The NBA trade season will unofficially begin next week.
Here’s what I’ve heard about the New York Knicks.
The Knicks have been actively involved in trade conference calls through Dec. 15, the day most players who signed new contracts last summer are eligible to trade, league sources said. Mid-December trades are rare, but history tells us to keep an eye on the Knicks, who are known for getting things done early.
New York acquired Derrick Rose in early February, nearly two months before the 2021 trade deadline, in team president Leon Rose’s first season at the helm. This is the NBA’s first major trade of the 2020-21 season. A season later, the Knicks opened the league’s trade list again, bringing in Cam Reddish a month before the deadline.
Now, the Knicks have started calling.
The most common players they’ve discussed with other teams, league sources say, are: Emmanuel Quickley, Evan Fournier, Rose and Reddish, in no particular order.
They got a call from Fournier at the trade deadline last winter and then again in the summer. He has two seasons left, including this one, on contract and hasn’t played in three weeks. But they were in no rush to send him out of town.
The Knicks have shown no interest in attaching a draft pick to Fournier just to trade him, league sources said. Still, that doesn’t mean a Fournier deal is out of the question. They’ve indicated to other teams that they’ll consider trading him for a less-than-ideal contract if it means bringing back an asset. The Knicks owe Fournier $18 million this season and $18.9 million next season. The 2024-25 season is a team option, the final season of his contract, worth $19 million.
Taking Fournier’s salary off the books for next season doesn’t do much for 2023 flexibility. Hypothetically, assuming the Knicks find a way to trade him for an expiring contract; they’ll still have to spend more to create significant cap space for next summer. They also have eight other players with guaranteed contracts for the 2023-24 season (Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Haltenstein, Obito Pin , Quentin Grimes and Quickley), which made their salary cap exceed expectations.
They also expressed a willingness to tie Quickley or Reddish to Fournier in a trade, league sources said.
The Knicks have discussed various types of Quickley-related trades with other teams. New York is targeting a future first-round pick when discussing the 23-year-old as an independent, league sources said. The team is full of players who can justify playing time. Moving on from one of the guards frees up space.
It’s a change from past years, when the Knicks added Rose and Reddish to the rotation at the deadline. There is plenty of time to change goals. A trade where they send two players and bring back one or similar is also possible, but as of now, they’ve made it clear to other teams that their goal is to make room on a crowded roster.
There wasn’t much demand for Rose, the former MVP who dropped out of the Knicks’ rotation in Sunday’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rose, whose contract is about to expire, still has fireball moments, but they’ve been sparser than ever this season, and the league has taken notice. His minutes and production are on the decline, and at age 34, teams are generally concerned about his breakout and injury history.
Quickley has fans in other front offices, too. The question is, do they like him enough to pay the Knicks? Remember, not all first-round picks are created equal. There’s a difference between a top-20 protected first-round pick that ends up being seconds and a more lightly protected first-round pick with a legitimate chance to make it to New York.
Any team discussing Quickley must also consider his financial situation. He has a cheap rookie deal and doesn’t become a free agent until 2024, but is eligible to sign after this season. You don’t trade a first-round pick for a player without first considering whether you want to pay him in the near future. To complicate matters, many contending teams that could use an extra guard have already lost at least one first-round pick, and while Quickley is young and promising, rebuilding teams can trade for him.
Meanwhile, the market for Reddish is even rarer. The Knicks traded a first-round pick and Kevin Knox for Reddish in January, but like Fournier, they heard offers for him before the February deadline, league sources said. Offers were then heard again over the summer. The chances of New York taking back what was given up for him are slim, especially considering he recently dropped out of head coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation and could enter restricted free agency this coming summer.
There’s another less-discussed deadline looming: Friday, Dec. 9, marks the last day teams can trade a player who’s allowed to pool with other players in a pre-deadline trade. The NBA trade deadline is February 9.
(Top photo for Quickley and Cam Reddish: Brad Penner/USA TODAY)