Reasons Knicks Should Be Sellers at 2021 NBA Trade Deadline
None of this should be shocking to 'Bockers backers, of course. The Knicks seem to be in perpetual pursuit of win-now assistance, and Thibodeau's hiring indicated a quick fix was the first priority.
But is that the best direction for the team to take between now and the March 25 trade deadline? In a word, no.
The following three items alone are reason enough to consider pausing any plans of accelerating the rebuild.
New York Has Coveted Players
The first question any potential seller must ask itself is a simple one: Do we have players other teams would want? The Knicks can easily answer that in the affirmative without disrupting their young nucleus.
Win-now shoppers searching for a second-team spark wouldn't need to be talked into Alec Burks. The veteran swingman is pairing 11.1 points per game with a 40.9 percent splash rate from the perimeter. He's playing on an expiring contract, too, so buyers wouldn't have to alter their budget going forward.
Reggie Bullock, Nerlens Noel and Elfrid Payton are on expiring deals, too. Bullock could bring three-point shooting (38.3 percent) and some defensive versatility. Noel could jolt a leaky frontcourt with length, athleticism and lightning-fast hands. Payton could perk up a backcourt with steady ball control (3.6 assists against 1.9 turnovers).
If forward-thinking shoppers want to tackle the developments of Kevin Knox II or Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks might not need much in the way of draft considerations to let them go.
Finally, New York could potentially be talked into parting with Julius Randle. The former lottery pick is peaking with per-game contributions of 23.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists, which might open up the ultimate sell-high opportunity. He only has a partially guaranteed pact for next season, so he might not be as ingrained in the organization's plans as the numbers may suggest.
The Ceiling Is Low
Let's assume for a moment the trade market bends exactly how the Knicks hope it will, and they get their hands on Bradley Beal or Victor Oladipo. How would that team look?
Better than now, sure, but to what end? The Knicks aren't a Beal or an Oladipo away from championship contention. They'd probably even concede as much.
But how would they reach that point in the future? That's hard to see without Mitchell Robinson becoming prime Dwight Howard, RJ Barrett morphing into the next James Harden and both of those things happening before Beal or Oladipo exits their prime. What's the likelihood of all that taking place? Let's just say I wouldn't recommend betting your life savings on it.
Assuming Randle doesn't fall off a cliff, maybe the Knicks would have enough to skirt around the play-in tournament and secure their first postseason trip since 2013. But they wouldn't escape the opening round without major assistance from the opposition, and if some of these developmental projects plateau, that might be the ceiling going forward, too.
New York would be risking a ton to pay whatever price is needed to bring Beal or Oladipo to the Empire State, and the reward just isn't rich enough to justify it.
The Core Needs Expanding
How many long-term keepers are currently on the Knicks' roster? My crystal ball says three, but does so while extending some benefit of the doubt.
Barrett is in that group, even though he's a score-first contributor with a career 48.7 true shooting percentage. Robinson makes the cut, too, though feel free to debate the modern value of a rim-runner. Immanuel Quickley rounds out the trio, but maybe that's generous for someone with 26 NBA appearances under his belt.
Folks might want to throw in Randle, too, but he's 26 years old. If this isn't his apex already, he'll reach it quickly—long before Barrett, Robinson and Quickley are playing their best basketball.
Beyond them, it gets dicey really quick. Hopefully Obi Toppin, this year's No. 8 pick, makes it a quartet, but he's been a lot slower out of the starting block than you'd hope a 22-year-old rookie would be. Knox and Ntilikina aren't in the rotation anymore.
That's not enough coming through the pipeline. Not if you agree the Knicks should be playing the long game with their roster, at least. If they have a chance to expand their core by bringing back prospects or draft picks, the long-term benefits could easily outweigh any short-term relief provided by any win-now additions this front office gets.