Knicks draft trade is confusing but hints at a big step forward


Knicks draft trade is confusing but hints at a big step forward

  • The Knicks made a complicated draft day trade that gave them more draft picks and cap space.
  • The Knicks will need both to pursue point guards like Jalen Brunson and Malcolm Brogdon this offseason.
  • The Knicks are primed to make big strides, but it’s unclear if they can pull it off.

The New York Knicks are up to something, but exactly what is unclear.

For the third year in a row, the Knicks were active on draft day, but not in a way that produced new players.

The Knicks entered the draft with the 11th pick overall, and in the days prior, rumors circulated that they were looking to trade for Purdue guard Jaden Ivey.

Instead, the Knicks drafted New Zealand forward Ousmane Diang only to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for future draft picks. They then traded those future draft picks for the Charlotte Hornets’ 13th overall pick before then acting the Pick for more picks to the Detroit Pistons. Oh, and Kemba Walker was involved too.

Sound confusing? ESPN’s Tim Bontemps made it as clean as possible, although it may still turn the average fan’s head.

Essentially, the Knicks acquired several future first-round picks while making some cap room for this offseason.

What the Knicks intend to do with those assets is a little unclear. The team themselves are unlikely to say much; Since being hired as team president in 2020, Leon Rose has only spoken to the media twice. Instead of holding a season-ending press conference like most team leaders, Rose did a televised interview with Mike Breen about the team’s MSG Networks.

Rose released a statement by the team on Friday saying the Knicks now have “increased financial flexibility and more draft capital.”

Additional picks could help the Knicks land their top free-agent target

Jalen Brunson looks up during a game.

The Knicks are reportedly planning to pursue Jalen Brunson freehand.

Tony Gutierrez/AP Images

According to numerous reports, the Knicks plan to pursue free agent point guard Jalen Brunson this offseason.

Brunson is expected to be asking around $20 million a season on his next contract — maybe more if the Knicks look to lure him away from the Dallas Mavericks (who have said they plan to keep Brunson). Currently, the Knicks project has a cap space of about $16 million, which means they’ll have to give up more contracts this summer to match Brunson’s salary.

The additional picks acquired Thursday night could help on that front. According to The New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy, the Knicks have 11 future first-round picks over the next seven years (although some of them are protected).

However, the Knicks’ desire to open up the cap space this season is the result of short-sighted thinking in 2021.

After finishing fourth in the East last season, the Knicks kept much of their core while adding more depth of coverage to Evan Fournier and Walker by selling Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Fournier and Walker a total of $191 million provided. But the Knicks flopped last season and missed the playoffs entirely. Now they’re trying to break away from those semi-expensive deals to make room for the cap to pursue a new point guard.

Any of those individual contracts handed out last season shouldn’t be terribly onerous to move around. Walker was traded Thursday (although it cost the Knicks a few draft picks). Fournier’s deal is the richest at three years and $55 million, but the deal’s final year is a team option, meaning he only has two guaranteed years left on his contract. Rose, Burks and Noel, meanwhile, all signed three-year contracts with team options last year, meaning they are entering their final guaranteed years this season.

But it seems the Knicks’ pursuit of Brunson is so obvious (Rose previously represented Brunson, and the Knicks added Brunson’s father to the coaching staff this summer) that opposing teams are likely to demand assets in exchange for the Knicks’ unwanted contracts.

Amid rumors that Kyrie Irving could go on the open market due to a contract dispute with the Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks could also be looking to make even more room for Irving.

A possible trade?

malcolm brogdon

Malcolm Brogdon.

Michael Conroy/AP Images

The Knicks could also use these additional picks to trade for a player wantinstead of tying them to an undesirable salary.

The Knicks are reportedly interested in trading for Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon. It’s unclear what it would take to land the 28-year-old guard, but the additional assets are helping the Knicks’ case.

Likewise, whether the Knicks would go all-in to acquire a Superstar has long been debated. The Knicks were rumored to be interested in Damian Lillard last off-season, but a trade apparently never came to fruition.

Over the past year, the NBA world has also wondered if Donovan Mitchell will seek a trade from the Utah Jazz after another disappointing postseason. While the Jazz have given no indication that they would trade their franchise star, the Knicks arguably have one of the biggest wealth foundations in the league, if Mitchell was to ask.

Of course, the Knicks have yet to deploy those assets. They owned Cap Space in the summer of 2019 but got away with none of the numerous stars available.

So far, this Knicks front office has shown a propensity to kick the can out when they weren’t intrigued by the current choices – they’ve pulled the previous two designs back and from stores. They didn’t make any significant moves at the close, and in last year’s free agency they mostly re-signed their own free agents while adding Fournier and Walker. Now they seem ready to put those decisions behind them.

The Knicks are set to make some moves; Now the question is whether they will or not.

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