The New York Knicks are the hottest team in the league as the holiday season approaches in the NBA, which is not something many expected to be saying at this time of the year. The Knicks had won eight straight games prior to losing Wednesday against the Raptors, and they’ve won 11 of their last 15 entering Friday’s game against the Bulls.
This winning run has put New York in position to compete for a playoff spot as we near 2023. It also means the Knicks have some big decisions to make about their future in the trade market.
New York has a treasure trove of draft picks. They could potentially have five first-round picks in the 2023 NBA Draft depending on how protections work out but the Knicks have managed their draft assets well. They’ve maintained their own picks, so they’ve got the full arsenal when it comes to swap options. There are two clear paths the Knicks can take, although the market might set up better for one over the other.
Path A: Try to land a star
The Knicks have enough juice with contracts, young players and draft picks to go hunting for a star. The question is whether another team will play ball. The Bulls will have to think about moving DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. New York reportedly doesn’t want to take on long-term salary but LaVine and DeRozan would bolster the starting lineup. Where to the Knicks rank John Collins, Mike Conley and Myles Turner? None of them are quite in the star realm but they’d be starters on this team. Turner and Collins likely are out of the question due to the presence of Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, while Conley might not be able to play off Jalen Brunson as effectively. The Knicks will want Brunson to maintain his high usage rate.
Path B: Dump long-term contracts and bolster the bench
The trade market is better suited for the Knicks to go this route. Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose are veteran players and Tom Thibodeau likes both players but they don’t fit in the long-term setup. Quentin Grimes recently supplanted Fournier in the starting lineup. The Knicks could deal both guys, along with some draft capital, to bring back bench pieces. Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr. would be solid fits, while Buddy Hield could find a spot in the starting lineup if he were to be added. Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic are potential targets as well, although the latter will have a lot more suitors.
Given how uncertain the middle of the Eastern conference is, this path is likely the one New York will take. Brunson, Julius Randle, R.J. Barrett and Grimes are the core at the moment. Filling out rotation pieces around them will be the goal in an effort to make the playoffs this season while maintaining enough flexibility for future seasons.