The Knicks could use more offense. Collin Sexton, an explosive scorer, is reportedly on the market. What would a trade that brings them together look like?
The New York Knicks’ embarrassing postseason flameout emphasized that the team still lacks offensive firepower. Their collection of players who can reliably create offense for themselves and/or their teammates isn’t robust enough. Now that Tom Thibodeau and company have established an identity, it’s time to address its weaknesses.
Collin Sexton would be both a good addition to the collection and one that the Knicks could reasonably obtain. The Cleveland Cavaliers guard, who is entering his fourth year in the league, is “very available” for trade, according to The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd. Sexton was once the center of the Cavs’ rebuild, but Lloyd doesn’t think that Cleveland will pony up max-contract money to extend him. Just two days after that report, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Knicks “are the most aggressive trade suitor” for Sexton.
Last week, TKW’s Quentin Haynes went into detail about Sexton’s fit with the Knicks. To put it simply: he’s got the shot creation the Knicks lack and brings enough juice on defense for Tom Thibodeau to make a good defender out of. And at only 22 years of age, he could be a long-term piece for New York’s latest championship chase.
So, what would it take for the Knicks to pry Sexton away?
According to Cavaliers reporter Evan Dammarell, one potential package for Sexton includes Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox, and a 2021 first-round pick. If this is all it takes for the Knicks to get Sexton, Leon Rose needn’t think twice. Make that move.
Knox, who was drafted the pick after Sexton in 2018, has only become less a part of New York’s future since being picked ninth overall. There’s no reason to be desperate to hang onto him—there may not even be one to just hang onto him, as last season made it pretty clear that he isn’t ready for a serious role on a good team.
That leaves the 2021 pick (either selection 19 or 21) and Toppin. The Knicks shouldn’t fret about trading a first-rounder when they have two. And they shouldn’t fret about trading Toppin either, considering they’d be moving him for someone who is almost a year younger than him and has proved to have much, much more value.
If you’re going to argue that Toppin should be given the same amount of professional time as Sexton to develop in order to be as good as him, don’t. For one, the Knicks are trying to be good now. They don’t have time to wait for the development of a player that, regardless of any improvements, would still be Julius Randle’s backup. And second, Toppin hasn’t shown the pull-up shooting or individual scoring prowess that makes Sexton one of the better scorers in the league. Nor has he shown skills in any other area that makes him as impactful as Sexton.
If you’re out on Sexton because of the Knicks inevitably having to extend him, understand that the Knicks are not literally stuck with him afterward. Yes, he would be harder to move with a loftier contract but his trade value wouldn’t evaporate. So long as Sexton is healthy and is still producing well, moving off his new deal, which may be upwards of $20 million a year, isn’t Mission Impossible.
Scared money don’t make no money. Spend it when it’s the right time. Capitalizing off of the first playoff appearance of a new era by extending a 22-year-old who averaged over 24 points per game is not wasting cap space; it’s just using it. Not every contract with over $70 million guaranteed is the Joakim Noah contract 2.0.
Given that the proposed package for Sexton is pretty measly, New York should be willing to part with more. Any second-round pick should be up for grabs, no questions asked. Even if the Cavs want both of New York’s first-round picks, it would be worth it for the Knicks. They can afford to take a swing on Sexton—which is much safer than betting on two mid-first-round draft picks, mind you, as we’ve already seen him excel at the professional level—because they have firsts in every draft moving forward.
Also, any value that Sexton offers should be boosted by joining a good team. Despite the Cavaliers have been among the worst teams in the league, Sexton has flaunted a knack for getting buckets while improving his output year after year. Placing him alongside an All-Star should make his job easier and the defense in front of him further back on its heels.
There is a minor quirk regarding Sexton: his playmaking. He is a pretty solid playmaker, but it’s not as developed as his scoring repertoire. With Randle’s emergence as an effective passer, it won’t matter as much. But the Knicks may still want to look for point guard options if they swing a deal for Sexton, as they could use some more playmaking in their offensive diet.
Derrick Rose is the best in-house option. Although he is still, just as he always has been, a score-first player, his drive-and-kick abilities and snappy passes make him a good option to bend defenses and make the right reads. Immanuel Quickley doesn’t have the desired passing chops you’d want for someone whose main job would be passing to Randle, Sexton, and R.J. Barrett, but his own scoring tricks would make for an even more fiery offense.
The free-agent market will likely be the source for an ideal playmaker. Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley, and Lonzo Ball would be among the pricer, but most effective, choices. Spencer Dinwiddie is one of the better players who may be available for a discount, but that’s only because he missed nearly all of the 2021 season due to an ACL tear. Elder statesmen Ish Smith and Goran Dragic would suit the need for playmaking. So too could Devonte’ Graham and Dennis Schröder, though they may also come at somewhat lofty price tags.
Playmaking needs aside, the Knicks absolutely need more players who can find their own offense. Sexton isn’t making the Knicks a title contender right away, but he’s a step in the right direction. His scoring abilities are ones that the Knicks badly need. And if the price to get him is two mediocre young players and a pick, the Knicks shouldn’t overthink it.