Get ready for the most exciting part of NBA Basketball, the offseason drama. With a major domino already fallen things will only get spicer.

Offseason chaos waits for no man. 

It did not take even 20 days since the final game of the season before the first blockbuster trade of the summer was made. If you have been sleeping under a rock, the Washington Wizards shipped off Bradley Beal to Phoenix for pennies on the dollar on Father’s Day. 

The Beal trade tied to the New York Knicks only tangentially. Beal was one of the players the front office debated targeting this offseason as they look to build on last season’s success. The overall theme of the summer should be for the Knicks to build around Jalen Brunson. Beal is certainly the type of player the team should be looking to add. Unfortunately, he did not feel the same way, as he clearly had bigger plans in mind joining Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

Beal was just the first domino to fall, but he will almost definitely not be the final major player to swap jerseys this summer. For years, the talking point for the Knicks is “they are in the best situation they’ve been in years” – a constant theme of the Scott Perry era, in which little actually happened. This time, that statement rings true, despite the team not having a single pick in the upcoming draft.

The main difference between the offseason following their first playoff season under Tom Thibodeau and this offseason is the strength of the core. The 2020-21 campaign felt more like a fever dream than a step forward. This past season actually felt like a true step forward. The team has eight players they can rely on moving forward, nine if you want to include Obi Toppin.

There are two ways to look at this depth; the way most will look at it is that the team can make marginal improvements and build on the existing core. An example of going that route is making a capable role player Donte DiVincenzo the main offseason target to shore up the second unit.

The more extreme view is to scour the market this summer for an available star-caliber scorer. There are already a few names floating around, none truly connected to New York at this time. But as the days move on and the NBA Draft nears, the action should pick up and the Knicks could start to focus on some names that can help solidify the team as an Eastern Conference elite.

Whether the team should pull the trigger depends on the package. The Knicks do not have enough assets to enter any blockbuster trade discussion, however, they do have a glut of picks after this year, an expiring Evan Fournier contract, and useful young players to go after some available names.

Karl-Anthony Towns

The Minnesota Timberwolves seemed to have maxed out their potential with Karl-Anthony Towns. The first overall pick of 2015 has been at the center of a rebuild that plateaued with three first-round exits. With Anthony Edwards under team control, the Timberwolves are in a good spot to reset around Edwards and cash in on Towns.

On the surface, there is some appeal to Towns. Hometown player, three-time All-Star, and two-time All-NBA, who has already played under Thibodeau. His shooting would help space the floor on offense, but after that, what exactly does Towns offer that could outweigh losing the outgoing pieces that would be needed to complete the deal?

The answer is not much.

Towns would not be expensive, but a bare minimum of Julius Randle/Mitchell Robinson and one of the younger players feels like the general framework needed. Given Towns has been most effective at center, the Knicks would want to pair him with Randle versus the defensive-minded Robinson. Such a move feels like a trade-off that does not have a ton of upside.

There is no question Towns packs a scoring punch, but it is hard to clamor over someone who was not able to make much noise with a decent cast in Minnesota. Also, I’ve never fully gotten over this photo, and I am pained at the thought of Towns being Joel Embiid’s personal punching bag four games every year.

Zach LaVine

Is Zach LaVine actually available? Possibly. The Chicago Bulls are rightfully testing the market on LaVine due to their current predicament of being stuck in purgatory. Lonzo Ball’s career might be over, which kind of blows up the plans they had to compete with a core centered around LaVine, Ball, and Nikola Vucevic.

The main questions around LaVine have little to do with his talent. He is the type of scorer the Knicks needed in the playoffs to help Brunson. A three-level scorer with a career three-point percentage of 38.5%, LaVine would come with some defensive question marks that are outweighed by his offensive production. As tough a call as it sounds, keeping Quentin Grimes over RJ Barrett in a hypothetical LaVine trade would make more sense, as Barrett is the inferior defender of the two.

Barrett’s inclusion in a potential deal is just one concern with acquiring LaVine. The more pressing concern is that trading for LaVine locks the Knicks in to compete with this current group. As with Beal, LaVine is just one year into his five-year, $215 million deal.

If the front office feels confident that LaVine is the missing piece, do the Bulls make a deal based heavily on draft picks? There are too many potential road bumps here to roll the dice on LaVine being the missing piece to a title contender.

Zion Williamson

The gut reaction to any Zion to New York chatter is “Fuck outta here!”. Not because Zion has a problem or anything, it just doesn’t feel like the Knicks can come up with an offer enticing enough to bring the New Orleans Pelicans to the table.

Context plays a huge factor in the Zion hypotheticals. Actions speak louder than words, but in Zion’s case, both his words and his actions have made it pretty clear he does not want to be in New Orleans. The way Zion beams when he talks about New York, you would think he is reminiscing about the good times.

Toss in the fact that the Pelicans cut ties with assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon, the coach Zion was closest to in NOLA you could almost feel the impending divorce approaching. If Zion has any control over his next team, New York is almost guaranteed to crack the top of the list.

A trade for Zion does not seem as farfetched as it once was. The Pelicans are actually a good basketball team right now. A package of win-now pieces, headlined by Julius Randle, theoretically would not be the worst return for a guy who has played 114 games in four seasons. Randle is the better shooter, and an iron man, two traits that can help a Pelican team that wants to win now.

But in those 114 games Zion has played, he has posted generational talent-type numbers, with a career field goal percentage of 60.5%. An engaged Zion, playing with his old college teammate RJ Barrett, could fill whatever void Zion had in his desire to suit up for the Pelicans.

Speaking of Barrett, if a reunion with Zion were achieved, the onus would fall on him to considerably improve his game. For argument’s sake, if Randle were swapped for Zion, the Knicks’ shooting takes a hit. Depending on who else would go to New Orleans, Barrett would have to consistently develop into an above-average shooter to make this whole thing truly work.

The potential risk of landing Zion is as astronomical, as the reward. Players like Zion are not available often, and if he has the leverage to force his way to NYC, the Knicks should roll the dice.

Kristaps Porzingis

A thought that could have gotten you stoned to death outside Madison Square Garden two years ago is rapidly becoming a logical and realistic option. Kristaps Porzingis left New York City on bad terms, however, who does not love a good comeback story?

All the people Porzingis could have had static with are no longer employed by the team. On paper, he is a better spacing fit alongside Brunson, Randle, and RJ, while still providing rim protection. Porzingis is coming off a quiet “get right” season in Washington.

Porzingis started all 65 games he appeared in last season and averaged a career-best 23.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. In addition to the career-highs, Porzingis also shot an impressive 38.5% from beyond the arc, second only to his third season in New York in which he shot 39.5% from three.

Welcoming Porzingis would sadly mean moving on from Mitchell Robinson. While Robinson is indeed an offensive black hole, despite his belief he has a developed offensive bag, he is the unquestioned anchor of the defense. If the team moves Robinson, a lot of the stuff he covered up could get exposed.

Interestingly enough, Porzingis pulled down only nine fewer rebounds than Robinson last season. The area Robinson excelled is on the offensive glass, where only Golden State’s Kevin Looney pulled down more offensive rebounds.

Unlike the Towns situation, though, moving on for Robinson for Porzingis makes more sense. For starters, Porzingis could get to New York via a sign-and-trade with the Wizards, who are clearly headed for a full rebuild. Secondly, Porzingis is more proven as a rim protector than Towns, who is more known for his finesse.

As with all things this summer, the Knicks should let the action come to them. If a star wants to force his way to New York, by all means. If not, simply keeping the band together is not the offseason failure it was under most of Perry’s tenure. Another year of internal development for the young players could put the team in a prime position to strike later on as bigger names reveal themselves.

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