The NBA trade deadline is a little over a month away, and we’ve been digging into what that might look like for the Knicks. A strong December has them looking like buyers at the deadline, so the first part of the conversation was which current Knicks might be traded away, and we dove into that yesterday, so check it out here.
The next, and oftentimes more fun, part of the discussion is who could the Knicks realistically trade for, which is the question we’re going to discuss in part two today.
As I discussed in yesterday’s article, New York’s roster, as currently constructed, is not a championship contender. They simply don’t have the go-to scorer who can take over a game in the way that is necessary to win a modern-day NBA Finals, or really even a conference title.
However, New York’s roster is filled with intriguing young players with upside, so you don’t really want to gut the roster in search of that one big-time scorer. As a result, the path for New York at the trade deadline is likely to hold onto the majority of their upcoming draft picks, avoiding taking a big swing, and simply focusing on bolstering the bench.
This strategy would best position the Knicks to make some noise in the playoffs this year while keeping assets intact to build a long-term contender around a young core of Brunson, Barrett, Quentin Grimes, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and others.
So which players around the league might fit the mold of a potential trade deadline target? Before we dive in, I do want to shout out the Knicks Film School podcast, which did a super in-depth look at this earlier in the week. We have some similar ideas and some different ones, but their video is really worth a watch.
Part One: Which Players Might the Knicks Trade For?
Patrick Beverley, PG Los Angeles Lakers
2022 Stats: 6.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 38.8% FG, 33.3% 3PT in 27.1 minutes per game
One name that keeps getting mentioned in New York trade rumors is Patrick Beverley. Since Pat Bev is on an expiring contract, there have been suggestions that the Lakers would be open to moving him in exchange for adding the shooting of Evan Fournier if they could also take the upside of Cam Reddish in a deal.
However, these rumors have been circulating for so long that one would have to assume the Knicks could have already traded for Beverley if they really wanted him. The reason they may not have already is that Beverley might not add much to a bench that already features strong defensive guards in Quickley and Miles McBride.
Beverley has a reputation as a strong perimeter defender and the current metrics back that up. A popular new projection system is DARKO, which “is a machine learning-driven basketball player box-score score projection system.” Similar to Steamer or Zips in baseball, DARKO seeks to respond to new box score information and tracking data after each game and create a real-time projection of a player. According to DARKO, Beverley has a defensive rating of 1.3, which puts him among the top 50 defenders in the league, and has a projected plus/minus of -0.1.
For reference, Miles McBride, who Beverley likely would be taking minutes from, currently has a 0.2 defensive DARKO rating and a projected plus/minus of -1.2, so Beverley would be a significant upgrade based on DARKO.
Another advanced metric that we like is RAPTOR, which is a FiveThirtyEight metric that uses “play-by-play and player-tracking data to calculate each player’s individual plus-minus measurements and wins above replacement,” while factoring in playing time.
Beverley has a defensive RAPTOR rating of 0.1, which makes him the 27th-best point guard defender in the league this season, while McBride has a rating of +3.4, which would make him the 4th-best point guard defender if he had enough minutes to qualify.
So what this means is that the projection systems suggest McBride has played better defense this year but that Beverley is a better bet to be the better defender going forward. Regardless, since Beverley is not an offensive upgrade on McBride, it seems like a lateral move that would only be beneficial for veteran leadership and playoff experience.
Jae Crowder, SF/PF Phoenix Suns
2022 Stats: Has not played
Another name I have mentioned a lot in these trade rumor pieces is Crowder. The 32-year-old veteran has not played a game this season as Phoenix looks to trade him. They were, but he remains on the roster and away from the team.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the Suns recently deposed owner Robert Sarver still has to sign off on any deal for a player with a salary that is more than the current “average player salary.” Since the current average player salary is $10.8 million and Crowder’s salary is $10.2 million, he may fall within that range.
Yet, it’s clear that the Suns want to move Crowder, and the Knicks should be interested. Crowder has a DARKO defensive rating of 1.8 and is a tremendous wing defender who can essentially guard all positions. After watching Pascal Siakam torch the Knicks, it should be evident that a strong wing defender like Crowder would be a tremendous asset to a bench that features no true backup small forward and is forced to use Isaiah Hartenstein, a mediocre defender, out of position as a power forward.
Will Barton, SG/SF Washington Wizards
2022 Stats: 7.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 36.8% FG, 36.4% 3PT in 20.6 minutes per game
Another name that has come up when discussing the Knicks’ need for a defensive-minded wing off of the bench Barton is Will Barton. However, Barton has fallen off a bit since his few strong seasons with the Nuggets, and the advanced metrics are not a fan of his. He has a DARKO defensive rating of -0.5 and a defensive RAPTOR rating of -4.4, which puts him as the second-worst small forward defender in the NBA.
Now, Barton is not the second-worst small forward defender in the NBA, but it’s clear that his defense is in decline as he nears 32 years old. However, he can create offense and is just a year removed from scoring 14.7 points and hitting 2.2 threes per game for the Nuggets, even if he remains an inconsistent shooter.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG/SF Atlanta Hawks
2022 Stats: 17.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 44.2% FG, 40.8% 3PT in 31.1 minutes per game
Bogdan Bogdanovic has a player option for next season at $18 million, so it feels unlikely that he will opt out of that and become a free agent. Thus, whether he is available or not depends on if the Hawks see him as a valuable piece for them in 2023-24. Since he’s playing 31 minutes per game off of the bench for them now, it would appear they do.
However, all that could change if the Hawks trade away Trae Young, which has been rumored. Bogdanovic will be 31 years old next season and may not be in long-term plans if the Hawks pivot after a Young deal. If that were the case, the Knicks should be interested.
He has a defensive RAPTOR rating of -2.0 but a DARKO defensive rating of 0.6, so the forward-thinking projections for him believe his defense will improve based on his consistent defensive gains over the last two seasons.
His offensive RAPTOR rating also makes him the 20th-best offensive small forward in the league of all players with 400 minutes or more. That makes sense considering he is shooting 40.8% from beyond the arc, which would be extremely valuable to the Knicks. Given his defensive improvement and the strong guard play the Knicks already have on the bench, a player like Bogdanovic would be a great fit.
Malik Beasley, SG Utah Jazz
2022 Stats: 14.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 41.1% FG, 37.4% 3PT in 26.9 minutes per game
Beasley is a name that was featured on the Knicks film school podcast as a potential target. One of their reasons was that Beasley is a tremendous shooter. He has made the fourth-most three-pointers in the league and would give the Knicks some instant offense off of the bench. He can create his own shot and is a career 38.4% shooter.
At 26 years old, he also would fit in with the age range of this Knicks rotation, but the issue is that he is a poor defender with a defensive RAPTOR rating of -1.0 and a DARKO defensive rating of -1.5. However, if he was playing alongside Immanuel Quickley and/or Miles McBride then there would be less pressure on Beasley to carry much of the defensive load.
Chris Duarte, SG/SF Indiana Pacers
2022 Stats: 6.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 33.3% FG, 29% 3PT in 17.8 minutes per game
Duarte is another name that was featured on the Knicks film school podcast as a potential target given rumors that the Knicks and Pacers may have been discussing a swap for Obi Toppin. Since the Knicks reportedly tried to trade for Duarte after the 2021 NBA Draft, it would be likely they have interest in him. The Pacers also have stated interest in Toppin, so the trade might make sense if Toppin continues to be buried behind Julius Randle.
While Duarte has a defensive DARKO of -0.8, much of that could be impacted by the fact that the emergence of rookie Andrew Nembhard has forced Duarte to play a lot of power forward, which is not his natural position at 6’6″. He has a 1.1 defensive RAPTOR rating, which is more in line with the league-wide perception of him as a strong wing defender.
The Pacers’ decision to have him play out of position also appears to be hurting his offensive production. The numbers you see above are not close to what he did last year in his rookie season, where he averaged 13.1 points on 43% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. Considering Duarte also shot 42.4% from three in his last college season at Oregon, his poor shooting from distance this year should be looked at as a fluke.
As the 13th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Duarte also has a similar draft pedigree to Toppin, so both teams would essentially be swapping recent first-round picks who are no longer as good a fit on their own teams. Now that Randle seems like a lock to stay in New York beyond this year, it might not be a bad option for the Knicks.
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