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P&T Round(ball) Table, Part Three: What if the Knicks trade the No. 3 pick for a star?

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The stunning conclusion

NBA: New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the third and final installment of Posting and Toasting’s Emmy Award-winning series on what the Knickerbockers of New York should do with the third pick in the draft. In part one, our esteemed panel of Knicks blog bois argued for their preferred prospect at the three spot until Drew Steele went off script with his “trade the pick” take. In part two, the panel was split on whether or not to trade down. Part three is pure, hot-take debauchery.

Drew: Yes, I am going to respond to my own question first before anyone gets the chance to, because I have a take that the two Take Gawds Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless would be proud of: Anthony Davis is a loser and I don’t want him on this Knicks team.

Would I be mad if the Knicks traded for Anthony Davis? I mean, no, not really, since he is a young, über-talented player. With that said, Davis, with all of this talent, has only been to the playoffs twice in his seven-year career. For a player who’s spoken about as arguably the most talented player in the world, his talent on the court is not translating into victories or playoff appearances.

Shwinnypooh: Seems like more of a statement on how much more influential perimeter creation is in the modern game than bigs are in terms of being able to impact baseline. It’s instructive that when the Pelicans had good health and productive guard play, the Pelicans made the playoffs.

But the events of last season give pause. Sure, if the Knicks get KD and Kyrie/Kemba, trading a bunch of shit for Davis makes more sense than otherwise. Presumably you’d be comfortable with your chances of re-signing him when he opts out next summer in that scenario, but shit, the Celtics were real comfortable about their chances of signing Kyrie before this season started too. Really, nobody can say they know for certain.

His agent is also Rich Paul, who seems like one of the more irritating and meddlesome forces in the NBA. Paul is an incredibly stubborn negotiator who often overvalues his own players to an insane degree. In the past he has leveraged his star client, LeBron James, to keep those lesser lights happy with full pockets, but there’s always a cost to that type of team building.

Alex: My good friend Shwinny the Pooh. I agree with part of your assessment — you definitely need capable playmakers around AD to win at the highest level. In the dream scenario, the Knicks would have two extremely capable guys to both create offense and find Davis in his spots (KD and Free Agent PG TBD). Honestly, I feel like the only way the Knicks even entertain getting AD is if you know that Kevin Durant (at least) is coming.

What I don’t agree with is that trading for AD could be a move that ends like Kyrie’s time is (presumably) ending in Boston. The Knicks would be bringing AD into an environment with established, respected stars that would be eager to play off of him, rather than the shit-show that Boston became once guys like Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown decided that they were more important than Kyrie to the success of the team.

(And honestly, it’s hard to totally blame those young guys when they, like everyone else in the NBA, were playing for their next contract and needed to not be buried on the bench.)

(Also, that whole drama could’ve been avoided if Boston had just nutted up and traded some of those young guys for Paul George, or Jimmy Butler, or Kawhi Leonard, or Anthony Davis, or Blake Griffin, or...)

I think the more likely outcome of an AD arrangement is something like a Kawhi Leonard/Paul George situation, where you’re going to give this guy the difficult decision of having to leave a team with a good future and a fan base that loves him in favor of the unknown. Of course, who knows how influential Rich Paul is and how dead-set he and AD are on going to LA, but I think leaving a good team in the best basketball market in the country would be a pretty tough sell.

Stingy: I don’t think I care for the whole Davis mishegoss. Yes he is immediately the best player the Knicks have had since Patrick Ewing — and it’s not particularly close! The dilemma is that you are subjecting him to the prospect of joining a team that is even further from the plot than the Pelicans. If you can pair him with Kawhi Leonard, I’m all in. Them two and 15 second rounders and undrafted free agents. Let’s rock. If you can get Kevin Durant, again count me in. If you don’t and you push all future assets into the pot, the risk of him leaving for nothing is immediately on the clock.

Can they build the team and make the trade later on? I’d prefer that. Let’s have this trade happen after the draft and a little free agency has been delivered. Maybe even after summer league. Can they do that for me??

Alex: I kinda feel like this trade is going to happen after some free agent dominos fall regardless, but maybe that’s just me. That’s the mentality I’ve been operating with, at least. Only way it happens before is if Boston strikes some sort of deal that sends the No. 14 pick to New Orleans, since it’s more of a crapshoot in that range of the draft and Nawlins would want to make that pick.

Shwinnypooh: Alright, but are we 100 percent certain that trading for AD is actually the optimal star-fucking lineup to build? I’m going to operate under the assumption that any deal the Knicks could pull the trigger on for AD would require both the third pick and Mitch moving in the opposite direction, in addition to basically all the other children except for like Dot, who’s fucking 56 years old anyways. Let’s assume you have to throw in the unprotected Dallas pick too. Is that optimal?

I feel like keeping Mitch, and then using these assets (maybe less?) to instead trade for, say, Bradley Beal, could actually be a better use of what the Knicks have collected here. Just throwin’ it out there! If Mitch is as good as many of us think, then at his ridiculous price point (under $2 million per season), with three years left on his deal, it’s definitely something to consider.

Stingy: I wanted Zion. Nobody ever cares what I want. Scoundrels!

Drew: We all wanted Zion, Stingy. It’s sad that the NBA rigged the lottery for New Orleans because the league for whatever reason wants to try to force basketball upon a football market and not have a team in Seattle Pelicans won, but there is nothing you can do at this point. Shwin is on the right path here and mentioned the player that the Knicks really should be focusing on: Bradley Beal.

Outside of not quitting on his team because he and his agent couldn’t stage the coup d’etat they wanted, Beal’s going to turn 25 years old later this month and just had a career year. Beal plays on and off the ball, can pass, shoot, and get to the rim. Granted, a backcourt of Kemba/Kyrie and Beal would leave much to be desired on defense, but that’s what Durant (wishful thinking), Mitch, Dotson, and hopefully-still-on-the-roster Frank Ntilikina are for.

The only issue with trading for Beal is that we don’t really know if he’s going to be available for a trade. Washington still doesn’t have a general manager and is straddled with the John Wall contract. They can’t truly blow it up because no one is taking on Wall’s contract, and they can’t build around Beal because Wall’s contract takes up way too much of their cap. You can make the case that Beal is the only good thing they have going for them, and you don’t want to lose a player of his talents — look at what Charlotte did with Kemba. But you could also make the case that because they are stuck in no-man’s land with a terrible cap sheet, getting a bunch of cheap young players to grow together and wait for the Wall contract to expire is a great way to regroup.

If whoever takes over Washington’s front office chooses the latter, the Knicks may have the best package in terms of offering contracts and assets that help their cap. Wall’s contract expires when this draft class is up for their restricted free agency (woof). Offer them the third pick, Dennis Smith, Kevin Knox, and one of the Dallas picks for Beal.

There may be another player who I am overlooking in terms of “available via trade,” but I think Beal should be prioritized ahead of Davis. I know that sounds crazy because Anthony Davis is a legit top-five-type player in the NBA, but I think Beal makes more sense roster construction-wise if the Knicks are signing, at the minimum, Durant.

Lames: Can you clarify your roster construction argument for Beal? Does it come down to what you think of Mitch? Gutting the roster seems imprudent given the Carmelo of it all, but if you already have a two-max situation cold brewing in the sub-zero, do you still think Mitch is too valuable to give up for AD? If it’s just Mitch — WHOMST’VE I LOVE — that’s the problem, I can’t shake the feeling that we’d all feel a little silly and perhaps mildly Boston-ish in a few years for refusing to pull that trigger.

MMiranda: My hot take is simple: I’m tired of talking about all this.

Lames: Seems like something I would say. You gotta respect that.

MMiranda: This is only the third time in my 30 years following the Knicks that they’ve had significant cap space, and the other two occasions were nothing like this.

In 1996 the Knicks weren’t front-runners to land any big-time free agents and didn’t have a lottery pick. They sought to reload, not rebuild. In 2010 we knew all year LeBron was a long-shot, and the Knicks didn’t have a first-round pick, period. But this time the Knicks have their highest draft choice in 34 years and the most cap space in the league, and have been repeatedly linked to arguably the biggest free agent in their history. And after a full season of ad nauseam rumors re: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker and Zion Williamson and Anthony Davis... I can’t. I just can’t anymore.

I don’t want to guess whether Durant stays in Golden State or comes to New York or goes to the Clippers or Brooklyn, nor what the significance of Kyrie being seen in L.A., or uptown, or spending the night with some Nets or later hearing he didn’t. I’ve had my fill with whether Kemba is affordable or worthwhile. I’m sick of hearing R.J. Barrett dismissed, and Jarrett Culver dismissed, and any teenager dismissed. I don’t have it in me anymore to speculate on what’s too much to give up for Anthony Davis.

I’m reminded of Game of Thrones. As the show ran its course people stopped being satisfied watching it unfold and instead jockeyed to toss out theories and hypotheses to show the world how smart they were. Despite no one knowing what would happen, the guesswork calcified into camps who sneered at alternative viewpoints. The fuck?

I just wanna be surprised. More than pleased or affirmed, I wanna be surprised. Pleasantly surprised is ideal, but I live in a country where the jackass and the elephant have both steadily led us to our doom, yet it’s still heresy for most grown-ass adults to choose otherwise. We’re maybe a generation away from the end of civilization, and we keep doing the same stupid shit that got us here and not doing the shit that might save us. So anything that gives me a sense of “Word?!” does my soul good.

I have no idea whom the Knicks will sign or draft and no clue if any will work out or not. I don’t care. I’m happy enough to wait and find out. I have hope for the first time in a looong time. If you guess right on signings or trades or draft picks, you still don’t know shit. If you’re wrong, you’re still a child of Yahweh, worthy of my love and kinship. I don’t wanna guess. I don’t wanna be smart. I just wanna embrace the universe unfolding.

Lames: I wish Doug would embrace the question I asked a few paragraphs ago.

Alex: Too bad, ’cause Alex is back. Some questions just end up going unanswered (why did they cut the fleeb???). I’m kinda jonesing to at least build a framework of a trade here, for AD or otherwise. Because I feel like if we can establish a reasonable baseline, we can safely draw our conclusions about whether this would be “worth it” or not. Here’s the hauls a couple of other top players got in recent years:

  • Kawhi: Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, 2019 first rounder (turned into No. 29 pick)
  • PG-13: Paul George for Victor Oladipo (pre-breakout) and Domantas Sabonis (post-rookie season)
  • Butler 1.0: Jimmy Butler and 2017 No. 17 pick (Justin Patton) for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the 2017 No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen)
  • Butler 2.0: Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton for Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and a 2022 second-round pick
  • Kyrie: Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick (turned into No. 8, Collin Sexton)

Basically, other than maybe Kyrie, I think all of the big stars traded in the last few years have gone for much less on the open market than people generally thought they would. And all of those guys listed above had one or two years left on their contracts (AD is an expiring contract this year).

So who’s to say the Knicks would necessarily need to include Mitch? (Which seems to be one of the biggest reservations of most people.) Based off of the returns for so many other stars in recent years, it seems like the package needed to net a star has been either A) some established player(s) and some small amount of draft capital or B) a handful of young players and a high draft pick. The Knicks absolutely don’t have the former, but they have the latter in spades. Could something like Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, No. 3 (presumably R.J.) and the 2021 Dallas pick get it done? You might be surprised. Just look at what Kawhi fetched a year ago and tell me that deal wouldn’t at least have a chance.

MMiranda: If I may step off my soapbox for a moment and hypocritically re-enter the fray... I’m assuming Alex is assuming Davis consents to that trade after also agreeing to sign an extension with the Knicks. And that Davis would be paired alongside one or two other added stars. If that’s the case, I’d do that trade. Would New Orleans?

If the Pels trade AD, what happens with Jrue Holiday? The two-way stud has two years and $53 million left on his contract, plus a player option for $27 million in 2021-22. Let’s say Holiday is down to put down roots on Mount Zion. That’s a start, but not nearly enough. Last year the Pels’ most prominent guards after Jrue were Elfrid Payton and E’Twaun Moore. Payton is an unrestricted free agent. Moore is under contract for one more year at $8.6 million, almost the same salary as DSJ and Frank’s combined take-home next season; their team options the year after next total about $12 million. Are Smith and Frank an upgrade?

Say you’re David Griffin, the Pelicans’ new general manager. Your franchise is coming off its lowest attendance since Davis’ rookie year. You’re an afterthought in a football town. If you’re pitching that fanbase on life A.D. (after Davis), Barrett/Culver would have to be the centerpiece of this deal. And then? Knox? DSJ and Ntilikina are not straws that stir anybody’s drink. The Dallas 2021 pick probably means more than it would’ve before this year’s lottery bullshit reform, since even if the Mavs aren’t a bottom-feeder, as long as they’re not a playoff team that pick has a better chance of jumping to the top four than it did in the past.

So you’re gonna sell those fans on:

  • R.J. Barrett, a polarizing prospect, or Culver, who could be Handsome Evan Turner.
  • Knox, who was atrocious on one end of the floor.
  • Ntilikina, who was repugnant on the other.
  • Smith Jr., who plays the same position as Holiday and whose impact depends on having the ball in his hands, i.e. not Zion’s mitts.
  • Hope that the Mavs will still be a lottery team two years from now, multiplied by the hope that their pick ends up top-four rather than 11-14.

Here’s a take for ya: I don’t think the Knicks have enough to package for Davis. Not unless they trade Mitchell Robinson. Do you trade the 21-year-old raw-but-promising starter home for the 26-year-old broke-down palace? Speak up, if you don’t mind. I’m climbing back up on me soapbox.

Shwinnypooh: Great GMs don’t give up the all the loot for a star. As evidence, I suggest looking at the Raptors, who have been sonning the Warriors to death. And spare me any misty-eyed sob stories about Golden State’s fucking injuries. They’ve benefited from injuries plenty themselves over the course of the last five years — but I digress.

Anyway, I think if Perry just gives up the whole bag for AD, he’s unlikely to be “The Prince Who Was Promised.” Driving hard bargains and extracting value are the margins by which contenders are built and titles won. Based on his track record thus far in New York, it does seem Perry knows how to play poker, though.

And Jesus Fucking Christ, can we please, for the love of fucking God, just keep Mitch? Fuck. I just want to keep and develop our own guy for once, please. I thought it’d be Kristaps, but neither he nor the Knicks seemed into making that work. Frank seems like a Knick solely in name at this point. Dotson’s cool, but he’s not the same as Mitch, and clearly has nowhere near the superlative skills of the Blockness Monster. Knox has the potential to be good one day, but he’s more than hop, skip, and jump away from getting there. Ditto for Dennis.

Mitch is good right now. I just want him to keep being good and maybe better here. Not in the Bayou.

Alex: For what it’s worth, I did not assume that AD would sign an extension with the Knicks, because it’s way more financially beneficial for him to hit free agency next year than to sign an extension. My plan would be this: get him here, sign KD and others (or flip-flop the first two steps, whatever works) and then force him to make the decision to leave a team with one of the five best players in the NBA, in a winnable conference, in the best basketball market in the country. Paul George (and maybe Kawhi this year?) have shown that that’s a worthwhile gamble.

And I agree with MM that, in a vacuum, the Knicks might not have enough to get AD. Luckily, we’re not living in a vacuum, and regardless of the relative position of power that getting Zion puts the Pels in, they’re still not in a super great spot from a negotiating standpoint here. So, to Shwin’s point, pouncing on that and giving up as little as possible could be in the cards if one of the other big suitors bows out (Boston) and another is blackballed (the Lakers).

Anyway, we’re running juuuuuust a bit long here, so I think it’s time to wrap this one up. Hopefully we’ll have actual, definitive answers on the third pick and more in 10 days at the draft, or in 20 days once free agency starts. All I know is, we’re in for a hell of a ride between now and then.