The Knicks return home after back-to-back road wins in the first post–trade deadline game. They match up with the underwhelming Orlando Magic.
Just three and a half hours following the NBA’s trade deadline, the New York Knicks (15-36) will play the Orlando Magic (22-28) at Madison Square Garden. A win would be the Knicks’ third straight, as they beat the Pacers and Cavaliers on the road in their last two.
While the Knicks lineup should see a bit of a shake-up by Wednesday night due to the trade deadline, the Magic’s lineup should presumably be mostly the same.
Orlando will rely on Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, as those are their two best players. Vucecvic, who was an All-Star last season, is averaging 18.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game on 44.9% from the field. Additionally, he’s capable of hitting the three, as he’s shooting 34.9% from downtown on 4.8 attempts per game. Gordon is averaging 13.6 points, down from 16.0 in 2018–19, and 7.2 rebounds.
The Magic haven’t won 22 games the way that most NBA teams operate. They’ve won it not with star power and three-point shooting (28th in the NBA, one spot below the Knicks), but with slow pace and defense. Orlando ranks 28th in the NBA in pace and first in the NBA in points allowed per game with 104.6.
However, Orlando’s formula has taken a large hit with the loss of rising star and future all-defensive player Jonathan Isaac, who’s knee injury has forced him to miss the last 16 games. Since Isaac’s injury, the Magic are 7-9, but have only won three of their last 10 games. The Magic still remain four games ahead of the Bulls for that final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks played the Magic once so far this season, and lost by 12, only putting up 83 points in the game. Even without Jonathan Isaac, it won’t be easy for the Knicks to put up points against the Magic given they have limited creators and aren’t a good shooting team.
That being said, here are three more storylines to look out for Thursday.
Life Without Morris
At this point, it seems as though it’s not a matter of if, but when. With Steve Mills gone, Marcus Morris is going to be traded and probably to either the Lakers or the Clippers.
Morris has been phenomenal for the Knicks this season as he’s averaging 19.6 points and shooting 43.9% from deep. Without Marcus Morris, it’s not a stretch to think that the Knicks wouldn’t be at 10 wins yet.
Other players are going to have to fill the void for the absence of Morris going forward, some being young players, and others being players that the Knicks receive in trades. That begins Thursday night.
Other Players on the Move?
If Marcus Morris is the only Knick traded by game time, then it means it was a failure of a trade deadline. I expect other players to also join Morris in departure from New York.
Everyone except for R.J Barrett and Mitchell Robinson are on the block for the Knicks, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see players like Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, Allonzo Trier, Wayne Ellington, and Bobby Portis get traded.
This opens the door to the second chapter of the Knicks’ season. Rather than watching Elfrid Payton and other veterans play 35+ minutes per game, we will be hopefully watching all the young players get extended minutes for the rest of the season. There’s no doubt it’ll be a breath of fresh air.
Learn From the Markelle Fultz Move
It’s worth noting that the No. 1 overall pick from the 2017 NBA Draft, Markelle Fultz, is Orlando’s starting point guard. Fultz has had a bounce back season, averaging 11.7 points and 4.8 assists. In Orlando’s last game, Fultz had 12 points and 14 assists in a win.
Last season, the Magic traded for Fultz at the trade deadline, giving up only Jonathon Simmons to get him. Simmons isn’t even in the NBA currently. Let this be a lesson for the Knicks for this trade deadline and beyond. Get creative and trade for young players with potential that are in bad situations. Sometimes it does work out.