Knicks land Grizzlies sharpshooter in latest mock trade

Jan 13, 2024; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Luke Kennard (10) drives to the basket as New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) defends during the second half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks might not make any significant changes to their starting five this summer – provided they are able to re-sign OG Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein. However, they are expected to make additions to their bench unit, which was an area that severely lacked offense last season.

ESPN insiders mocked a trade for the Knicks in which they traded center Mitchell Robinson to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Luke Kennard and a first-round pick.

“Kennard, 27, makes essentially the same amount as Robinson, and, as a two-time league-leader in 3-point percentage, could help the Knicks’ spacing off the bench. The Grizzlies could throw in a future first-round pick to sweeten the deal in case the Knicks need extra motivation to deal away a starting-caliber big man,” ESPN’s Chris Herring wrote.

Luke Kennard is one of the game’s most efficient shooters

Luke Kennard, Knicks
Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Kennard is one of the game’s best shooters from three-point range, boasting a career three-point percentage of 44%. This past season, he was expected to be a major contributor to a talented Grizzlies team, but injuries all over the roster derailed that idea completely as they finished just 27-55 with the sixth-worst record in the NBA. In 39 games with Memphis last season, Kennard averaged 11 points and shot 45% from beyond the arc.

Robinson is good enough to be a starting-level center in the NBA, but he lost his starter role to Isaiah Hartenstein when he went down with an ankle injury and was relegated to the bench upon his return late in the season. Injuries have been a struggle for the seven-footer, as he has missed 74 of a possible 164 games over the past two seasons.

In 31 regular season games, Robinson put up All-Defense level numbers, averaging 8.5 rebounds per game with 1.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per contest. The 26-year-old Robinson is projected to make over $14 million next season and is under team control until 2026, whereas Kennard hits free agency after next season.

The Knicks need to open up cap space this summer

May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) celebrates in the fourth quarter  after scoring against the Indiana Pacers during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks need to open up cap space for a few reasons. On top of needing additional money to sign Anunoby and Hartenstein, the Knicks have extensions to work out with their two All-Stars in Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, and they are also trying to avoid going above the first apron so they can still make impactful moves in the future.

Considering that New York is in the mix to draft a backup center with at least one of their two first-round picks this year, moving Robinson for a player that enhances the bench scoring significantly could make sense – but only if Hartenstein returns.

While losing Robinson would hinder the team’s defensive identity, the clearest weakness the Knicks had this past season was bench scoring. From Jan. 1 to the end of the regular season, the Knicks ranked 25th in bench points per game with just 24.8. The injuries that mounted during the postseason gave them very little depth in the second unit.

The Knicks clearly are in need of offensive upgrades and Kennard could fit right in. His lights-out shooting prowess could provide a spark off the bench and ignite a scoring run. On top of acquiring one of the game’s best shooters, in this particular mock, the Knicks would add another first-round pick to their arsenal, which can be used in a potentially bigger acquisition for a star player.

What direction the Knicks will take in the trade market will be more clear following the draft, which takes place a week from now. Whoever they end up taking through the draft could determine the fate of players like Robinson with regard to their long-term spot on the roster.

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