Could the Knicks target Bucks veteran center as Hartenstein replacement?

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The Knicks are actively searching the trade market for a supplement to Isaiah Hartenstein, aiming to pair any prospective center with Mitchell Robinson. While Robinson is acclaimed as one of the best defensive big men when on the floor, his availability remains volatile. Having only played over 70 games once in his career, the Knicks can’t rely on him to be a consistent option, necessitating a starting-caliber player to help mitigate injury probability.

Potential Trade Targets and Opportunities

The Knicks have been connected to various big men, including Walker Kessler, Nick Richards, and Jalen Duren. However, there may be an avenue for the front office to explore acquiring Brook Lopez from the Milwaukee Bucks.

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According to Bucks insider Gery Woelfel, Lopez could be on the move, and the Knicks could be a logical destination if they manage to open up enough salary space. The 36-year-old veteran is set to earn $23 million this upcoming season against the cap, a substantial amount but still $6 million less per season than Hartenstein secured from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Sources claim the Bucks are still very receptive to trading veteran Brook Lopez, but the Bucks’ asking price of a first-round draft pick for a 36-year-old center with a $23M contract is too rich,” Woelfel tweeted.

Brook Lopez: A Veteran Presence with Valuable Experience

Ultimately, the Knicks need experience, and Lopez can provide that. Last year, he played 79 games, his second consecutive season with a minimum of 78 games played. He averaged 30.5 minutes per game, scoring 12.5 points, grabbing 5.2 rebounds, dishing out 1.6 assists, and blocking 2.4 shots per game.

Despite being a bit slower, the Knicks run a more conservative-paced offense, so Lopez could be an ideal fit. He’s been a solid three-point shooter throughout his career, consistently making clutch shots. He was named a first-team defensive player in 2023 and ranked second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. The Knicks could round out one of the best defenses in the league with a player like Lopez, who excels at protecting the boards and is an underrated playmaker.

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Financial and Strategic Considerations for Acquiring Lopez

The question remains: can the front office open up enough salary space to finalize the deal? The Knicks currently sit at the first apron at $178 million, but if they offload a bit more salary, they could reach the $189.5 million second apron, which would give them just enough money to acquire Lopez.

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The challenge is that the Bucks are asking for future first-round picks in exchange, which may not be a logical trade for the Knicks. It’s conceivable that they could swap Robinson for Lopez, providing the Bucks with a younger option who has the potential to be equally dominant on the boards. However, this would mean the Knicks lose a younger presence at the center position, currently earning $14.3 million in the upcoming season.

Weighing the Trade-Offs

While Lopez seems like a perfect fit, trading a first-round pick for a 36-year-old player on an expiring contract might pose more of a liability than a solution.

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