Between the two, Turner is the more intriguing option.
In theory, Turner is the prototypical modern big man that the Knicks need to open up the defense for Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.
The ugly loss in Boston over the weekend exposed the Knicks’ weakness of not having a floor-spacing big man next to Randle. While Mitchell Robinson had a perfect night at the field, shooting 5 of 5 for 11 points and eight rebounds, he doesn’t possess a deep offensive bag which Turner has at this point of their careers.
The Knicks fell apart starting in the latter part of the second quarter. The Celtics’ swarming defense with the shot-blocking monster Robert Williams as their last line took away the Knicks’ driving lanes to generate shots at the rim and kick-out passes.
“They’re long and athletic,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said of the Celtics. “In the first half, we drove the ball and made the right rim reads. It was better, and we got easy shots. But if you hold on to [the ball] and you try to shoot over the sides, and you’re putting up tough shots, you’re not going to win that way.”
The Celtics employed four players with at least 6’11 wingspan to disrupt the Knicks’ offense — Robert Williams – 7’6, Al Horford – 7’1, Jaylen Brown – 7’0, and Jayson Tatum – 6’11.
A center like Turner, a 36-percent three-point shooter and has the third-most three-pointers (61) among centers this season, could have helped pull Williams away from the paint. On defense, Turner is on pace to lead the league in shot blocks (2.9 per game this season) for the third time in his career.
Theoretically, Turner would fit seamlessly next to Randle, forming a formidable inside-outside tandem in the Knicks’ frontline. On top of this, they already have an existing bond working out together under trainer Tyler Relph as the trio are all from Dallas.
So, it’s not surprising the Knicks are interested in Turner. But what’s the price of prying Turner away from Indiana?
In December, ESPN’s Zach Lowe discussed the best recent comparison for a potential Turner trade on his podcast with NBA front office insider Bobby Marks.
“The comp I’m trying to make is Nikola Vucevic,” Lowe said referencing last season’s Orlando-Chicago trade deadline deal. “The Magic got Wendell Carter Jr., who has been maybe better than Vucevic this season, two first-round picks, one of which you were sure would be a decent lottery pick (Franz Wagner) and no long-term money. That’s the comp.”
“Toppin has had a solid second season — 8.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 53% in 15.9 minutes per game — but this trade likely comes down to the protections on the pick. The Knicks have struggled this season (12-15) so an unprotected pick could easily put you in the lottery but will the Knicks offer that? Toppin hasn’t shown 3-point range (26.7% in his career), making him less of a fit next to Sabonis. The Knicks have extra picks from Charlotte (lottery protected) and Dallas (top 10 protected) that could be included or the Pacers could demand Immanuel Quickley (9.6 ppg, 2.5 apg, 32.8% on 3s),” Newell wrote.
Of the four teams, only the Knicks have the deepest chest of draft assets to entice the Pacers to break up their core and rebuild.
While Turner is not a clear-cut superstar, he is only 25 years old and represents an immediate upgrade at the center position. A Turner trade will not instantly catapult the Knicks to the upper echelon in the East. But it would help Randle and Barrett unlock their offense and boost the Knicks’ chances of becoming a perennial playoff contender, which is the new front office’s plan to entice superstars to come to New York.
If it doesn’t pan out, Turner, at the very least, could serve as another trade piece in a package for a coveted star.
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