The New York Knicks appear to have turned into sellers instead of buyers.
With barely a week before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, the earlier report of the Knicks making their veterans available is getting louder. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer doubled down on this when he reported that the Knicks are looking for ways to free up the logjam in their suddenly deep rotation.
“New York is looking to free playing time for Cam Reddish in Tom Thibodeau’s rotation after acquiring the Duke product from Atlanta for a first-round pick. Each of Nerlens Noel, Evan Fournier, Alec Burks and Kemba Walker are all considered available,” Fischer wrote.
But it is unclear what the market is for their veterans who are either miscast, struggling to fit, or dealing with injuries.
Noel has only played 22 games this season due to several injuries. Walker was able to bounce back from nine DNPs and had a nice stretch, including a 44-point game and Christmas triple-double, before his knee flared up again. He had been a shell of himself since returning from his nagging knee injury. Alec Burks has gone in and out of the starting lineup, forced to play point guard while Walker and Derrick Rose were out. Evan Fournier has found his rhythm of late, but the emergence of Quentin Grimes, who offers more defensive upside, and the acquisition of Reddish, is hanging over his head.
If the reports are accurate, it is safe to assume that the Knicks are trying to consolidate some of their contracts in a 2 or 3- for-1 deal or in exchange for future assets and matching salaries.
Walker has an expiring $9.1 million salary next season, while Noel (owed $9.2 million next season) and Burks (owed $10 million next season) are basically expiring deals next season with their third year as a team option. Only Fournier is signed beyond next season. Fournier is owed $18 million next season and $18.8 million in 2023-24 with a $19 million team option in the 2024-25 season when he would still be relatively young at 31.
Contending teams could take a flier on the Knicks veterans to shore up their bench or fill up vacuums left by injured players. But among the four, only Burks and Fournier have proven to be durable and more reliable this season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are on the market for another ball-handler, with Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio lost for the season. The Dallas Mavericks have lost some shooting with Tim Hardaway, Jr.’s season-ending foot injury. But the Mavericks have not made Knicks target Jalen Brunson available. The Utah Jazz just lost Joe Ingles, a key piece off the bench, to an ACL injury.
They are just some of the teams that this shrewd Knicks front office could take advantage of.
But if all else fails, the Knicks might be better riding with them for the rest of the season and wait for the summer to make significant moves.
Based on Tom Thibodeau’s past teams, he rarely had a blockbuster in-season acquisition. Only the Derrick Rose trade last year could count as a significant move by a Thibodeau team. But the familiarity was already there. Unless a superstar to their liking becomes available, it’s safe to assume again that the Knicks will just work on the margins. Expect no fireworks come Feb. 10.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo