Credit to the New York Knicks front office, acquiring OG Anunoby changed their trajectory this season and beyond. Since the deal, the Knicks are 16-3 and 4th in the Eastern Conference. His defense is immeasurable, but most of all, it opened up the court for Jalen Brunson to take off into the stratosphere, and Randle to excel before his injury. Now, heading to Thursday’s deadline, the feeling is the Knicks are one piece away at the trade deadline from serious playoff contention. How the Front Office approaches the deadline will illuminate their plans and timeline for contention.
New York Knicks One Piece Away
From what I’m hearing, the Knicks are focused on a bench piece primarily. They are delighted with Donte DiVincenzo. I therefore don’t envisage them making a change to their starting lineup.
DiVincenzo has been in sensational form for the Knicks, proving to be a steal of a signing from Leon Rose. Coming off five straight games of 20 points or more. With the most three-pointers made in the NBA for January, 56 made threes(3 more than Steph Curry). Donte is the perfect compliment to All-Star Jalen Brunson in the backcourt.
There is a dearth of playmaking on this team, however, and that’s an area of need to attack over the next 24 hours.
This need is heightened by the recent injury bug that’s hit the Knicks. All-Star Forward Randle dislocated his shoulder in garbage time in their win against the Heat. OG Anunoby has a mysterious ‘elbow inflammation,’ and no one is clarifying why it’s severe enough for him to miss 6 games. Quentin Grimes has been absent, and Brunson twisted his ankle last game. It’s all hands on deck, and the Knicks need some scoring.
Let’s analyze the players the Knicks have been linked with to help with their stretch run with the positives and negatives of each.
Assessing the Most Likely Names
Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN reports the Knicks are focused on short-term bench help. Woj opines that they made their big move for OG and do not wish to compromise themselves on a potential big move in the offseason. Woj additionally named Jordan Clarkson, Alec Burks, and Bruce Brown Jr. as the guys to keep an eye on for the Knicks.
Furthermore, on the block for the Knicks is Evan Fournier‘s expiring contract. Alongside Quentin Grimes in the right deal. Additionally, at least one of their bevy of draft picks is available. Nevertheless, they are focused on a ‘Star’ in the summer to complete their team.
Bruce Brown Jr
Recently acquired by the Toronto Raptors in the Paskal Siakham Indiana Pacers trade undeniably he’s a solid role player. It’s unlikely that Brown will remain in Toronto much longer, as his timeline doesn’t fit with this young rebuilding Raptors team. There should be strong suitors for Brown one of which the Utah Jazz.
For one, Tom Thibodeau especially admires this player. He’s the quintessential Thibs’ guy, a tough, hard-working two-way glue guy. A solid defender, that shoots the 3-ball.
For his career, Brown shoots 34% from 3, and 48% from the field. He was unquestionably a key part off the bench for the Nuggets championship team.
This is not really a criticism of Brown at all, he’s a solid role-player. However, the Knicks are fairly stacked in the role-player department. His game has similarities to Josh Hart in many ways, as the ideal glue guy. OG has a lot of those qualities at the Wing spot also.
Therefore, The Knicks really need a ball-handler to help ease the burden on Brunson. Quickley was the ideal 6-man off the bench as he was the microwave scorer with his ability to create off the dribble. That’s the hole the Knicks need to fill, and that isn’t Brown’s game. If it’s a cheap deal, perhaps, but the two-way wing doesn’t add much more to what the Knicks already have in abundance.
Clarkson is a guy who has the skill set to help the Knicks playmaking woes. This 31-year-old veteran microwave scorer draws similarities to how Quickley models his game.
To illustrate, In the Jazz loss against the Houston Rockets on the 20th of January, he put up 33 points and 12 rebounds. However, since that game, his play has tailed off somewhat failing to hit 20 points in any game since then. Although he did have a 10-assist game against the Sixers last week. Clarkson was excellent last year averaging over 20 points for the Jazz. He’s been a dependable scorer wherever he’s gone in his career.
His contract is the perfect fit for the Knicks to absorb to send Fournier the other way, and his ability to create off the dribble would help lessen the load for Brunson.
Not a great defender. He’s an inefficient player averaging just 17 points on 15 attempts. Shooting an inefficient 41% from the field, and a miserable 22% from three over his last 10 games. His lack of efficiency may not fit what the Knicks are looking for off the bench.
I can envisage a Burks reunion on Thursday. Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Knicks are in discussions with the Pistons regarding a trade for Burks at the deadline. He was the perfect swiss-army knife for Tom Thibodeau off the bench in his previous stint in New York between 2020-22.
Tom Thibodeau loves him, he was solid for the Knicks. Shooting 42% from the field and 41.5% from 3 in 2020, with a +/- of 2.6.
He’s able to create off the dribble at a reasonable level. Playing solid help defense, however, he’s not great on 1-on-1’s. He can score at all three levels though, and play in a pick’n’roll offense. He’s also a solid catch-and-shoot guy. He’s not flashy, not overly talented, but he is a solid bench scorer when required.
He’s 32, and having a bad season in Detroit.
Shooting 38% from the field and his +/- is -4. Although, that stat is hard to quantify as the Pistons are the worst team in the league. I wouldn’t look too deeply into those numbers.
It’s more of a latteral move for me, it’s not really pushing the Knicks forward. Also the Knicks basically had to pay the Pistons to take Burks contract off their hands. Partly to save Thibodeau from himself, as he overused him. Burks was asked to play Point Guard in 2022 and he struggled massively out of position. Burks can still do a job, but it isn’t the exciting piece that will have Knick fans dreaming of parades down the canyon of heroes.
Wildcard Move: Malcolm Brogdon as a Final Piece Makes Tons of Sense
Brogdon is a key trade asset for the Portland Trailblazers. The reigning 6th man of the year is an asset that the rebuilding Blazers will surely move to accrue future assets. Brogdon makes a ton of sense for the Knicks.
He’s a two-way player who is incredibly versatile. Brogdan can lead the second unit or start on occasion. He’s a solid playmaker and an excellent scoring piece. Whilst also playing plus defense.
Adding a Brogdon helps Randle and Brunson at the scoring end. Making the bench exponentially better and keeps DiVincenzo in the starting unit where he’s excelling.
Of all the bench pieces named, I feel Brogdon is the one to get. Averaging around 16 points for the year with a nice 2.5 win share. He’ll be valuable for a contending team.
Knicks May Acquire Potential Stars
Murray is reportedly available on the trade market, and the Knicks have checked in on him. Reportedly the price isn’t overly steep for a player of his caliber. Potentially a package involving one starter and one young talent- hypothetically Jericho Sims and Quentin Grimes, along with Fournier’s contract. As for picks, reportedly the Hawks are looking for around 2 first-round picks. This is more than affordable and would catapult the Knicks into being a serious contender.
It’s tough on DiVincenzo as he’d most likely be demoted to 6th man, but Donte will have plenty of opportunities in the first unit. Plus with OG’s injury history and Randle recovering from a dislocated shoulder, he’ll still have a huge role in order to keep the Knicks in contention. There’s very little downside to a potential deal apart from that.
Furthermore, acquiring Murray wouldn’t discount the Knicks from flipping him in the summer if an even bigger superstar becomes available, as he has huge value around the league.
Otherwise, there are few players that can match his two-way play, his playmaking, and his scoring. He’s having a tremendous year alongside Trae Young, averaging 24 points per game, 5 boards, and 5 assists on 46% shooting.
Of all the players to partner Brunson on the market, I feel Murray is the best option. He has size, speed and is an excellent defender. His ability to score at all three levels means that court spacing shouldn’t be a problem. While Donovan Mitchell is a dream scenario down the line, his fit beside Brunson is questionable, whereas Murray should fit to a tee.
Reportedly the LA Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans are hot after Murray, so there will be competition, but he’s by far the best player that could be moved by the deadline. It’s not certain he’s moved, the Hawks may choose to keep him if they feel they don’t get the value befitting one of the better guards in the league. The Knicks are one piece away at the trade deadline and Murray should be that piece.
Knicks Trade Deadline Most Likely Outcome
Of the names mentioned, the most likely is Bruce Brown and/or Alec Burks, which are lateral moves.
However, in my opinion, the move they should be aggressive with is Malcolm Brogdon. By trading away Immanuel Quickley in the OG trade, they are missing that versatile playmaking scorer off the bench. Brogdon is the ideal guy for that.
Otherwise, there is a star player on the market by the name of Dejounte Murray. If they deal for him, the Knicks have as good a chance as the Bucks, Sixers, Cavs, or Celtics to represent the East in the NBA Finals with the team they have constituted. All those teams, as good as they are, have flaws that are exploitable this season. This might be the Knicks’ shot if they get this deadline right.