With the NBA trade deadline coming into sight, it’s time to look at what the Knicks need as they head into the back half of the season.
Heading into the second half of the season with the hardest remaining schedule in the league, the Knicks will have their work cut out for them if they want to stay in the playoff picture. While the current framework of the team has done well so far given the circumstances, it’s likely time that they look into some much-needed roster moves. Some teams around the league will be looking to buy or sell, but the Knicks will look to do a bit of both.
Since the hiring of Leon Rose back in March of 2020, the Knicks have not made any trades that have broken headlines, unless you count trading to get Cam Reddish around a year ago. The trade may have been exciting at the time, but his tenure in New York went sour rapidly, to the surprise of many. For better or for worse, Rose has been relatively conservative when it comes to trading, a trait on full display with the Donovan Mitchell trade rumors in the offseason.
He’ll be put to the test again, with many enticing names being rumored to be on the block. It’ll be up to him to decide whether a deal is worth making or not, and I wouldn’t be surprised if history repeats itself. The Knicks have a plethora of first-round picks in the upcoming draft with many more to follow in the coming years. For a big deal to go down, New York will have to cough up some of their draft capital, which they have been hesitant to part ways with, considering the youth movement that has taken over their current lineup rotations. Regardless, the Knicks will have to evaluate whether it’s best to wait for the draft or it’s time to make some headlines by going out and getting a rotation-ready player.
Keeping these things in mind going forward, let’s look at some targets that the New York Knicks may try to acquire this trade deadline.
O.G. Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors seem like one of the few times likely to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Given their struggles this season, and with a chance to retool around Scottie Barnes for the years that lie ahead, it makes sense for Toronto to blow it up by February 9th’s deadline. While Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Gary Trent Jr. are names that have been included in rumors, Anunoby represents the biggest chance for them to change direction meaningfully.
Averaging a career-high 17.4 points per game to go along with 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists, Anunoby has seen his offensive game blossom following the Raptor’s 2019 championship run. His scoring ability would help the Knicks tremendously, but it’s his quick hands and feet on defense that have helped the Raptors become a well-oiled machine on defense, ranking first in steals per game and seventh in blocks per game. His pesky activity on that end of the floor creates many steals that lead to easy baskets or open up the fast break at the very least.
This season, Anunoby is in the 96th percentile for both steals and blocks, a testament to what he brings to a team defensively. He would make a difference immediately if the Knicks were to strike a deal. A player that fits what Tom Thibodeau looks to do night in and night out, the former Indiana forward is battle-tested and is in great condition, averaging a career-high in points along with 2.1 steals per game in 36.5 minutes per game, which ranks ninth in the entire league.
So, what will it take to get the defensive juggernaut?
Taking into account that the Raptors are likely headed towards a rebuild, New York will have to pay a price that consists of some of their draft assets along with some young players. As it stands right now, Toronto is looking for two promising, young players on team-friendly deals as well as a first-round draft pick, according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. Although that is the current asking price, a team has already gone ahead and made a large offer to grab the two-way forward.
While the Knicks have everything necessary to get a deal done, the front office will have some thinking to do about whether this will help them contend or not in the East going forward, and be worth the large price tag it would likely come with.
Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic
This one is intriguing, especially since there have been no rumors about Bamba to the Knicks since the offseason when he re-signed with the Magic. But with the emergence of Wendell Carter Jr and Bol Bol becoming a viable option at center for Orlando, Bamba stands as the odd man out. Seeing as how the Knicks have struggled to put together wins in the absence of Mitchell Robinson, the former Texas product would make sense for New York, fitting their timeline and bringing a great skillset to the team. Once Robinson returns from injury, Bamba would be a great asset to have coming off the bench.
The 6th pick in the 2018 draft has averaged 7.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 1.0 blocks in 17.4 minutes of play this season. Taking a backseat to other players in the lineup, Bamba hasn’t been able to shine at full capacity at any point in his career, partially due to other players favored over him in the lineup, but also because of injury. Fortunately, for the last two seasons, Bamba hasn’t suffered any major injuries that took him out for an extended period of time. All he needs now is a chance, and the Knicks can provide him with that. When given real playing time, Bamba has shown a unique skill set, and his versatility would be the most fans have seen from a Knicks center since Kristaps Porzingis.
Shooting 38% from behind the arc this season, Bamba would be able to space the floor at a much higher rate than Isaiah Hartenstein, and considering there are rumors about the Clippers wanting to reacquire Hartenstein after losing him in the offseason, a three-team trade could be possible. While it is unknown what the asking price currently is for the Orlando Magic, league executives stated a few months ago that the Magic would seek a protected first-rounder in exchange for the former lottery pick. This is a realistic price for the Knicks to pay for him, given his ceiling as a player. But does New York take the risk? Given that they took a chance on Cam Reddish just last year and it didn’t pan out, maybe it holds them up from striking a deal with Orlando. Perhaps it doesn’t. They’ll be the deciders of their own fate. Either way, this is a significant area that the Knicks need to fill, and Bamba is the best target to go for as far as price and potential go.
Grayson Allen, Milwaukee Bucks
He may not be a fan favorite, but the former Duke guard does a great job buying into his role in Milwaukee, playing gritty defense and knocking down open looks as a perimeter threat. For a Knicks squad that ranks 25th in 3-point percentage and 22nd in free throw percentage, Grayson Allen would provide a huge boost to keep their offense flowing. He plays with a chip on his shoulder every game and is a key component to the Bucks’ current defensive success. Most importantly, he can perform in the clutch, an area that New York has struggled with over the course of the season. Funny enough, Knick fans should be familiar with his clutch shooting, especially since he did this to us earlier in the season:
Averaging 10.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.6 rebounds on 39.7% shooting from 3 and 90.3% from the line, Allen is a true 3-and-D threat that the Knicks currently don’t possess, whether fans would like to admit it or not. He isn’t afraid to sacrifice for his team, diving for loose balls, keeping his defender in front of him, pretty much anything that will help his team win. If New York were to acquire him, he’d likely get a significant amount of minutes early, which would force someone such as Quentin Grimes to take a backseat in the lineup. It depends on the Knicks’ mindset this season. If they are dead set on making the playoffs and trying to win a first-round series, this may be a deal they look to capitalize on, considering what Allen provides on both ends of the floor. However, if they don’t want to stunt the growth of their young guards, then this would be a deal they’d pass on.
No matter what the Knicks decide to do, they have the assets to get it done. Although he may be a starter for the Bucks, Allen remains as one of the easier targets to go out and get at the deadline. While Milwaukee’s asking price isn’t known for the sharpshooter, it is known that they are interested in acquiring Cam Reddish, who hasn’t seen the floor since December 3rd. Flashing frequent potential, Reddish never really had much of an opportunity to thrive in New York considering how competitive the rotation is.
Being dealt to Milwaukee would be a best-case scenario for all parties involved. The Knicks would get a solid 3-and-D threat, while the Bucks would get an interesting young player with a high ceiling, not to mention Reddish would be content with a change of scenery. Although a swap would be ideal, the Knicks would need to include some draft capital to sweeten the Bucks’ end of the deal, considering they are giving up a starter. Either way, a Reddish-for-Allen deal is unlikely, as Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported that the two teams have discussed a Reddish deal without Allen included.
The NBA trade deadline is two weeks away, and the rumors are beginning to swirl again. Given the Knicks’ current needs and the assets they have sitting on the bench as the season continues on, they’ll look to both buy and sell. New York has the war chest to get almost anyone that’s available right now, and it’ll be interesting what assets they’ll use (or won’t) to acquire players that fit their timeline and system.
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