Acquiring a Star
Not all stars are equal. There certainly are levels to stardom and talent in the NBA. The phrase used over and over since the hiring of Leon Rose is a “disgruntled star”. This is referencing to star players who may be looking to escape their team situation. The Knicks have been on the lookout to acquire a star who may find themselves in that unfortunate situation. The reason why such a player would be attractive is that their value would decrease after openly requesting a trade.
There haven’t been any attractive situations recently for the Knicks to entertain. The situations of Russell Westbrook and James Harden were not good long-term solutions for the Knicks.
Fortunately, the Knicks got off to a surprising start and some of their player assets have gained value. Even some of the perceived value of some of their draft assets have gained value from the connected teams’ slow starts or injuries. This season the Knicks will continue to be in conversations for acquiring a star.
When it comes to NBA trades there is a law of diminishing returns. So the best value for the Knicks is not elite superstar talent, but non-marquee NBA players. The reason why is simple. The more impressive a resume, the more assets the controlling team would like in return. There are other ways to acquire great talent without waiting for a disgruntled star situation or paying a steep premium for a superstar.
The Knicks can look into acquiring a star with a less successful resume. Before you discount players without big success, the Brooklyn Nets acquired D’Angelo Russell when he was unsuccessful. He had 2 unimpressive seasons for a bad Laker team. The new opportunity and coaching environment were able to propel him to all-star production. With Tom Thibodeau’s coaching pedigree the right talent can be turned into a winner.
How am I defining stardom? My definition of star players doesn’t mean they are famous. Being a star player is more than being an NBA celebrity. I will define it as all-star production or capability of all-star output if given the right role. There are players not thought of as winners, that can be brought in for success. Let us explore 3 players that the Knicks can target.
Unsuccessful stars the Knicks can target:
What makes a player available doesn’t always have to do with controversy or looking to upgrade. Sometimes a franchise is looking to go in a new direction. In 2021, that may be the Orlando Magic. They did start the season 4-0, however, this team isn’t better than they were last year. The Orlando Magic have been stuck in a loop of mediocre results for years. Continually making the playoffs as a lower seed and losing in the first round. 2021 may be the year Orlando may want to put Mo Bamba in the driver’s seat at the center position. Mo Bamba was drafted with their 6th pick of the 2018 draft. He was thought to be their future at the time.
The recent extensions of Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac have handcuffed the Magic. It guarantees a high payroll and further reduces their financial maneuverability. Now, with the recent injury to Fultz, both their future investments are out for this season. This year Orlando looks like a low seed fighting to get to a play-in spot. This would be a good time to give Mo Bamba his reps to see if he can be their long-term starting center. Not making the playoffs would not be the worst idea in a year when the draft class is considered deep. The Knicks’ cap space and assets can bring much relief to Orlando’s poor financial situation by taking on their biggest salary. Why would the Knicks take on such a large salary? He would be the best scoring center since Patrick Ewing. Nikola Vucevic’s contract structure makes it more attractive as each season goes by. The reason Orlando would trade an all-star is they need to further reduce their payroll and gain assets for the future. They will not be contenders with what they currently have. The Knicks can help Orlando by reducing their cap instantly and give them draft assets to be used in the next few seasons.
What can a trade look like?
Frank Ntilikina + Nerlens Noel + 2023 Dallas 1st Rd + 2021 Detroit 2nd Rd (via Knicks) + 2023 Utah 2nd Rd (via Knicks)
The earliest date this can be completed is February 23, 2021
Zach Lavine would be an ideal player for the New York Knicks. Saying Zach Lavine has a history with Tom Thibodeau is an understatement. He played from him one season when he was the coach of the Timberwolves. Zach Lavine has continually taken a step forward every year in the NBA. Despite his reputation for scoring, he has never been an all-star. He has been giving all-star production for several years. Often all-star reserve picks are connected to team success. Levine is a great secondary ball-handler and borderline elite scorer in the NBA. The upside of pursuing him is that he can ease the pressure off R.J. Barret and Immanuel Quickley. This would put less emphasis on Barrett to produce from the 3 point range. This also can help Immanuel Quickley by having another player who can create for himself and others. The Bulls as a team are hard to read. Their plans for the future are cloudy and they have not committed to a future core. There is no clear indication if they consider Zach Lavine as an asset for future trade or as a long term franchise player. Last season, his displeasure for his former coach Jim Boylen was well known. Going into the off-season there were rumors that a trade was possible. With the overhaul of the coaching staff and front office, those rumors have slowed.
What could a trade look like?
Reggie Bullock, Kevin Knox, 2021 Detroit 2nd Rd (via Knicks), 2023 Dallas 1st Rd, 2023 Utah 2nd Rd (via Knicks)
($10.7M cap reduction)
Pascal Siakam is an actual all-star. Last year he was chosen to his first all-star game. It was a big year for him. He signed a large near-max extension just before last season. He was anointed as the heir apparent after the loss of Kawhi Leonard. It’s tough calling him unsuccessful when he won the 2019 championship. However, he’s unsuccessful in stepping into the role of a superstar. His shooting percentage regressed with more responsibility. Some began to question if he’s more of a complementary player than a leading star. Last season, he scored just under 23 points per game, which was a career-high. The fans of Toronto just expected more from the versatile 6’9” forward. So far in this 2020-21 season, he has been off to a slow start averaging less than 20. A week ago, he was disciplined by being held out for a game against the Knicks. There is no word that he’s on the trading block. But, if there was buyer’s remorse, the Knicks could quickly help them reverse their decision. If Masai Ujiri wanted to tear down Toronto for another rebuild the Knicks could help make that happen.
What can a trade look like?
Julius Randle + Dennis Smith Jr. + 2021 Dallas 1st
The Knicks have many avenues they can use to pursue a star. They are expected to stay aggressive since stars win championships. Are there any stars you think the Knicks may look at acquiring?