ntilikina has looked like the long-term answer.
For Charlotte, moving Rozier gives it an opportunity to put a bigger, better defender next to the 6'1", 185-pound Graham in Ntilikina, hoping to tap some of the potential that made him the No. 8 overall pick in 2017. Gibson is on an expiring $9.5 million deal, and Brazdeikis is a 21-year-old rookie who could turn into a rotation piece.
New York must like Rozier, but it shouldn't have to give up a first-rounder to acquire him.
Knicks Buy Low on Blake Griffin
Knicks Receive: PF Blake Griffin
Pistons Receive: PG Elfrid Payton, PF Bobby Portis, PF/C Taj Gibson
Griffin had a disastrous 2019-20 season, playing just 18 games before undergoing knee surgery in January. So why would the Knicks be interested?
According to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press, Griffin is "expected to be healthy in June," giving the 31-year-old plenty of time to get ready for the start of next season, whenever that may be.
Griffin is also just one year removed from being an All-Star, averaging 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.5 three-pointers per game on 36.2 percent accuracy. The production also matched his durability, as he averaged 35.0 minutes across 75 total games.
With Detroit already offloading Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the asking price for Griffin shouldn't be that high. The two years and $75.8 million remaining on his contract no longer fit a rebuilding Pistons team, and Detroit flipped 26-year-old Drummond for just a pair of expiring contracts and a 2023 second-round pick.
New York could likely keep all of its first-round picks and core talent, instead pitching the Pistons on the idea of three expiring contracts, much like they accepted for Drummond.
For the Pistons, this would rid them of the team's biggest contract while adding two players (Portis, 25, and Payton, 26) still technically young enough to fit a rebuild.
Griffin's stock is low enough for the Knicks to potentially get an incredible deal, especially since he's expected to be healthy months ahead of the regular season.
Chris Paul Changes the Culture
Knicks Receive: PG Chris Paul
Thunder Receive: F/C Bobby Portis, SG Wayne Ellington, F/C Taj Gibson, SG Reggie Bullock
Paul is another guard the Knicks have been linked to, with The Athletic's Frank Isola reporting in early March that New York "has been gathering intel" on Paul and "could make a run at him this summer."
Paul could benefit the Knicks in a number of ways. An All-Star this season even at age 34, the future Hall of Famer is still one of the best point guards in the NBA, with a shot and passing ability that hasn't slowed down. His production (17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.6 steals) and leadership have helped push the Thunder to a surprisingly good 40-24 record in the Western Conference.
For the Knicks, they would need every bit of this on- and off-court improvement to change their perception around the league, especially before 2021 free agency hits. If former teammates and admirers of Paul saw him thriving and setting a new culture in New York, they may put the Knicks back on the list of premier free-agent destinations.
The downside to Paul, of course, is his contract.
He's due $41.4 million next season and $44.2 million in 2021-22, which is especially concerning for someone in their mid-30s. Because of this, trading for Paul may only be a matter of matching salaries and not giving up young talent and draft picks.
New York could send four players on expiring deals to the Thunder, hurting the team's chances at making the 2021 playoffs but also wiping over $44 million in salary off OKC's books that summer.
If the Knicks are OK taking the financial gamble, adding Paul as a short-term rental could help change the culture in New York.
Kevin Love, Andre Drummond Packaged to New York
Knicks Receive: PF Kevin Love, C Andre Drummond
Cavaliers Receive: PF Julius Randle, G Frank Ntilikina, F/C Bobby Portis, F/C Taj Gibson, SG Wayne Ellington, 2021 first-round pick (via Dallas Mavericks)
Why trade for one All-Star if two are available?
Cleveland completely embraces its rebuild here while the Knicks pick up a pair of bigs with seven combined All-Star trips between them.
Love brings his unique combination of rebounding and outside shooting along with championship experience, three years after New York originally tried to trade Carmelo Anthony for him, according to Marc Stein and Chris Haynes for ESPN. Love should enjoy the move, given his girlfriend, model Kate Bock, is based in the city and Love spends portions of his offseason there.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the Knicks were also interested in Drummond before he was traded to Cleveland at the deadline, with the 26-year-old center on pace to lead the NBA in rebounding (15.2 per game) for the fourth time in five years.
Both big men are averaging over 17.0 points per game this season, a number that could increase with a pass-first point guard such as Elfrid Payton.
This would be a massive shakeup for the Cavaliers, who would mostly be interested in Randle, Ntilikina and the draft pick. Randle is still just 25 and is under contract for the next two seasons, giving the Cavs a chance to see how he fits with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. Randle is also a former teammate of Larry Nance Jr. from their time with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ntilikina would bring a defensive presence that's been lacking in the Cavs backcourt, and at 21 he could still develop into a quality rotation guard. Cleveland should ask for Mitchell Robinson first but settle for a draft pick if/when the Knicks decline.
Knicks Receive: G/F Zach LaVine
Bulls Receive: F Kevin Knox, G Dennis Smith Jr., F/C Taj Gibson, 2020 first-round pick (via Los Angeles Clippers), 2020 second-round pick (via Charlotte Hornets)
With new executive vice-president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas taking over the Bulls front office, it’s unclear which players are safe in Chicago.
If LaVine becomes available, New York should pounce.
The 25-year-old played most of his minutes at small forward this season, meaning there’d be little concern over his fit next to shooting guard RJ Barrett.
LaVine is averaging a career-high 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals and shooting 38.0 percent from three. He’s under a good contract at $19.5 million a season for the next two years.
For Chicago, young talent and draft picks would be the likely compensation for a new front office looking to bring in its own players. The Knicks have plenty of picks to offer and could keep their own lottery selection this season and still send two 2020 picks to the Bulls. Knox and Smith Jr. have struggled this year but are both still young enough to develop into quality starters.
New York has enough first-round picks to work out a deal without having to include Barrett or Mitchell Robinson, and LaVine could combine with Barrett to create a terrific one-two scoring punch.