Which teams (players) could be NBA trade deadline targets for Knicks?
With the NBA trade deadline only a week and a half away, one sentiment has become clear: The market is quiet, and it could stay that way.
The Play-In Tournament has changed the NBA’s dynamic. Most teams lingering around ninth or 10th place want the postseason. Add in that finishing with the worst record in the league doesn’t give a team as good a chance at winning the lottery as it once did, and you have lots of organizations trying to win and not many that are happy to lose, which means lots of buyers without many sellers.
And that’s how any market dries up.
But just because teams are thinking that way today doesn’t mean things can’t change before the Feb. 9 deadline.
Sixth through 12th place in the Eastern Conference are separated by only five games. The West is even more jumbled; there’s only a five-game difference between third and 13th. A terrible week or a terrific one could flip the direction of half the league.
One thing we do know: All indications are that the New York Knicks, who are currently seventh in the East at 27-24, will try to improve. They’re one of many hoping that a few franchises straddling the buy-sell line will choose to part with helpful veterans.
With that in mind, here is a look at the teams ranging from certain sellers to possible ones and if any of their players make sense for the Knicks:
Charlotte Hornets (15-36, 14th in the East)
The Hornets would love to move on from Gordon Hayward, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. Hayward is on the books for more than $30 million next season but hasn’t played more than 52 games in four years. If Charlotte wants to send him elsewhere, it will likely require attaching a pick.
In a vacuum, Hayward is the exact archetype the Knicks could use: a versatile, decision-making forward who can hit a jumper and pass well. He can still play — when he does (though his 3-point shot has cratered during limited time this season).
If the Knicks were interested, this would be one situation where Evan Fournier would come in handy. New York hasn’t been willing to attach sweeteners to Fournier just to move him elsewhere, but it has expressed to other teams that it would use him to take on a larger contract and thus get a pick or young up-and-comer out of it. There aren’t many contracts around the league less team-friendly than an $18 million a year one for a player who is out of his squad’s rotation, but Hayward is one of them.
Pairing Fournier and Cam Reddish together for Hayward barely doesn’t work financially, but if Charlotte liked Reddish, the two sides could find a construction that fits. Swapping Fournier and Derrick Rose for Hayward could happen straight up. Either combination would save Charlotte almost $13 million in 2023-24. The Knicks would take back a pick to make it happen. Charlotte has the Denver Nuggets’ protected 2023 one.
Hayward isn’t the only Hornet worth calling about; Mason Plumlee and P.J. Washington are on expiring contracts, but the Knicks don’t need another big man. Kelly Oubre is expiring, too, though if the Knicks were to add a wing, they’d probably prefer a superior shooter.
Orlando Magic (19-31, 13th in the East)
Every year we wonder about Terrence Ross’ availability, and every year he stays on the Magic. Considering he’ll be a free agent this summer, a deal could finally go down this or next week, but it’s not like acquiring Ross would require a haul. Either way, the Knicks don’t need an offense-first reserve guard.
Gary Harris might be the one to monitor here. He is the better defender, is a low-maintenance guard shooting 40 percent from deep over the past two seasons, has a nifty non-guarantee for 2023-24 that could help if the Knicks need to compile salary for a bigger trade down the line and could hijack the Miles McBride minutes, pushing Immanuel Quickley to full-time point guard duties with the second unit.
Houston Rockets (12-38, 15th in the West)
Time to copy and paste from the section above …
Every year we wonder about Eric Gordon’s availability, and every year he stays on the Rockets. Considering his $20.9 million 2023-24 salary is non-guaranteed, a deal could go down soon. The problem is the Rockets have insisted on a first-round pick in return for the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year, according to teams that have been in contact with them. So far, no one has bitten.
If Houston were to lessen its asking price, the Knicks would be an intuitive suitor. Gordon has rediscovered his 3-point shot over the past two seasons, has played in big games, can still score and might have more defensive chops left over than it appears. He’s been openly checked out for a couple of seasons. This screams for a change of scenery.
For what it’s worth, the money in a Reddish and Rose for Gordon deal works.
They like their guys, no matter what
Detroit Pistons (13-38, 15th in the East)
The Bojan Bogdanović situation has serious Jerami Grant vibes — not the vibes from this past summer when the Pistons traded Grant, but the ones from the 2022 deadline, when many assumed a tanking team would move on from its leading scorer but held onto him instead. Detroit wanted a valuable draft pick for Grant, who had a year and a half remaining on his contract. It didn’t get one, so it stayed patient.
Today, the Pistons are at the bottom of the East. Bogdanović is having a top-notch season. He would make sense for the Knicks — a shot-creating, 3-point shooting forward who’s reliable on defense. But would they pay what it took to get him?
Like with Grant, the Pistons aren’t giving Bogdanović away just for the sake of it. As The Athletic’s James Edwards reported, they’re asking for at least one unprotected first-round pick for him. They just extended him two extra seasons, and the second one isn’t even guaranteed. They should be in no rush to trade him. And it’s possible they won’t.
The Knicks have four unprotected first-rounders of their own to trade along with four protected ones from other teams, but it would be out of character for them to part with one of their best picks when they’ve been saving for a star.
The great get from the Pistons would be a familiar name, Alec Burks, the exact type of depth wing they need, but the Knicks aren’t allowed to trade for him since they dealt him over the offseason.
More gettable in Detroit are Hamidou Diallo or Cory Joseph, who are both set to become free agents this summer, but Diallo doesn’t make much sense for New York and Joseph is having a down season.
Washington Wizards (23-26, ninth in the East)
The Wizards are telling the whole league that they plan to re-sign Kyle Kuzma when he becomes a free agent this summer. It would be a shocker if they moved him before the deadline.
They’ve operated as if they’re buyers thus far, trying to improve today’s roster for a better chance at the postseason. With Rui Hachimura already in Los Angeles, the most likely player to go is Will Barton, who’s on an expiring, $14.4 million contract, but Barton has been out of Washington’s rotation for a while now.
San Antonio Spurs (14-36, 14th in the West)
The Spurs are in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. They have no misconceptions about where they fall in today’s NBA hierarchy. If you make an offer for Doug McDermott (who has another season left on his contract after this one) or Josh Richardson (a free agent this summer), they have to listen.
But they find themselves in this category because of one man: Jakob Poeltl, the soon-to-be free-agent center who could help any squad in need of rim protection. Despite his contract situation, the Spurs have communicated to other front offices that they’re not desperate to move Poeltl and are willing to re-sign him this summer. And even if they were trying to flip him more aggressively, the last thing the Knicks need is another rim-diving center.
Oklahoma City Thunder (24-25, 11th in the West)
The Thunder are overflowing with young guys, and then there’s Kenrich Williams, a fundamental-first forward who could help the Knicks or any other organization. But he’s in a mutual love affair with Oklahoma City, which just re-upped him through 2027 and is roaring out of its rebuild.
Phoenix Suns (26-25, ninth in the West)
It feels like the Suns have overplayed their hand with Crowder, who requested a trade coming into training camp and was anyone’s pick to be the first player dealt this season. Yet, he’s still in Phoenix, and now the rest of the league is wondering what kind of shape a 32-year-old must be in after staying home for four months.
He’s a free agent come the summer, and because he hasn’t played in an NBA game since May, he will likely need time to ramp up, which means whoever trades for Crowder could get him for only 20 of 25 regular-season games. And once he does show up, he’s more of an unknown than he would have been in autumn.
He’s not quite what the Knicks need. He could just end up stealing Obi Toppin’s minutes. And even though he’s a veteran who constantly goes far in the postseason, he’s too much of a wild card to demand something meaningful.
Could keep everyone, get rid of everyone or anything in between
Toronto Raptors (23-28, 12th in the East)
The league is waiting on the Raptors. They’re below the Play-In Tournament picture. Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. can become free agents after this season. Pascal Siakam’s contract expires after the next one. There is so much smoke following around OG Anunoby that there must be flames behind him.
Toronto could trade one or more of those players. It could keep the core together. Who knows?
It’s easy to imagine the Knicks getting in on Anunoby, a top-of-the-line defender and reliable scorer who screams Tom Thibodeau’s type. But he will take a massive package to acquire. The Knicks probably aren’t landing him with only a few of the protected first-rounders they have from other teams. They’d need to include at least one or two of their own, unprotected — and maybe more.
If the price climbs to three unprotected first-rounders, then the Knicks have decisions to make. They bowed out of the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes last summer because the return Utah wanted would have left the cupboard too empty to go get a second star. Well, Anunoby is levels below Mitchell. If the Knicks give up even two first-rounders for him, then putting together a trade for a star this summer or the next one becomes more difficult.
So they’d have to ask themselves: how do the Knicks define “over the top?” And is Anunoby enough to vault them there?
Utah Jazz (26-26, 10th in the West)
The Jazz have stabilized at .500, which means they could convince themselves they’re a playoff team or that it’s worth diving into the lottery. They are not trading NBA Most Improved Player contender Lauri Markkanen, but any of the veterans could conceivably go, including Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Kelly Olynyk or Rudy Gay.
Beasley is the one who makes the most sense for the Knicks, who are 24th in 3-point percentage and could use a shooter of his ilk. Of course, the Knicks have found success over the past two months with a hard-nosed mentality, and Beasley’s style doesn’t mesh as well with that.
Won’t tear it down but would listen
Chicago Bulls (23-26, 10th in the East)
It’s easy to forget that the Bulls just put this roster together only two summers ago. Tearing it down would make for one of the fastest buyer’s remorse deadlines ever. Yet, speculation arises because they’re in danger of missing the playoffs.
Chances are, the big three of Nikola Vučević, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan will remain intact for now, though they have to figure out how they want to handle Vučević’s upcoming free agency first. If Chicago were to break it down, Alex Caruso, one of the league’s feistiest defenders, would be an ideal Knick to slide into the McBride minutes. But there would be a market for Caruso, who still has three team-friendly years (including this one) remaining on his contract, and the last one isn’t even guaranteed.
Indiana Pacers (24-28, 11th in the East)
The Pacers have collapsed since Tyrese Haliburton’s injury, but they’re not holding a fire sale. They just extended Myles Turner last week. They have quality, young depth that’s already contributing to winning basketball, most notably with impressive rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard.
Yet, Buddy Hield, who makes $21.2 million this season and $19.3 million next season, still stands out. Like Beasley, he’s an offense-first shooter, but he’s also a different level of a deep threat than the Utah guard. The Knicks would have to wonder if such a large contract is worth it for Hield, but he and Fournier have similar salaries, and if New York wanted to upgrade at that spot, it could include one or two protected first-rounders to try for the Pacers’ 3-point assassin.
Atlanta Hawks (25-25, eighth in the East)
John Collins’ name has been scattered around the trade market for years, but the Hawks also just made a change in their front office. Travis Schlenk, who headed the organization since 2017, is out. Landy Fields, formerly the No. 2 to Schlenk, is running the show. And until he lives through an NBA trade deadline, we don’t know if Fields’ approach to Collins will be different than Schlenk’s.
Either way, Collins, a tweener four/five, doesn’t make sense for the Knicks, who already struggle enough to find minutes for Julius Randle and Toppin.
Portland Trail Blazers (23-26, 12th in the West)
A team doesn’t extend six-time All-Star Damian Lillard, trade for Jerami Grant on an expiring contract and then immediately pivot to a tank.
Sure, the Trail Blazers could change course, deal Grant, who is having his best season ever and is eligible for an extension right now, for whatever they can get and tear the rest of the group to the ground, but that doesn’t seem like the most likely scenario.
If they were to make a future-looking move, a tweak on the margins seems more feasible than an explosion from the foundation. And now we turn our attention to stud role player Josh Hart, who could be perfect for the Knicks if he stopped passing up so many 3s. Hart defends, is one of the NBA’s best rebounding guards, is efficient inside the arc and plays with a verve Thibodeau would appreciate.
He has a funky contract structure: His $12.9 million salary for 2023-24 is non-guaranteed, but it also is a player option, which means he’ll likely hit free agency this summer. But that wouldn’t eliminate a market for him.
(Top photo of Bojan Bogdanović, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vučević and Alex Caruso: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)
https://theathletic.com/4137691/2023/01/30/knicks-nba-teams-trade-deadline-targets/ Which teams (players) could be NBA trade deadline targets for Knicks?