Knicks: Brook Lopez leads list of top-3 trade targets to address backup center position

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

With the departure of Isaiah Hartenstein to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the New York Knicks are in desperate need of addressing their backup center position. The Knicks are expected to be busy in the trade market for center depth, here’s a look at who the team may target.

Lopez has transformed his game in the latter part of his career

Cam Reddish, Grayson Allen, New York Knicks

Brook Lopez, who was mostly an inside-scoring traditional big man over nine seasons spent with the Brooklyn Nets, has overhauled his entire offensive game in the latter part of his career. After attempting just 0.7 three-pointers per game as a Net, Lopez has averaged 5.0 three-pointers per game in his six seasons with the Bucks.

Lopez isn’t just taking a lot of threes, he’s making them. Lopez has converted 35% of his threes as a Buck, and this past season shot 37% from beyond the arc.

The 36-year-old’s defensive abilities have also improved as he’s gotten older

Three-point shooting isn’t the only aspect of his game that has improved drastically as he’s gotten older. His prowess as a rim-protector has also garnered him plenty of attention. Lopez has been named to two NBA All-Defense teams in his time with the Bucks, and was the runner-up for the Defensive Player of The Year award in 2023.

Lopez could be a very valuable addition to the Knicks

As for the Knicks, Lopez’s shot-blocking abilities combined with his three-point shooting could be very valuable for the team. Despite being 36 years old, Lopez has shown no signs of slowing down, and as mentioned before has the ability to adapt to whatever a team needs him to do.

Whether he would start, or come off of the bench for the Knicks doesn’t really matter. Lopez would give the Knicks a completely different look on offense than what they are used to with Mitchell Robinson, while being a stalwart and anchor for the team on the defensive end.

Could the Knicks swing a deal for Walker Kessler?

Dec 13, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) dunks the ball against the New York Knicks during the third quarter at Delta Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Utah Jazz C Walker Kessler also could be an option for the Knicks. The 22-year-old 7-footer has displayed superb defensive abilities early in his career. In his first two seasons in the NBA, Kessler has averaged 2.4 blocks per game, cementing his status as one of the league’s best-shot blockers.

Kessler fits the mold of Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau nicely. His shot-blocking ability would give the team great, young depth behind Mitchell Robinson, making the Knicks one of the best defensive teams in the league. Additionally, given Walker’s age, the Knicks could benefit from having fresh legs at the center position, given the immense injury history of Mitchell Robinson.

Hornets big man Nick Richards could be in play for the Knicks

Nick Richards, Knicks
Credit: Scott Kinser-USA TODAY Sports

A different player compared to Lopez and Kessler, the 27-year-old Richards has been slowly improving each season in his NBA career. Richards has spent the first four seasons of his career with the Charlotte Hornets, and had to earn his way into the rotation after averaging just 3.5 minutes per game as a rookie, and 7.3 minutes per game in his second season.

Richards has been a staple of the Hornets rotation for the last two seasons now. Averaging 18.7 minutes per game in 2023, and 26.3 minutes per game, including 51 starts in 67 games, this past season. The 7-footer brings scoring and rebounding to the table, averaging 9.7 points, and 8.0 rebounds for the Hornets in 2024.

Richards is highly efficient around the basket, shooting 69% from the field, mostly on shots in the paint. While an average defender at best, if he were to be traded to the Knicks, Tom Thibodeau could help the 27-year-old transform his defense, much like he did with Isaiah Hartenstein.

As the start of training camp begins to inch closer and closer, the Knicks will explore their options at upgrading the center position to fill the void left by Isaiah Hartenstein. Internally, they could opt to go with one of Jericho Sims, or Ariel Hukporti, but the likely scenario is that the team will address the need elsewhere.

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