The NBA’s trade deadline is just over a month away and while many entered the season thinking the Knicks would be able to build for the future, a 9-6 streak in December could getting New York to seek to be deadline-bound buyers.
As of Tuesday, Jan. 3, the Knicks are 20-18 and tied for the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. They are 6.5 games out of first but just one game out of 6th place, which would mean they avoid the playoff playoffs.
Julius Randle went from a contract albatross who likely needed to be dealt with for the Knicks to build a contender to a probable All-Star, averaging 24.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on 46.7% shots. With Jalen Brunson emerging as an offseason affair on his new contract and RJ Barrett starting to find his shot in December, hitting 42.4% from beyond the arc, the idea that the Knicks would trade assets to build for the future seems highly unlikely.
However, the roster as currently constructed is also not a championship contender.
So how can New York take reasonable steps at the deadline to pull a playoff team out of limbo that isn’t quite championship ready?
The simplest answer seems to be to stick with the majority of their upcoming draft picks, avoiding taking a big swing at the trade deadline and just focusing on strengthening the bench. This strategy would best position the Knicks to make some playoff noise this year while keeping the assets intact to build a long-term contender around a young core of Brunson, Barrett, Quentin Grimes, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and others.
So what exactly would this strategy look like, what does it mean for players currently on the Knicks, and who could be possible targets? Today we are going to focus on the first part on which Knicks could be traded to achieve this strategy.
Part One: Which Knicks Could Be Traded?
Current end-of-bench players in New York
Svi Mykhaliuk, Ryan Arcidiacono, Cam Reddish, Evan Fournier, Derrick Rose
The two guys who currently sit at the end of the bench, Svi Mykhaliuk and Ryan Arcidiacono are candidates to be cut before their contracts are guaranteed on January 10. However, given that Arcidiacino is Brunson’s college teammate and has played for Tom Thibodeau in the past, he seems likely to stay. Mykhaliuk, on the other hand, could be cut to open up a spot on the roster to facilitate a trade.
Both Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose have seen their names pop up in trade conversations and are both easy to see being traded if the right trade comes along. Rose has been on the fringes of the rotation and is a strong veteran presence, but is now firmly behind Brunson, Quickley and McBride at point guard. Fournier was completely out of rotation until RJ Barrett was injured and didn’t exactly play his way in minutes.
Cam Reddish looks almost certain to be dealt before the trade deadline. He hasn’t played a minute in nearly a month, including blowouts where the whole bench comes into the game. It’s possible he’s so firmly entrenched in the niche, but it seems more likely the Knicks don’t want to risk injury before they can trade him.
Current New York Bench Rotation Players
Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, Isaiah Hartenstein, Jericho Sims, Obi Toppin
Miles McBride and Jericho Sims seem like locks to stay with the Knicks right now. Their contracts are minimal and their bench roles are valuable to the Knicks. Both are solid defenders with an intriguing offensive upside, so the Knicks seem likely to see how they can develop.
Immanuel Quickley’s name has been the subject of tons of trade rumours. However, he played a bigger role in December, averaging 30 minutes per game, with 15.1 points, 3.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds. Quickley has become such a key for New York off the bench that it seems unlikely he will be traded this season unless the Knicks take a big swing and add a key rotational piece in return.
Obi Toppin is an interesting case for several reasons. For one, since he’s currently injured, there’s no real market for him and it’s unclear if a team would be willing to move until they can see him on the pitch. . It’s also unclear what his role is on this Knicks team as he suffered an injury before reducing the rotation and continuing his eight-game winning streak.
The presence of Julius Randle has always been a thorn in the side of Toppin’s minutes as the two don’t go very well together on the pitch. With Randle playing as he is, it seems unlikely he will be dealt, which means Toppin might not see the minutes fans want. If so, it would make sense to explore the trade market for a young and improving striker. However, that now seems more likely to happen in the offseason.
I said I don’t think Isaiah Hartenstein is a good fit for this New York team. He’s a poor rebounder as a center and is more comfortable on the perimeter, which doesn’t suit the second unit he plays most of his minutes with. It makes sense for the team to trade him for a striker who is a solid defender or even another big reserve man who fits their current style of play, but that also seems unlikely since he was just signed this offseason. .
New York Current Starters
Julius Rande, RJ Barrett, Jalen Brunson, Mitchell Robinson, Quentin Grimes
I don’t see any of these players being treated. It’s possible that Randle’s trade talks could take place in the offseason if New York fails to make the playoffs again, but given his recent performance, it would be hard to imagine the team trading him in the middle of the season. -season unless a big name young player and a more natural choice marker becomes available.
However, that seems highly unlikely, so I think that’s your starting line-up, barring injury, for the rest of the season.
Now that we’ve covered what the trade deadline might look like for the current Knicks, we’ll have part two later this week in which we go over which trade goals might be most attractive to New York.