Leon Rose and the New York Knicks have their work cut out for them as they will be faced with a number of important decisions to make over the next few months. They need to choose their new head coach out of the long list of candidates they’re interviewing, they need to figure out who they’re going to draft in October once they know where their pick lies, and they need to decide both what to do with their own free agents and which new free agents to bring in from around the league.
However, another big decision that the Knicks should be all over is trying their best to work out a trade for Phoenix Suns’ star combo guard Devin Booker. As Marc Berman of the New York Post mentioned in his most recent Knicks mailbag, Booker is emerging as a prime trade candidate for the Knicks:
Booker would make sense as a trade target for a number of reasons. He’s already a borderline superstar who will only be 24 years old by the time next seasons starts. He’s locked up contract-wise for the next four seasons, as he’s in the first year of a 5-year, $158 million dollar extension he signed with Phoenix in 2018.
Then there’s also the relationship Booker has with Rose and William Wesley, who was recently hired as the Knicks’ new executive vice present/senior basketball advisor. Booker was a CAA client under Rose and had a close relationship with him and Wesley dating back to his days at Kentucky under Coach John Calipari, who also has a close relationship with them from being a CAA client himself.
Booker’s production has been phenomenal throughout his first 5 seasons, as he’s improved each year. He has career averages of 22.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists, and is also one of the best and most efficient scorers in the game with a career shooting percentages of 44.7 from the field and 35.5 from three. This season Booker was having a career year where he was averaging about 26 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds a game while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 36 percent from three en route to earning his first All-Star nod.
Like many good players in any sports league, however, Booker is the type of franchise cornerstone who can be a perennial All-Star, but he’s been held back by his team when it comes to winning games. Phoenix has been a consistent bottom-feeder since Booker’s been there, having failed to win more than 24 games through his first four seasons. The Suns did have a record of 26-39 this year once the NBA was suspended back in March, but they were still only the 13th seed in the stacked Western Conference and nowhere near the playoffs. They did make the 22-team NBA restart in Orlando at the end of this month, but their run likely won’t last very long. There have been reports for a little while now of Booker growing unhappy in Phoenix and how he is tired of all the losing, so a change of scenery might soon be in the cards for Booker.
Now before you say anything, I know what you’re thinking. Why in the world would Booker want to go from a losing team in the Suns to an even worse losing team in the Knicks? That’s a very valid point, as the Knicks have been the league’s worst team over the past 20 years with only one (!) playoff series win since the turn of the century. Despite the Knicks’ long-standing futility and organizational dysfunction, there are a few reasons why the Knicks might be appealing to Booker rather than just the other way around.
The most obvious reason is the relationship he has with Rose and Wesley, as mentioned earlier. When Rose was hired as the new Knicks president, Booker had nothing but strong praise for Rose when asked about his former agent and how he’ll do in his new gig:
“I think he’ll [Rose] do unbelievable. One of the most genuine guys I know. One of the most honest guys I know. So I’m happy for him in his new position. I think the Knicks are in really good hands.”
Booker obviously thinks very highly of both Rose and Wesley, and that could give the Knicks a huge advantage in their efforts to acquire him via trade. Another reason is that New York would be a much better situation for Booker than Phoenix. Aside from the obvious career and endorsement benefits that come with playing at an arena like Madison Square Garden in the nation’s biggest market, playing in the Eastern Conference would give Booker a greater chance of making the playoffs and not being snubbed for All-Star games year in and year out due to it being a weaker conference.
The Knicks also have the cap flexibility and assets to be able to take on Booker’s contract and bring in other stars to play alongside him, like his former Kentucky teammate Karl Anthony-Towns. Towns have been the center of trade rumblings for quite some time now and has expressed his unhappiness in Minnesota. Depending on who the Knicks hire as their head coach, Towns would be another guy the Knicks could target to pair with Booker and create a young dynamic duo to build the team around for years to come.
So, at the end of the day, this is all just speculation. We don’t know whether or not this will actually become reality, but it seems the pieces are starting to be put in place for a possible deal to happen down the road. The Knicks have more important things to focus on for now, and by no means should they throw away all their draft capital and core pieces for Booker or for anyone. That scenario is all too familiar for Knick fans. But, if the opportunity presents itself in the near future where they can acquire a talent like Booker without having to give up too much in return, they should definitely consider it. It would go a long way in accelerating their rebuild and attracting other players to come play for the Knicks as well.