With trade season coming, let’s take a look at some moves the Knicks could make to either speed up the tank or push for a playoff spot.
The Knicks currently hold a record of 11-11 and have a season that could go either way ahead of them. Depending on whether they keep up their early season play and are fighting for a playoff spot come March, or do a very Knicks thing and lose a bunch of games and find themselves fighting for a top pick in the draft, the moves the franchise makes in the next few months will be crucial. Should New York look to contend for a spot in the weak Eastern Conference playoff race, they’ll need to move some pieces around to clear the roster up and provide more minutes for the players that are producing, and possibly add another piece that would make the Knicks a more threatening team. However, if injuries, bad luck, or a combination of both have New York near the bottom of the standings in the coming weeks and months, they’ll need to make some moves to push the tank along and get a few assets while they’re at it.
Either way, the Knicks will be looking to move a few pieces around now that December 15 (when players who were moved during the offseason can officially be traded) is fast approaching. So with that in mind, lets take a look at a few players that the Knicks could move in the approaching months.
In his time with New York, O’Quinn has been one of the most mentioned names in trade talks. He’s also one of the longest-tenured Knicks on the team. In his three years with the franchise, the Queens native has put on display his solid inside scoring game and aggressive paint defense, making him one of the most valuable assets New York has. With the roster chalk-full of big men and a move involving one of them inevitable, this may be the year Kyle O’Quinn is finally traded.
At only 27, O’Quinn could provide consistent minutes for seasons to come, and could be beneficial to any team in need of some big man depth. If the Knicks do look to move him, then they’d likely look for a return of a pick and a cheap role player, as moving KOQ would suggest they’re looking to rebuild.
The Knicks would surely love to unload Joakim Noah and his gargantuan contract, but the player most likely to be shipped out of New York is Kyle O’Quinn. The sixth-year center is averaging just 16.8 minutes per game and has been relegated for mop up duty with the arrival of Enes Kanter. K.O. still has plenty of value around the league and should be easy to move thanks to his affordable $4 million contract. As noted by Sports Betting Dime, odds that he’ll be gone by the NBA trade deadline are set at 3/2.
Trading O’Quinn would certainly favor the tank, as he’s quietly been one of the most productive players on the team this season. The move would also free up a significant amount of minutes for Willy Hernangómez, who averages a mere ten minutes per game on the season. This is one of the reasons I wouldn’t be too opposed to moving O’Quinn. Willy showed great potential last season, and this season has lacked both offensively and defensively, possibly due to a lack of minutes. A role off the bench, consistently playing 15-20 minutes each night may be just what Hernangómez needs to get back into his groove and be that same Gasol-esque young big man Knicks fans loved watching last season.
If things go downhill for New York this season (as things tends to), moving O’Quinn for some assets should be a top priority for Scott Perry and the front office. Let that beard flourish on a contender.
After a mini-breakout year in his first full season with the Knicks in 2015-16, Lance Thomas has steadily decreased in production in recent years. This season he’s averaging 3.7 points on 37 percent shooting, a significant drop-off from the numbers he was putting up just a few seasons ago.
Over in Portland, the Blazers have a similar situation on their hands. NYC native Mo Harkless, who was rumored to be involved in a potential three-team trade that would’ve sent Carmelo Anthony to Houston, has also struggled this year after impressing in recent seasons. Harkless lost his starting spot to Pat Connaughton recently, and he may fall out of the rotation entirely with Al-Farouq Aminu back from injury after missing some time.
It seems like a change of environment could benefit both wings. Sending Harkless home to New York avoids him stewing over a loss in playing time, and moving Lance Thomas to Portland gives him a fresh start on a new team where he can work his way up.
This would likely be a move the Knicks make if they’re looking to add a few pieces to push for a playoff spot. Harkless is a capable defender that could give the team good minutes off the bench at the 3 or 4, and would give New York an added athleticism. As for Thomas, moving him wouldn’t make too much of a difference for the Knicks, and they wouldn’t lose any depth at his position, making a Lance-for-Harkless swap all the more attractive.
Another Knick that seems like a possible trade piece this season is the 11-year veteran shooting guard, Courtney Lee. While he’s been one of the most effective players New York has had in the last two years, moving the 32 year-old may become a necessity if the Knicks season goes down the drain.
Lee is the prototypical 3-and-D player, and he excels in his role. He could fit on nearly any team, but the most interesting potential landing spot for Lee, in my opinion, is New Orleans. A deal with the Pelicans seems like the most realistic, and makes the most sense for both sides. New Orleans has been in desperate need of wings since the DeMarcus Cousins trade, and that’s what they’d get in Courtney Lee. If the Pelicans’ front office would be willing to give up a package including one or two of Ian Clark, Darius Miller, and Dante Cunningham, along with a second round pick, the Knicks would be smart to accept it. Adding Lee to a team with the dominant big man duo of AD and Boogie Cousins and the dynamic Jrue Holiday could be what makes them a playoff team. Lee’s shooting finally allows New Orleans to space the floor a bit, and his solid defense would only help the 10th ranked defense in the league.
As for the Knicks, Lee gone would mean an open spot in the starting five and more minutes for players below him in the rotation. As of right now, Doug McDermott would likely take the open spot at small forward, but who knows how each wing will be playing a month, or even a week from now. Not to mention, whoever New York picked up in the trade would further complicate things.
The biggest takeaway is that the Knicks would probably get worse if they traded Courtney Lee. However, that might be a good thing. #TankSZN?
I don’t really know any specific teams the Knicks could ship Ramon Sessions to, but I’d appreciate it if they found someone. Sessions is a seasoned vet and can still ball, which is great to have around Ntilikina, but with Jarrett Jack and Ron “No-Trade-Clause” Baker already on the roster and Frank quickly coming into his own it just seems unnecessary to hold on to him.
A return of a second rounder would be ideal, as it leaves open a roster spot and gives New York an minor asset for the future. The Knicks will likely have to waive and eat Sessions’ salary if/when no team links up to take Ramon on its roster.
An interesting potential move the Knicks could make if things really go to kaput in the next couple months is a trade involving Enes Kanter. Kanter has been great in his short time with New York, scoring consistently and surprising with his defense. Also, he’s only 25. All these traits are what make the Turkish big man so good, but also such an attractive asset to teams around the league. Out of all the players the Knicks would be willing to trade (that means everyone except for Kristaps, Timmy, and Frank), Kanter would probably get them the best return. So, if the 2017-18 season turns out to be a flaming pile of garbage like seasons before, moving him now and getting whatever they can back may be the smartest move for the Knicks.
Teams in need of a scoring big man, like Houston, Milwaukee, and Washington would be the best suitors for a Kanter trade. From teams like these, New York would probably be able to snag a first rounder, or a second rounder and an additional piece.
I’m hoping a trade for Kanter doesn’t have to happen, though, he’s quickly become a favorite of mine and many other Knicks fans for his grit and energy on the court. After all, what kind of franchise trades a player that tried to fight LeBron? That’s just wrong.