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The rumor mill has been swirling lately for the New York Knicks as the season inches closer to the trade deadline.
According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the two players other teams have their eye on are Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez. This rumor makes sense because the Knicks are loaded in the frontcourt and offloading one of their big men for a young player, or a draft pick, seems like a feasible option the Knicks front office could consider.
Both O’Quinn and Hernangomez could be a valuable addition to any team who is light in the frontcourt, and if the Knicks want the best possible return in a trade, Hernangomez provides the best value because he’s a young player who has great upside. Hernangomez may be able to command a first-round pick in the trade market if a team is desperate enough to go and get him, while O’Quinn may only command a second-round pick and possibly a player that the Knicks would probably waive anyway.
It’s clear the Knicks would rather move O’Quinn because the front office still believes in the potential of Hernangomez, but should O’Quinn or Hernangomez want a move away from the Big Apple? Or should they want to stay and continue to play at the basketball Mecca?
In O’Quinn’s case, he has a player option next season which pays him $4.25 million. He’s being underpaid, and he hasn’t had a chance yet to sniff the new NBA money, which has forced teams to splash the cash at mediocre players to fulfill the increased cap requirement.
O’Quinn is far from a mediocre player, and on the open market, he could probably command double his salary or more from a team willing to sign him.
Whether O’Quinn gets traded or not, he can exercise his player option and enter free agency. Therefore, his feelings should depend on whether he enjoys playing in New York City or not, and according to evidence, on the outside looking in, he’s enjoying his time donning the blue and orange — it also helps that he was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens.
Ultimately, it’s up to the Knicks whether O’Quinn stays or goes, but he should want to stay in New York until the end of the season, then exercise his option to be a free agent and flex his muscle on the open market.
For Hernangomez, his situation is completely different from O’Quinn’s. Unlike O’Quinn, he’s rarely getting playing time due to Enes Kanter being a bully, and flexing his guns (arms), in the paint. The Knicks already have a strong big man rotation, and he also has Joakim Noah, the $72 million dollar man, peaking over his shoulder for some playing time. Also, coach Hornacek has shown a preference for players who play defense this season, and because of Hernangomez’s inconsistency on defense, his prospects of playing is lowered significantly.
There may be a lifeline for Hernangomez, depending on what O’Quinn and Kanter do with their player options. More than likely, O’Quinn will opt out of his contract in search of more money, and if he decides to leave for greener pastures, literally, that might open up possible playing time for Hernangomez next season, even if Kanter decides to stay.
The key word here is MIGHT.
If Hornacek remains the coach of the Knicks next season, Hernangomez will have to prove he has made significant strides on defense to command playing time, and with Noah still on the roster, there’s a good chance those minutes O’Quinn has left behind will be captured by Noah for the following reasons:
- He has always been known for his defense, and even though he doesn’t move as well as he did before the injuries, defensively he’s still miles ahead of Hernangomez.
- He’s earning $72 million from the Knicks, and he won’t be tradable until the 2019 season when he’ll be in the final year of his contract. The Knicks might as well make use of him and make him earn his money.
Therefore, Hernangomez should want a trade, away from the concrete jungle, to a team where’s he’s guaranteed some playing time so he can grow and develop his game. His prospects for playing time with the current Knicks roster, and next season’s possible roster, looks very slim.
In a perfect world, keeping O’Quinn and Hernangomez would be great, but in the real world, one of them has to go.
It’ll be interesting to see if both players will still be in a Knicks uniform once the trade deadline passes by.