Trade season starts now
The Knicks have gotten off to a disappointing start, just like they did last season. However, last season’s team got a shot in the arm when the Knicks were able to trade for Derrick Rose after 25 games. We are at a similar point in the season when the trade market opens. On December 15th is when most trade restrictions are lifted on players, so that is when you start seeing more trades. For the Knicks, that means everyone on their roster with the exception of Julius Randle and Derrick Rose can be traded.
Randle & Rose are not going anywhere
Randle is not eligible to be traded until February 3rd, 2022 since 6 months haven’t passed since he signed his extension. Derrick Rose can’t be traded until March 3rd, 2022 because he resigned using Bird rights and got a 20% increase in salary when the Knicks were over the cap. So with the trade deadline being February 10th, 2022 it means Rose can’t be traded until the offseason. Knowing that then if there is going to be an in-season trade to upgrade the roster, it will most likely have to include Obi Toppin.
The reason is that the Knicks won’t be able to trade Randle until February which might be too late to save the season. Obi is also the only promising young player that doesn’t have a clear path to start. Randle and Obi both play the same position, Power Forward. So unless Thibs is willing to get creative and play Julius at Small Forward, one will eventually have to be traded.
Obi goes West
The good news is that Obi’s play this season has increased his trade value and has made him a desired player around the league. The question is which team can the Knicks trade with to get what they truly need, a dynamic ballhandler that can get to the rim. When I look around the NBA I only see one team that has what the Knicks are looking for and need an Obi Toppin. That team is the Sacramento Kings. The reason is that the Kings are deep at the point guard position after drafting two very good ballhandlers with their last two lottery picks; Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell.
Also, Marvin Bagley, their 2018 lottery pick(2nd overall) has been a disappointment. He is up for a rookie extension, so the clock is running out on him. That is why I can see the Kings moving De’Aaron Fox, who is now making $28M per season, to fill a need on their frontcourt. Fox went to Kentucky, so Leon Rose and World Wide Wes have a relationship with him, which is a plus.
De’Aaron Fox comes East
But what would a potential trade package for De’ Aaron Fox look like? Below is what I think would be a reasonable trade offer.
In this trade, the Kings get a young stud in Obi Toppin to insert into the frontcourt next to Harrison Barnes and Richaud Holmes. They can now give Davion Mitchell more minutes. The Kings would have a young core of Tyrese Haliburton, Davion Mitchell, and Obi Toppin to build around. They also get another promising rookie in Quentin Grimes. They get Kevin Knox, another player on a rookie salary that they can take a flyer on since they don’t have much depth at the Forward positions. As we saw against the Bucks, Kevin Knox can play, he is just buried on the Knicks’ depth chart.
New York would also include a bona fide veteran that is locked in for 3 seasons in Evan Fournier. He is the type of vet that can come in and help keep the team competitive and pick up some of the scoring load after Fox’s departure.
The other part of this deal that is appealing for the Kings is the draft picks. The Knicks would send 3 first-round picks in consecutive drafts (2022,2023, 2024) and a second-rounder in the highly desirable 2023 draft, aka the “double-draft”. Having this war chest of draft picks will allow the Kings to package some of them in a deal with Buddy Hield to address other needs.
New Look Knicks
The Knicks would have Fox, Barrett, and Burks on the perimeter to compliment Randle and Mitch on the interior. This trade makes the starting line potent but thins out the bench as any players the Kings include won’t be expected to contribute. So the Knicks would need to see if they can move Kemba for a reservable role player.
Don’t get me wrong, it will be hard to pry Fox away from Sacramento. Their first choice is to get a young star in return for him. They are probably holding out for Ben Simmons or maybe Jaylen Brown if Boston thinks that Fox is a better fit next to Jayson Tatum. But if that is not an option, then getting a young player with major upside on the rise is.