When I think of New York Knicks center Enes Kanter, I think of a famous line from â€œThe Social Network,â€ where Rashida Jonesâ€™ character Marilyn Delpy tells Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg:
â€œYouâ€™re not an a–hole Mark. Youâ€™re just trying so hard to be.â€
Enes, youâ€™re not an a**hole. Youâ€™re just trying really, really hard to be. Kanter is a great guy off the court, and his bravery in standing up to the Turkish government should be well-noted. But the guy simply does not get it. He does not understand that defense is half the battle in basketball. He does not understand that sending cryptic tweets and veiled shots at coaches and teammates is unprofessional. He does not understand how he, Enes Kanter, could possibly be given a DNP-CD, or how Mitchell Robinson and Luke Kornet are getting minutes over him.
Well, Enes, YOU opted in knowing all too well that this would be the case. I understand that the 18.6 million dollar player option was millions more than other teams would have offered, but you chose to remain in New York. So please, please, just shut up until the Knicks can either trade you or buy you out. Thank you. Anyway, letâ€™s get to some trades, and assess the potential deals the Knicks could make.
Will the Knicks be involved in the Anthony Davis Sweepstakes?
Maybe. The Knicks donâ€™t have the assets in player form currently on their roster to compete with the Lakers at the deadline (Boston is unable to make a Davis trade until the summer, due to the Rose Rule), and while there maybe a team or two that enters the fray, it looks as though L.A. is best-positioned to nab Davis, who recently requested a trade out of New Orleans, and whose agent, Rich Paul, is one of LeBron Jamesâ€™ best friends.
What the Knicks do have, however, is that 2019 first-round draft pick, which will almost certainly fall in the top six, and has a better-than-not chance of being top three, and could potentially be number one, which would mean Zion SZN.
That pick, however, would almost certainly decrease in value if Davis, a top-five player, is added to the roster since the team would win more games. The pick is probably the best asset that either team (Lakers and Knicks) possesses along with L.A.â€™s Kyle Kuzma.
The Knicks could construct a deal similar to what the Boston Celtics gave up in 2017 for Kyrie Irving. The Celtics gave up Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, the 2018 Brooklyn Nets, and a 2020 second-round pick in order to acquire Irving. This was clearly a steal by Boston, but when a star demands a trade AND is a free agent in 1-2 years, their value diminishes.
That said, Anthony Davis is a 25-year-old megastar who has yet to fully reach his prime and doesnâ€™t have the same injury history and character concerns that Irving did.
A potential Knicks deal could go one of two routes. First, a deal centered around Kristaps Porzingis. A Porzingis, Kanter, Knox, second-round pick swap for Davis could work. The other option is the 2019 first-round pick as the centerpiece. That pick, combined with Knox, Ntilikina, Hardaway Jr., and someone like Damyean Dotson could also work.
So how likely is it that the Knicks could even get Zion? I simulated the lottery ten times on Tankathon to get a very rough estimate. The results were as follows: #3, #3, #5, #5, #5, #1, #6, #1, #6, #5. So while the Knicks do suck, and currently have the second-worst record in the league, youâ€™ll notice that they didnâ€™t once end up second overall, and had an average of pick #4, which would not only mean no Zion, but it would also mean no R.J Barrett or Ja Morant, the two players that make up the next tier in this draft class.
It ultimately comes down to the question, does having Anthony Davis on the roster make up for the loss of several young talents? If Scott Perry and Steve Mills think so, theyâ€™ll pursue a deal. Is a Davis-Porzingis tandem good enough to win a championship? Or would they need to add another star (like Kevin Durant) in order to reach that goal?
These are all fair considerations, and while itâ€™s improbable, it is not implausible that New York could do a deal with New Orleans.
What About Enes Kanter?
Okay, letâ€™s get it over with. Thereâ€™s no need to sugarcoat it: Enes Kanter and the Knicks need to part ways, and with Kanter being an unrestricted free agent this summer, it will certainly happen by then. However, his antics and attitude have gotten to the point where it might be worth offloading him now just to get rid of him.
The issue is finding a partner, and while there were rumors about a potential Zach Randolph-Kanter swap between the Sacramento Kings and Knicks, nothing materialized. That was probably the best chance New York had of finding someone to take him on, and so the most likely path is a buyout.
For those unfamiliar, a buyout is a mutual agreement between a player and team which sets the player free, as long as he clears waivers. Sometimes the player can opt to give the team some money back, but itâ€™s been reported that Kanter wouldnâ€™t do that. In short, the team and Kanter would part ways, and after this season he would be off the books. That appears the best scenario because Kanterâ€™s recent comments and actions have made him unbearable in the eyes of most fans (though apparently not some).
The Other Guys
The Knicks have several other guys who have been put on the trade block, most notably guards Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr., and Trey Burke. Letâ€™s start with Lee, a 33-year old veteran who will make 12 million a year through the 2019-20 season. He has been a capable veteran throughout his career, but amidst a year plagued by injuries, Lee has only played in 12 games, averaging 4.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game, and only shooting 5 of 16 from three. Thereâ€™s some upside there, especially for an established playoff contender, but it would mean parting ways with 12 million (at least) in salary, which most teams of that caliber canâ€™t do unless itâ€™s an expiring contract.
I could see him being packaged in a deal with Noah Vonleh to a team like Philadelphia, who needs both shooting and a versatile big. The deal could be Lee and Vonleh for Wilson Chandler, which gives Philly two solid players for a playoff run, and New York the expiring contract it needs to shed Leeâ€™s salary in order to create the requisite cap space to sign a max free agent this offseason. The Sixers appear to be the most logical destination for a Lee trade, but there are several other directions New York could go.
For Hardaway Jr., a player who can score, albeit inefficiently, as he averages 19.5 points per game this season on just 38% shooting and 34% from three. He also makes 17.3 million this season and has a 15% trade kicker, which would put him up to 19.9 million.
While Hardaway does have a bad contract, there will be suitors if heâ€™s truly available strictly to acquire cap space for the offseason. For example, the Mavericks could offer Wesley Matthews and his expiring contract in exchange for Hardaway and maybe a Luke Kornet or other small asset. This would give the Mavs a legitimate player who could excel as a sixth man or 4th/5th scoring option, and the Knicks would again have another space this offseason for a top-tier free agent.
A team like Sacramento may be looking for scoring and shooting on the wing and could offer the expiring contracts of Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos in exchange for Hardaway. How about the cross-town Brooklyn Nets, a team that could use scoring on the wing?
They could deal expiring Allen Crabbe for Hardaway, or go crazy and do a Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Jared Dudley for Enes Kanter, Hardaway, and Noah Vonleh swap. Thatâ€™d give them three solid players in exchange for three irrelevant expiring, and could accelerate their rebuild.
Burke is a case where the Knicks have asked for a second-round pick, and there are several playoff contenders that may meet that asking price. He is a score-first, defense-never guard who can provide a spark in spurts off the bench, and could certainly contribute in a playoff series for a good team. Iâ€™d expect him to be gone by the deadline.
Outside of a potential Davis deal, and the candidates like Kanter, Hardaway, Vonleh, Burke, and Lee, the Knicks are probably not going Â to make a move at the deadline. Thereâ€™s been some speculation around young point guard Frank Ntilikina, but that seems unlikely given his youth and potential upside.
While the Knicks will be one of the more active sellers, donâ€™t look for them to be buyers, and hold your breath on a Davis trade, because the chances of that are slim to none right now. Hereâ€™s hoping New York doesnâ€™t mess this yearâ€™s deadline up. Weâ€™ll need everyoneâ€™s collective prayers.