What moves could the Knicks make before Thursday's trade deadline?
First things first — as the Knicks make their way to Thursday's trade deadline, they won’t be putting together a package for Kyrie Irving.
One source jokingly said the media would like the activity of covering Irving, but the media — as well as the Knicks — seem intent on avoiding that headache.
If the Knicks aren’t desperate enough to reach for Irving, an elite talent but one who has added drama and a lack of reliability to his tenure in Brooklyn — and Boston and Cleveland — they do find themselves in a strange place right now in the final days before the deadline.
The Knicks entered Saturday in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, having shown that they can play with almost any team when they are on top of their game and that they can lose to any team when they aren’t. But after a 37-45 disappointment last season, they are above .500 and in the playoff — or at least play-in — picture.
So how desperate are they for change right now? That remains to be seen, but despite the rumors that they are involved in some of the high-level players being shopped, it seems as if they are going to hold tight right now. According to a league source, the most likely ending to the drama is that the Knicks find a taker for Cam Reddish and get nothing else done.
The return won’t even be the conditional first-round pick the Knicks spent last season to obtain Reddish from Atlanta (the Knicks sent out Kevin Knox along with the pick). League sources say the price likely will be a second-round pick, with the Knicks trying to find a player on a rookie deal as a return.
The Knicks did attempt to make a major move in the summer when they thought they could put together a package to obtain Donovan Mitchell but didn't like the Jazz's asking price. Utah called their bluff and sent him to Cleveland, where he has earned an All-Star starting role.
At the time the Knicks were willing to send out some of their accumulated draft assets and include RJ Barrett in the deal. For Mitchell, who Is headed to the All-Star Game for a fourth straight year, that might have made sense. For OG Anunoby, that might not make sense.
And even if the Knicks want to put a similar package together, they basically cannot include Barrett in any deal. When their Mitchell chase failed, they signed Barrett to an extension that doesn’t kick in until next season. That leaves a poison-pill provision that makes his outgoing salary in a deal $10.9 million while the team bringing him in would have to welcome him at $26.2 million in any deal before July 1.
While Barrett has not played at the level he seemed bound for after last season, the 22-year-old former No. 3 overall pick's value remains higher than a giveaway. So just take him out of consideration for any deal.
So what could the Knicks be including in a deal before Thursday’s deadline?
The picks already were on the table in the summer, so for the right deal, the Knicks clearly are willing to move the future assets for help right now. Reddish has been openly shopped. So here are the players the Knicks could move — even if Reddish is likely the only one to move, barring some last-minute shift:
Cam Reddish: The Knicks may have had factions in the organization that would have lobbied to keep Reddish in place — and give him playing time — but it’s hard to argue with the decision to move him out of the rotation, given that the team has played better without him. Whatever moved him completely out with no way back in already is old news. He has shown better work habits of late, and possibly the next stop will end better than his time in Atlanta and New York have.
Evan Fournier: It’s hard to imagine that just last season, Fournier provided what the team signed him for — three-point shooting in bunches. He set a franchise record for the most made three-pointers in a single season and started this season as a starting wing. But like Reddish, when the team went to a rotation based on defense, he was left out. Unlike Reddish, he has stepped back in when injuries or illness have necessitated it. But as much as teams covet shooting, his contract — he's due $18 million this season and $18.9 million next season, with a team option for 2024-25 — doesn’t match the production.
Immanuel Quickley: This is an interesting case study in the direction of the team. Quickley has grown by leaps and bounds — defensively becoming one of the more important perimeter players on the team and offensively remaining a solid if streaky shooter. Tom Thibodeau has used him for huge minutes and in critical spots, but league sources indicated earlier this season that Quickley might want out (he denied it publicly), and the team could be amenable to moving him given that he is eligible for a pricey extension in the summer (like Obi Toppin). Quickley is making $2.3 million this season and the Knicks already have picked up his option for next season at $4.1 million. But he’s eligible for an extension that could reach five years and $195 million.
Obi Toppin: As we just mentioned, the Knicks will have to start deciding just how much they want to pay Quickley and Toppin — and they don’t have to pay them the max number (just as they didn’t pay Barrett the max figures). While Quickley could be the sort of piece that could center a deal for a roster upgrade, with Julius Randle having an All-Star season again, Toppin is left in a limited role. One league source said that while it may make sense to deal Quickley or Toppin, they are the first draft picks of this front office and are tied closely to the franchise leadership.