4 centers the Knicks could acquire via trade to upgrade their roster

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The New York Knicks are actively searching the trade market for potential options at center. Committing to Mitchell Robinson as the primary starter isn’t a bad move, but having a competent running mate should be a priority for a team that can’t rely on the 26-year-old veteran.

Robinson played just 31 games this past season, suffering multiple injuries before hurting his foot in the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Robinson is one of the best defensive big men in the league when available and healthy, but that’s just the problem. He’s been more of a liability than an asset in that regard. The Knicks are considering multiple options, so let’s take a look at who could be a good fit.

Four Centers the Knicks Could Acquire Via Trade:

Walker Kessler:

Ian Begley of SNY reported that the Utah Jazz want a first-round pick in exchange for Kessler, a 22-year-old who is set to earn just $2.9 million next season on a club option. The Jazz have another club option for the 2025–26 season at $4.8 million, so he’s an extremely affordable option before becoming a restricted agent in two years.

Kessler averaged 8.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks this past season. He’s a solid defense player, and the Knicks may be able to maximize his talent given his age. The Knicks just elevated Isaiah Hartenstein into an above-average starter and will be eyeing a developmental piece with the upside to reach their potential.

Walker Kessler, Knicks
Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Richards:

The Knicks have also been linked to Nick Richards, who was awful defensively this past season but featured on a Charlotte Hornets team that was one of the worst in the league.

The 26-year-old averaged 9.7 points, eight rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and shot .691 from the field. Given he’s a bit older, Richards may not be as expensive. He has two more years left on his deal with a $5 million cap hit in each season before becoming a free agent at 29 years old, at the same time as Kessler.

Richards is a quality rebounder and offers good size, but he can be a liability on defense, and the Knicks may not love that reality.

Nov 12, 2023; New York, New York, USA;  Charlotte Hornets center Nick Richards (4) and New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) fight for a rebound in the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Brook Lopez:

The Milwaukee Bucks are reportedly considering offloading Brook Lopez and his $23 million salary.

Now 36 years old, Lopez is still a fantastic player and ranked second in Defensive Player of the Year voting during the 2022–23 season. He still averaged 2.4 blocks per game this past year and played 79 games. His health isn’t an issue, and he’s capable of scoring at a decent clip as well, averaging 12.5 points and shooting .485 from the field and .366 from downtown.

Lopez is an extremely unique player who offers solid playmaking but is quite slow. The Knicks would have to understand that the offense would be dragged down in pace with him on the floor, but he’s a savvy veteran who can offer plenty. The problem is his salary, so the Knicks would have to find a way to offload some money in the process or have the Bucks eat some money, which is unlikely.

In theory, Lopez would be a great addition to a team that could use another veteran at center instead of a young piece with inexperience.

Brook Lopez, Knicks
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Duren:

If the Knicks want to go big, Jalen Duren of the Detroit Pistons would be a fantastic grab. The problem is that the Pistons likely see Duren as a building block at just 20 years old. The Delaware native averaged 13.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.8 blocks this past season. Duren has played a minimum of 61 games over the past two years and would be a perfect fit alongside Robinson. His physicality around the basket and upside as a defender makes him extremely enticing.

However, Duren will likely command a lofty trade package given his age and potential, so the Knicks would have to be OK moving draft capital, having just recently moved five first-round picks in exchange for Mikal Bridges. This would certainly be a more expensive route, but if they want to capitalize on their championship window, going all out may be necessary.

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