Could the Knicks package RJ Barrett in a trade for Raptors star?

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) tries to shoot the ball as Toronto Raptors forwards Scottie Barnes (4) and OG Anunoby (3) defend in the first half at Scotiabank Arena
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are in the same position they were last year as the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, which might prompt them to pull the plug on more than just a deal for a superstar talent and trade RJ Barrett.

Knicks Upgrade Defense, Take Hit on Offense in Barrett-Anunoby Swap

Bill Simmons’ latest trade proposal sends Barrett to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for OG Anunoby, giving the Knicks an All-Defensive forward to further their championship chase, per Heavy Sports’ Alder Amo:

“If you’re Toronto, why wouldn’t you just flip in OG for Barrett, grab one of those [Knicks] protected picks and just call it a day,” Simmons said on the December 19 episode of “The Bill Simmons” podcast. “I actually like Barrett.”

Acquiring Anunoby in exchange for Barrett would deliver a slight hit to the Knicks’ offense. Barrett is putting up 18.5 points on 42.6 percent shooting from the field and has seen his pristine three-point percentage dip to 34.3 percent after a strong start to the season.

Meanwhile, Anunoby is off to his slowest start since 2019-20, averaging 14.7 points per contest, but makes up for it as he delivers on 37.2 percent of his threes.

Defensively, there’s little comparison between the two. Anunoby is the reigning NBA steals leader, which also earned him All-Defensive second-team honors in 2022-23. He’s following that up with 1.0 steals this year and 0.6 blocks, which is on pace with his career average.

Though Barrett is No. 52 in defensive win shares among the top 100 qualifiers at forward, Anunoby would make the Knicks an even better defense than they already are, especially with Mitchell Robinson going down for the year.

The Dollars and Cents Match Up in A Deal For Anunoby

Contractually, Barrett is signed until 2026-27, where he’ll make north of $29 million while Anunoby is set to enter restricted free agency at the end of this year, which would put pressure on the Knicks to match any offer sheet he might sign in the summer.

Anunoby turned down a four-year, $117 million deal this offseason, which would have put him on equal footing with Barrett’s annual salary. His asking price will exceed $30 million, which the Knicks can afford to match should they move off of Evan Fournier and the $37 million he’s owed over the next two years.

Barrett has shown that he can take the next step, though injuries have hampered him thus far. The Knicks front office must assess whether the tradeoff for acquiring Anunoby is worth it, especially with an offense that is in need of more variation.

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