The Knicks went all in on their efforts to acquire a point guard in free agency or a trade, as they spent Thursday’s draft clearing cap space and acquiring future assets, while ignoring their glaring need for a ball handler.
Heading into the night, New York had the 11th overall pick, which they used on French baller Ousmane Dieng — but they quickly dealt Dieng to the Oklahoma City Thunder for three protected first-round picks.
The team then dealt one of those first rounders, along with four second round picks in exchange for the 13th overall pick in Thursday’s draft, which they used on Memphis Tigers center Jalen Duren.
They then made yet-another trade, sending Duren and veteran point guard Kemba Walker to the Detroit Pistons for a protected first rounder originally belonging to the Milwaukee Bucks, which cleared Walker’s salary from the Knicks books.
Ultimately, the Knicks acquired three protected first round picks, along with $18 million in cap space (along with Duke freshman guard Trevor Keels, who they drafted in the second round on Thursday).
For more coverage of the Knicks and their point guard search, head to amNY.com.
After the confounding night, which disappointed many Knicks fans looking for immediate roster help, team president Leon Rose released a statement highlighting their efforts to patiently construct a team with calculated trades and free agent signings.
“Our focus will remain to be strategic and thoughtful in our team building, doing it the right way, while feeding off the momentum from the end of last season and prioritizing our player development program,” Rose said.
Knicks President Leon Rose on last night’s draft activity. pic.twitter.com/E2JEIbRzbG
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) June 24, 2022
Quickly, fans and NBA insiders turned their attention to New York’s plans in free agency (which begins on June 30) and the trade market and how they will use their newfound cap space.
So, who are the Knicks looking to target at point guard this offseason?
Their main target, according to insiders, is Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson, who finished his fourth NBA season averaging 16.3 points, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds in a breakout season last year.
Brunson, who entered the league as a second round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, is expected to command between $20 and $25 million dollars for his next contract — and, while he’s expressed interest in returning to Dallas, he will certainly entertain options elsewhere, including from the Knicks.
While the 25-year-old may be their plan A, though, the team does have some backup options.
Kyrie Irving, the Nets disgruntled ball handler from across the East River, can decline his player option for the upcoming season and hit free agency next week, and there is talk that the New Jersey native could swap his black-and-white jersey for blue and orange.
That would give the Knicks one of the best point guards in the league, though his much-publicized off-court shenanigans is likely to make many fans roll their eyes. When he played (the unvaccinated baller missed significant time due to New York City vaccine mandates last season), he averaged 27.4 point, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds during the 2021-22 season.
Irving had previously committed to sticking alongside his longtime friend Kevin Durant, but now the Nets look to be entering a tumultuous period, and rumors are swirling about their unwillingness to accommodate the contract Irving is likely to command.
The Knicks would have to clear even more cap space to sign the 7-time All Star, but they do have the assets to do so, as they own 11 first-round picks over the next seven drafts.
If they’d like to find a more stable option at point guard, though, they could look even further down the list of marquee free agents — including Spurs’ Dejounte Murray, who is still under contract, but is potentially available in a trade as San Antonio continues to rebuild.
Murray has improved steadily each of his five playing years (he missed the 2018-19 season with injury), and he would slot nicely alongside the Knicks’ young core, led by RJ Barrett. He averaged 21.1 points, 9.2 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game last year, and his defense would be an immediate boost to defensive-minded head coach Tom Thibodeau’s roster.
The Knicks would likely need to deal several picks and/or young assets to get him, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could pry him away from Gregg Popovich’s squad.
Another possible trade for a point guard involves Malcolm Brogdon of the Pacers.
Indiana has a longjam at the guard position, and Brogdon is the least-best fit for their rebuilding timeline, which makes him the odd man out, and a potential trade piece. Like Murray, the Knicks would need to surrender some of their assets, but he’s coming off a down year, and the Pacers may be willing to part with him in exchange for future assets.
Brogon boasts a high basketball IQ, and would immediately provide a veteran presence to run the team’s offense, while bringing out the best in Barrett, Obi Toppin, Cam Reddish and other New York youngsters.