In his most recent mailbag, SNY’s Ian Begley fielded a question about Frank Ntilikina and whether he could (once again) be on the trade block this offseason, but offered up an extra interesting nugget in his answer:
But I don’t see them trying to trade [Ntilikina] for a late first/early second-round pick prior to the draft, as they did in 2019. That being said, there will be roster turnover. That’s what happens when new management comes in. It’s part of life in the NBA. Knicks players are well aware of this. One Knick – a player who isn’t entering unrestricted free agency – doesn’t expect to be back in 2020-21 because of the new regime in charge. He’s almost surely not the only Knick who expects to be elsewhere next year. That’s part of life in the NBA when there is a new regime in charge.
That news could either be great, or kinda disappointing. Let’s break down the candidates.
First off, it can’t be Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, Maurice Harkless, Bobby Portis, Theo Pinson (yeah, remember, he’s on the team), or Taj Gibson. They’re all expected to be unrestricted free agents this year and have their team options declined/buyouts exercised. Gibson might be the exception there, if the Knicks determine they don’t have any better way to spend $10 million and want one of Thibs’ favorite players around.
We can also safely rule out Ntilikina, given the mailbag answer that this tidbit came from. RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson are also, obviously, probably not gonna happen.
So that leaves a number of other players, though. Let’s go through them one by one.
Iggy Brazdeikis: I put Iggy first because I doubt he’s going anywhere. He’s had so few minutes at the NBA level, but also showed out in Westchester last year. Plus, he’s jacked now. Think the Knicks would rather see what they’ve got than let him go.
Kevin Knox: The Knicks have seen a lot of Knox, but not that much. And you gotta consider that he played for two straight coaches that thought he could play shooting guard, somehow (Mike Miller’s only blemish). The Knicks also just hired Knox’s former development coach Kenny Payne from Kentucky, so chances are they’d rather see what Payne can get out of Knox than trade him when his value is lowest.
Dennis Smith Jr.: Again, DSJ’s value couldn’t possibly be lower than it is right now, so why trade him? We got to see a glimpse of new development coach Johnnie Bryant working with him the other day, the former mentor of fellow 2017 draftee Donovan Mitchell. Plus, Tom Thibodeau apparently loves him. I think he’s here to stay, at least through the start of the year.
Reggie Bullock: OK, maybe we’re getting a little warmer. Bullock was probably the best signing of last offseason, from a value perspective (even if it was totally accidental and only happened because Bullock hurt his back and had to restructure his deal). Bullock will be making about $4 million next year, which is an affordable contract for a 3-and-D guy like him, particularly in a year where teams will probably be looking to save money post-COVID.
Julius Randle: It was reported by KnicksFanTV that trading Julius Randle would be a top priority for the Knicks this offseason. So could he be the guy Begley is talking about? It’s certainly possible! Randle is probably the biggest public face of the Steve Mills regime and the painful Knicks season that was, so Rose might want to jet him and start fresh. Maybe Randle has heard as much.
Damyean Dotson: Unfortunately, I saved Dotson for last, because I think he’s the most likely candidate here. The wording of Begley’s answer — “a player who isn’t entering unrestricted free agency,” rather than, for example, “a player under contract” — makes me think it could be Dotson, who is the Knicks’ lone restricted free agent this offseason. It would be unfortunate, because Dotson has proved in what little opportunities that he’s had with the Knicks that he can be a capable shooter, defender, and rebounder, but he’s sort of always been jerked around by the Knicks, and perhaps he’s also angling for a mutual divorce.
Time will tell, but with this offseason seemingly lasting for at least another two months, these little crumbs will be all we get to eat for a while. May as well lap them up.