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Trade Seizin’: Valuing the Knicks

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We’d like to have some trades to announce.

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Hey, sport. Ya like trades? I bet you do, creepo. Only a few more days to go before theis Thursday’s trade deadline. This offseason the Knicks built out a roster that most people criticized for being lopsided. That’s fair, but clearly overstated when you take a moment to look at their depth chart. My guess is the front office thinks Philadelphia is the team to beat in the East and they wanted a group that could match up with the Sixers. Naturally they didn’t hit their mark, but it should seem pretty obvious that this team was built to bring basic competence and future flexibility. A perfectly reasonable set of goals.

Two of the most precious gems they unearthed this offseason are a traditional power forward (Julius Randle) and a prototypical small ball four (Marcus Morris). They both seem like prime candidates to play up a spot in this modern, position-less game, yet that is a rare sight even after the coaching change. Thankfully you’re not gathered here to validate the roster or its construction. We want to deconstruct the roster! MOHreR TrAiYDzS.

The way things stand right now, there are no bonafide All Stars on the roster, much less Hall of Famers, so everyone is ultimately tradable. Nevertheless, the front office should set decisive parameters for what it takes to jog someone loose. So I’ll give a power ranking of how valuable each player is to the team and break it all down into ninety-six tiers.

I make a joke! I scratched 92 of the original tiers, to land squarely at a clean quatro. After I place everyone in their tier, I’ll give my suggestion on what to do with the player. READY!?


TIER ONE

These players should have enough value where a return should be no less than a multi-time All-Star on the upswing of their prime, roughly 26 or younger. This unequal distinction should render them totally un-tradable (see the Who Says No Corollary of 1995) but they have proven to be deserving of a sustained and holistic commitment to their long term success. These are players worth building up if not around. With any luck, the team’s loyalty will be reciprocated by the player when contract time comes.

Mitchell Robinson: Arguably the best player asset on the team. Robinson is a defensive virtuoso with a non-guaranteed deal next season and a $1.8m team option in 2021-22. Already one of the best lob finishers in the game, he’ll add muscle to his frame as he grows up and certainly become an astute back line defender with a dangerous switch-ability to keep all variety of opponents upset at his length. If he adds a baseline jumper, or heavens to betsy, a little three point range?! Look out, league.

Suggestion: Re-sign Mighty Mitchell to the most amount of years imaginable as immediately as possible and put him into the starting lineup right this instant!

RJ Barrett: Youngest guy on the team and is already a two-way player. Although he is imperfect, it is fairly obvious that RJ helps the cause. He’s cost-controlled through the next three years of his contract with a team option just over $10m in 2022-23. There is no reason not to give this kid all the time and space he needs. Barrett seems to be a consummate professional on and off the floor already. It makes no sense to add him to a trade.

Suggestion: Re-sign at earliest opportunity. Build a team with and around this kid. Flesh out a roster that accentuates what he does well and help him improve year over year. If by his fourth season, he has shown no improvement (but no regression) you can actually bank on a bonafide starter level player for the next 10+ seasons, for what should be a cost-effective contract. Finally someone who wants to be in New York, and you didn’t have to gut your roster to acquire him. Quietly, a perfect player.

Frank Ntilikina: Easily the most polarizing player in the community. Ntilikina is a defensive prodigy that is only starting to figure out how to harness his gangle. Over the summer he worked on his handle and it is much tighter than we previously witnessed. He is a talented pick-and-roll orchestrator who, at 21, not shockingly, needs more time. The only constant with his shooting is that it’s erratic, but when he feels confident in his role, it tends to show on the floor. If free throw shooting is a strong indicator for future shooting prowess (.875% at the time of this writing), Ntilikina will figure it out in due time. Even if he proves not to be a point guard, he is a highly valuable player that could very easily figure out how to be some amalgamation of Andre Roberson/Iguodala and Derek Harper. You want that guy on your side in the playoffs.

Suggestion: Do not put him in any trades — his camaraderie with RJ Barrett should be enough to know he is good for the locker room long term. On top of that, his value is too low to get a good return right now, but he’s a player that will pay dividends to the team that is most patient. Be that team! For once, fully commit to rebuilding. The Knicks have no business building a dormer right now. They need to lift the building and fix the foundation. Well, it starts here with these three. All defensive stalwarts and all three committed to the team’s concept.

Any organization that wants Frank is basing it purely on speculation that they can fit him into an already strong team concept and sign him for lower than he’ll be worth when he rounds toward his prime. The Knicks accepted his team option for 2020-21 season. Try to sign him to a team-friendly deal or let him find a player-friendly deal that he knows will be promptly matched in restricted free agency the following year.

TIER TWO

These fellers don’t have to be shopped, but the brass should answer every call and certainly place a few. Anyone in Tier Two should return a first round pick and/or picks + established rotation players with starter potential. To reiterate, it is reasonable and possibly even advisable not to trade any of these players.

Kevin Knox: What. Is he?! Well, he’s a kid. He’ll finally be old enough to drink this summer. Maybe a couple Long Island Iced Teas will loosen him up. Knox is a streaky shooter, but when he’s on, it’s pure! He also looks to be a good finisher in transition. Get him some extra time in the G-League to really flesh out his skills. Sometimes just getting to feel the ball a little more can coax out the good stuff.

Suggestion: Package him in a large deal if you must, but you’re not getting an All-Star in return, and your best bet is to get a potentially valuable pick. This sort of move will absolutely just put you back to square one. Oh and look, that’s where Knox is standing right now. His hard work could pay off, if you let him put in the time.

Marcus Morris: Recent ignoramus quote of the year aside, here we have the team’s true tone-setter. He has commanded the respect of the locker room and has proven his worth on the floor, and should also prove very valuable in trade. The only problem on the floor is that he should be playing more minutes as a small-ball four. His shooting ability can help open the half court for RJ Barrett and Frank Ntilikina, both of whom need the ball more. Morris has shown the willingness to let them be the initiators and the guile to take over when the neophytes seem uncertain. Finally, the Knicks have a veteran presence who can contribute to the larger equation.

Suggestion: His deal ends rather abruptly at the end of the season. Trade him to a desperate contender for a player and a pick, then hope to re-sign him in the offseason. Otherwise, keep him. Don’t trade him to a middling team for just any asset, it will only hurt your standing in the long term. He was a hired gun, so let him shoot at the right target. If he leaves, just wish him well.

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Reggie Bullock: Here we have a guy who you actually have committed patience to. A rarity in New York. Reggie instantly paid dividends by opening up some of the very congested middle with his shooting. He is on a perfectly team-friendly deal. He threes, he Ds. Everybody needs this guy, and the Knicks are everybody.

Suggestion: Guarantee his $4m next season and stay the course with a perfectly suitable rotation player that can even start on a good team. If some hungry team offers you a bundle, maybe take a lil’ toot.

Ignas Brazdeikis: He needs some reps with the big boys, but should bring some toughness and creativity when he’s afforded that opportunity. Wonderful job using the G-League to let him get his feet sopping wet. I wish the Knicks did this with a few other guys who are basically not allowed to just play. Play through mistakes even!! Pffff, why the hell should we care?

Suggestion: Let him play out his rookie deal. He won’t return a lottery pick in a trade, just see if he can play himself into having lottery type value as over the next few seasons. He’s another guy that seems to be sympatico with Barrett, moving him shouldn’t really be on the menu unless the customer is paying to sit at the chef’s table.

Kenny Wooten: Recently signed to a two-way deal for two seasons. This kid can give the second unit a lob threat in pick-and-roll situations and a back line defender that can incinerate even the most dramatic tear drops.

Suggestion: Don’t move him until you know what you have. Could Taj Gibson be a perfect mentor for him? Can’t find out if you won’t try it. Get him some NBA reps over the next two years. There’s plenty of time to figure it out.

Taj Gibson: He has wanted to play in New York his whole life and here he finally is. An excellent ambassador for the community, and he’s exactly the type of guy the franchise ought to slap that facacta “OAKAAK” label on.

Suggestion: Do whatever he asks you to do. Stick around or skip town, it’s up to Taj. If you decide you can’t afford his $9m option next season when he’ll be 35, so be it, I’m sure he’ll understand.

TIER THREE

This group should be shopped assertively and return rotation players that fit around the Tier 1 & 2 players and/or (multiple) second round picks. If these players are not moved by the deadline, it should be considered a small failure. If they are not moved by the summer it should be a considered a complete failure.

Julius Randle: The concept of Orange and Blue Julius came into vogue when the initials “KP” were still angelic in the Garden. The Knicks never got to pair the Z-Bo3000 with the Unicorn, and instead he gets to to play in a clunky lineup that needs to be plunged every time he grabs a rebound and runs it up the gut. He relies too heavily on himself, to the detriment of the team. Even his defensive rotations seem selfish, preferring to hang around the paint; he’ll leave shooters uncovered and shrug it off when a teammate doesn’t pick up the chain.

Be that as it may, Randle is only 25 and can clearly shoulder some of the load as a high-usage player. If he were played in better lineups — and at the five more often — it would probably make his contract more palatable. If he isn’t traded, it’s a failure, albeit a small one that a soundly-run organization could correct without immediately moving him.

Suggestion: Ship him out as soon as a reasonable deal comes around. Randle is richly compensated but not for too many years. A team that is looking to make a push or has limited ways of adding talent, could stand to greatly benefit from this bruiser.

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Damyean Dotson: Recently shooting hyper-hot, now may be the last real chance to move Dotson for any significant value. A rare occasion when the Knicks can potentially execute a trade with someone playing at or near their peak. Dotson is a perfectly capable, ultimately replaceable wing. His shooting will probably be better suited on a team that doesn’t need him to create.

Suggestion: Move Dotson as sweetener in a larger package. Otherwise keep him and let him continue to build his stock as a quality rotation player.

Allonzo Trier: The iso cult seems to have finally, mercifully petered out. Can this kid get buckets? Why, yes he can. Only problem is, he needs the whole floor and the whole shot clock to do it. So do you spread the floor all the way out for him? Do you use the entire clock to let him carelessly prance and whittle until he’s cut an interesting shape in the rug? Is he good enough for you to just run ‘1-4 Low’ 25-30 times a game? No, man! Shut up about Zo. Is it possible he can be useful? Yes, as trade bait.

Suggestion: Move on from Trier. See if you can get a pair of second rounders. Houston has Memphis’ second rounder this year. Nudge, nudge.

Dennis Smith Jr.: Here’s a guy who has always been a reliable jumper away from being a real force, and he took a horrific trudge backward sometime this past offseason. He still has another year left on his rookie deal, but due to injury, personal problems and some general unluckiness, he is rarely afforded playing time. He seems like a genuinely good kid and I’d be shocked if a bad turn in New York is the end of the line for young Dennis.

Suggestion: A change of scenery could work wonders here. Minnesota just traded Jeff Teague and has previously been linked to Smith Jr. If there’s interest, the Knicks should give him this golden opportunity. In Minnesota, he’d get to play with a neutron bomb of an offensive force and for a coach who really seems to inspire young players despite their recent extreme woes.

As they say, who says no?

Kadeem Allen: I’d be surprised if there is any market for a punchy point guard entering his prime while fighting for his spot in the big leagues. Allen has shown some promise when he’s played, but he’s 27 and the NBA isn’t gonna wait around for him.

Suggestion: Get some second round pick if you can find it. With any luck that player will blossom into someone more electrifying. I mean, I’ve heard of Manu Ginobili, haven’t you? Otherwise this guy is the old faithful leader for the Westchester Knicks. No time like the present to make sure the G-League squad is a high-functioning group.

TIER FOUR

Here we have players that need to get shipped out. They may not have much value and it’s probably selling low, but the team should be after any future assets they can grab. These guys need to be gone by the deadline. No ifs, ands or buts.

Wayne Ellington: Could be lightning in a bottle for a playoff team. Ellington has proven to be a good soldier, despite getting virtually no playing time. Haven’t heard him complaining about opportunity or even come up in trade speculation (unfortunately?). Nevertheless, Wayne is overpaid and underperforming.

Suggestion: Poke around the upper echelon to see if you can snake a conditional pick out of their drain. If not, move over to the bubble teams and see if you can’t do the same thing. If nothing comes of it, try the bottom rungers, teams with records that look much like the Knicks’. Nothing still? Well, you’ve failed.

Nevertheless, try and move him at the draft. Still nothing? Decline his team option. If he loves New York so much, try signing him to the same deal for half the money ($4m, one year plus a second-year team option). Then try to trade him over the next two years for a second round pick.

Elfrid Payton A fine enough player that shouldn’t be starting nor receiving the lion’s share of the point guard minutes on this team. These Knicks are entirely stuck in the mud, and if we’ve learned any single thing, it’s that Payton hasn’t helped them win gobs of games. At this point all he seems to do well is not bother Julius Randle. Which... no! Randle doesn’t deserve to go about unbothered.

Suggestion: Trade Payton anywhere! He’s too young to be blissfully unaware on defense, and his shooting is possibly the worst on the team, including DSJ. Now look yourself in the mirror and repeat these words, “Elfrid Payton is not helping this team win games. He will remain on the bench and Frank Ntilikina will get all the run.” Repeat that until it is law. If Payton isn’t gone by the deadline, it’s a huge failure showing that the team has no concept of what tomorrow will bring. Right now, tomorrow only seems to bring a 25-year-old point guard that can’t shoot, can’t defend, doesn’t make his teammates better and hasn’t contributed to a winning culture.

Bobby Portis Be gone, you! I got sick of watching Portis’ aimless right handed baby hook in October! The guy has been a more athletic Enes Kanter with less touch around the rim, more range on the jumper, less rebounding chops and too many opportunities. It’s been positively wretched putting eyes on Bobby Portis this year and I simply cannot wait to see him gone. His poor play is only getting in the way of younger players getting those minutes and making progress. Can Kevin Knox sustain five minutes at the power forward slot in an aggressive lineup adjustment? Can he do it twice a week? Are power forwards just slow enough to keep Knox from losing the plot on defense? Dump the chump and try it the fuck out. You’re not winning any rings this year making sure Bobby god damned Portis eats. Fuckin’ hell.

Suggestion: Bye-bye, Portis! Maybe some team thinks he is a decent asset. Find that one team and hack away at it until you hammer out a deal. It almost doesn’t matter what you get in return. A top-55 protected pick will do just fine. If there is no deal to strike, drop him on the end of the bench until the time comes, and decline the living shit out of his team option.

So maybe that deal is a tad unlikely, but this wacky trade is just there to underscore the idea that there are teams looking to move an albatross, teams looking to add a little spitfire to their playoff run and teams that have a tough time attracting top-tier free agents. The Knicks should act as a facilitator to grease the gears for any number of those trades while taking back all variety of picks, expiring contracts and maybe even snag a young player that has some potential.

That’s the deal, man. The team’s best players are very, very, very, very young. The very young best players on the team need to learn and grow together. They can’t do it from the sidelines. Do the knowledge, Scott and Steve. This team is not only going nowhere, somebody farted a big one, and they all got off the team plane.