Could the Knicks make blockbuster deal for once-generational talent?

New York Knicks, Zion Williamson
Dec 30, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are on the hunt for a third star to complement Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, but they’re not willing to overpay for older players with injury risks.

A recent proposal for Paul George from the Los Angeles Clippers was rejected by the Knicks, who saw RJ Barrett as the starting point in a potential deal. Given George’s hefty salary and desire for an extension, the Knicks opted to explore other options, seeking players in their prime who offer greater upside and reliability.

The Struggle to Find Prime Talent

Finding prime-aged players who offer value on both offense and defense is challenging since teams are often reluctant to let go of high-caliber talent. However, the Knicks have shown interest in players who might not have reached their full potential yet, leading to speculation about a possible move for Zion Williamson this off-season.

Evaluating Zion Williamson: A Generational Talent with Injury Concerns

Standing at 6’6″ and weighing 284 pounds, Williamson is a physically imposing player once touted as a generational talent. Despite averaging 26 points per game last season across 29 matches, he has been largely sidelined by injuries over the past two seasons. Williamson’s incredible athleticism and game-changing abilities haven’t been consistently showcased across four seasons, making him a potential medium-risk, high-reward acquisition.

A Change of Scenery for Zion?

A move to the Knicks could provide a refreshing change for Williamson, who has been a focal point of media attention and could benefit from a new environment. Entering a five-year, $197.2 million deal, he’s set to earn $34 million for the 2023-24 season. At just 23 years old, Williamson is still in his prime and has a lot to prove.

Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes recently reported that Zion could be up for grabs at the right price: “Over the last 3, 4 months talking to league executives around the league, it was made clear that Zion could be made available for the right situation and the right package,” Haynes said.

The Potential Cost: Is a Trade Worth It?

To secure Williamson, the Knicks would have to give up significant assets in return, with RJ Barrett likely to be a key part of any deal. However, is it worth trading Barrett, a consistently available player, for someone with a questionable track record on the court?

President Leon Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau might prefer to retain Barrett, hoping that he can reach his full potential and take advantage of his durability. While Barrett may not be the primary scorer on the first team, he could lead the second team and help alleviate resting periods for Brunson and Randle.

Exercising the Championship Window

If the Knicks wish to maximize their championship window, they might be better off trading Barrett for a proven star who can elevate the team rather than risking it on Williamson, who has been unreliable over the past two seasons. A deal for OG Anunoby, for instance, might make more sense.

The Knicks would be gambling on Williamson putting together a healthy season and continuing to demonstrate his elite scoring abilities. However, given that he is a power forward, they would need to decide whether to pair him with Randle or move the veteran, which could potentially be seen as a net-negative move.

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