A week ago I wrote that the Knicks should think about trading Julius Randle and building around their young players. While I still believe that may be the best way to build a long-term, sustainable contender, it’s clear that the team’s recent play has shifted the thinking for this season.
With the Knicks sitting just 5 games out of first place in the East heading into Tuesday night and having the fourth-best net rating over the last 13 games, the team seems primed to be a buyer at the trade deadline.
But what does that mean?
Who could the Knicks possibly trade for? What would they have to give up? We’ll answer all of those questions and discuss some possible trade targets here.
Is There Even Room to Add a Starter?
This is the biggest question for the Knicks at the trade deadline. As of now, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson are locked into the starting lineup. There is likely no scenario where any of them remain on this team and are removed from the starting lineup, which only leaves one spot to add a starter: shooting guard.
However, New York’s recent run of success occurred when Quentin Grimes was added to the starting lineup. In fact, the lineup of Grimes plus the above four names has the second-best net rating in the entire NBA.
Now, you can argue that it’s a small sample size, but given recent production, it doesn’t make sense to take a big swing at a shooting guard and push Grimes back to the bench. That leaves the Knicks with no spots in their current starting lineup unless they were to deal Julius Randle, which seems unlikely. As a result, I think the Knicks are more than likely just looking to add reinforcements to their bench.
Would the Knicks Trade Obi Toppin?
This is another key question entering the deadline. If Julius Randle is unlikely to be traded away then Toppin seems locked into his 10-20 minutes off of the bench. However, the team’s recent run of success has also happened while Toppin has been out with an injury, so you have to question where he fits when he returns.
Add to that the fact that Toppin is owed $5.3 million and will be a restricted free agent in 2024, and the questions about trading him get a bit louder. The Knicks will also see Immanuel Quickley become a restricted free agent in 2024 and Grimes become one in 2025, while Miles McBride has a team option for 2023 and then would need a new deal.
It’s unlikely New York can retain all four on long-term deals, so could the Knicks use Toppin in a trade to acquire a veteran for the second unit? Perhaps a three-and-D small forward that could back up Barrett and give the team much-needed shooting?
Potential Trade Targets
Now that we covered the two biggest questions surrounding the deadline, who are some of the targets the Knicks might look to add? We’re talking about adding depth, so they are unlikely to take a massive swing, but remember that they do have 12 draft picks over the next three drafts, so they could deal draft capital. Also, the recent run has been predicated on defense, so look for that to be crucial in who they add.
Patrick Beverly, PG Los Angeles Lakers
Beverly’s name has already been banded about in trade rumors with him and Kendrick Nunn possibly coming to New York for Evan Fournier and Cam Reddish. Beverly is making $13 million this year and will be a free agent at the end of the season, so the salaries work and his defense and experience would be a big asset, but is there room for him if the Knicks keep Quickley and McBride?
Jae Crowder, SF Phoenix Suns
Crowder is the other name most closely connected to the Knicks. However, many of those rumors have been in deals where the Knicks unload Julius Randle for expiring contracts. With that seeming unlikely now, what could the Knicks give the Suns to make this happen? With Chris Paul playing poorly, would the Suns want to take Derrick Rose?
If the Knicks can facilitate a deal, Crowder would be an ideal target as a physical wing defender who has shot over 38% from beyond the arc in each of his last two seasons. His vast playoff experience would also be a big plus.
Matisse Thybulle, SG/SF Philadelphia 76ers
This may seem crazy at first, but Thybulle’s role in Philadelphia has been reduced significantly, and he’s playing only 13.7 minutes per game over the last 10 games. He’s also a restricted free agent after this season, so the 76ers need to decide if they will risk losing him for nothing. While he certainly doesn’t add the shooting that the Knicks need, he is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and could be tremendous in that second unit, but what would the 76ers want from the Knicks?
Bruce Brown, SG Denver Nuggets
Brown is currently playing 30 minutes a game for a Nuggets team that is headed to the playoffs, so I’m not sure how realistic it is that they would move him. However, he is a free agent at the end of the season, so maybe Denver would be interested in Toppin or Jericho Sims as frontcourt depth to protect against Michael Porter Jr.’s health? Given that Brown is a strong defender who is currently shooting 41.3% from deep, he’d be a great fit for the Knicks.
Bojan Bogdanovic, SF Detroit Pistons
This would be a bigger swing for New York and likely cost them a player like Toppin or McBride and one of their first-round picks, so I would be hesitant to make the move but it might be the best one if you’re just thinking about this season. Bogdanovic is a solid enough defender but is also a 39.4% career three-point shooter. He would bring instant offense to the second unit and could push Barrett for minutes in games where the young lefty is off with his shot.
Caleb Martin, SF Miami Heat
Martin is another tremendous three-and-D specialist, ranking in the top ten on some sites. The Heat are currently below .500 but may not be inclined to deal Martin, who has a player option in 2024, if they believe they can make a push for the postseason. The 27-year-old is a 37.1% career three-point shooter but is not as strong a defender as some of the names on this list. Would the Heat be willing to move him for Rose with Kyle Lowry looking sluggish? If the Heat move Duncan Robinson, would they be interested in Fournier to take his place?
Jaden McDaniels, SF/PF Minnesota Timberwolves
McDaniels is a key member of the Timberwolves rotation, so this would likely be another big swing, but one that I’m more supportive of since he’s 22 years old and could fit the Knicks well long-term. He’s shooting 36.4% from deep this season while averaging 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He has tremendous length on the wing but is also a restricted free agent in 2024, so the Timberwolves may look to move him if they can get back picks since they dealt so many to Utah for Rudy Gobert or if they can get some point guard help like Rose, McBride, or Quickley.
Josh Green, SG/SF Dallas Mavericks
Green is a name that a lot of people may not know, but Dallas’ first-round pick in 2020 is currently shooting 44.4% from three while playing 20 minutes a game for the Mavericks. At 22 years old, there’s a bit of untapped potential here, and the Mavericks are looking for a veteran point guard off of the bench and have been linked to Rose in a few rumors. Perhaps this is a swap the Knicks could facilitate.