Knicks: Options at center ahead of trade deadline

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Toronto Raptors' Gary Trent Jr., left, lays off a pass as New York Knicks' Nerlens Noel defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

With the news that New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson is projected to miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury, the Knicks have applied to the NBA for a Disabled Player Exception worth $7.8 million, giving the team financial flexibility to sure up the center position in the absence of Robinson.

Knicks’ center depth is extremely lackluster

Currently, New York is down to only two traditional centers on the roster, Isaiah Hartenstein and 38-year-old Taj Gibson, who was signed by the Knicks last week. Jericho Sims started five games in the aftermath of Robinson’s injury until he, too, suffered an ankle injury.

While Hartenstein figures to become the team’s new starting center, the Knicks will likely need to search the open market for a proper backup, as having Taj Gibson play significant minutes is asking a lot out of the veteran big man.

Another old friend could soon find his way back in orange and blue

One option that stands out is Nerlens Noel, who is currently a free agent after last playing for the Brooklyn Nets in the 2022-2023 season. Like Gibson, Noel is familiar with head coach Tom Thibodeau’s system, as he played for the Knicks from 2020-2022, starting 52 games over that span. The shot-blocking Noel was a key piece for the Knicks in his first season with the team in 2020-2021, helping the Knicks to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference while averaging 2.2 blocks per game.

Knicks could opt to be active in trade market for quality big men

The market for quality big men is rather thin, meaning the Knicks could always opt to trade for one instead. Names such as Andre Drummond, Mike Muscala, and Cody Zeller could all be potential trade candidates for the Knicks moving forward.

With New York’s center rotation extremely thinned out currently, expect GM Leon Rose and the rest of the Knicks front office to be very active as they attempt to fill the void left by Mitchell Robinson.