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The Knicks are stargazing. Should they risk it all for Bradley Beal or Victor Oladipo?

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To ramp up the rebuild or not? That is the question.

Washington Wizards v Indiana Pacers
Will either of these guys end up on the Knicks this season? The franchise certainly seems to hope so.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Knicks are exceeding expectations under Tom Thibodeau, so naturally New York is eager to improve its roster through the addition of a star like Bradley Beal or Victor Oladipo, among others. But the team must tread carefully in order to avoid mortgaging the future.

No one should be surprised that the Knicks would like to bolster their current roster, nor should it come as a shock that Leon Rose and friends are looking at guys like Beal and Oladipo. The Knicks have been building up a cache of assets so they can compete in the trade market, and those two are the top names that seem gettable at the moment. The trade deadline is Thursday, March 25 at 3 pm ET. That’s only a little over a month away.

Many fans would like New York to cling tight to its youngsters and draft picks unless a deal is so overwhelmingly obvious that the Knicks would truly be idiots not to do it. But trades are rarely so simple. And the truth is that, while the Knicks have clearly not even opened a championship window at this point, it’s the job of the front office to constantly stay worried about that window slamming shut on their fingers before the team can come close to competing for anything.

Would the addition of Beal or Oladipo change the calculus this season, turning the Knicks from fringe playoff team into Eastern Conference contender? Or, might a deal dismantle the chemistry this team has created while burning the stockpile of assets and draft picks the Knicks have collected over the past few years? Let’s explore.

Bradley Beal: 27-years-old. Owed roughly $72 million over the next two seasons. Set to become an unrestricted free agent after 2022-23.

Beal is, by far, the most accomplished player in this duo. He’s very much in the midst of his prime, having averaged 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists last year. Now, in his ninth season, the shooting guard is averaging a career high — and league best — 33.1 points, plus 5.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game (while shooting 48% from the field, 34% from deep, and 90% from the free throw line).

However, the plan to team him with Russell Westbrook in Washington isn’t working; the Wizards are 8-17 and second worst in the East. The Knicks are second last in the league in scoring (104 points per game), so clearly the injection of Beal would do wonders for the team’s offense.

A dream lineup might look like this: Immanuel Quickley, Beal, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, with Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Reggie Bullock, Obi Toppin and Nerlens Noel coming off the bench. In reality, Elfrid Payton remains the starting point guard at the moment, and in order to get Beal, either Barrett or Robinson would most likely need to be included. Heck, the Wizards might ask for Randle too.

The Wizards will want to wring everything they can from any trade partner, and Beal is the hottest commodity in the league, so the consideration required in a trade for him should only go up as the deadline nears.

Hopefully, the Knicks have internally determined what their ceiling would be on an offer for Beal. Don’t go over that threshold. Be prepared to make an offer, but it’s okay if another team outbids New York.

Victor Oladipo: 28-years-old. Set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. May be in line for a max contract.

Oladipo returned last year from a ruptured quad suffered the previous season, playing in 19 total games and looking like he needed time to dust off the rust. He has improved in 2020-21, averaging 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals across 20 total games with the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets. Oladipo’s shooting splits (40/33/74) are a little below his career average, and he’s missed a few games since being traded to the Rockets because of a foot sprain.

Prior to getting hurt, Oladipo was a two-time All-Star on the rise. In 2017-18, his last full season before the quad injury, Oladipo posted 23 points, 4.6 boards, 5.2 assists and a league leading 2.4 steals per game while shooting 48% from the field, 37% from three (both career bests) and 80% from the stripe. The Pacers took LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the first round, and Olapido looked like a legitimate number one scoring option.

Does that guy still exist? This year’s Oladipo is taking one less shot per game than the 2017-18 version and shooting worse percentages across the board. And his health is a concern, especially considering Oladipo is in line to demand a massive contract this summer.

Scott Perry drafted Oladipo while working for the Orlando Magic in 2013, and everyone knows Perry enjoys employing the guys he once plucked from the draft. Theoretically, given his injury history and the fact that he obviously isn’t playing at the same level as Beal, the Knicks could convince the Rockets to part with Oladipo for a package that wouldn’t completely decimate their flexibility.

But New York should be careful trading for a player who’s still trying to reach the level of play he displayed prior to that devastating quad injury. What if they give up a couple of youngsters and a draft pick or two, but then Oladipo doesn’t quite gel and simply signs elsewhere next season? That would be quite disappointing. By the way, Oladipo has never been a lights out shooter from beyond the arc (he’s 35% from three for his career, which would be ninth best of the Knicks this session), so there’s no reason to think he’ll suddenly start hitting 40% or better from deep anytime soon.

It certainly can’t hurt to poke around and see what Houston is asking for, but under no circumstances should the Knicks overpay for Oladipo. If they really want him, they can plan to target him in free agency this offseason.

Conclusion

The Knicks have entered that scary place where they seem good enough to not be a lottery team but not so great that they are actual contenders in the East. The front office must do a delicate dance here. The Knicks have a good thing going, and we don’t want to see it end.

The young core of RJ, IQ and Mitch, alongside veteran leaders like Randle and Rose, is incredibly exciting. Another dynamic scorer could be the missing piece that puts this team over the top, but any major trade has the potential to disrupt the team chemistry.

Running an NBA team is a high-pressure gig, and the expectations in New York are immense. But the Knicks should take the temperature of the fan base while also considering the wants and needs of the coach and roster. Be prepared to pounce, but be okay withdrawing from consideration when the price point gets too high.

Beal would be an incredible addition, but the cost is probably too high. Oladipo is a risky gambit, and the Knicks would have to pay him big bucks this offseason. Quite frankly, New York is playing with house money this season. They can afford to be patient for now, as long as they remain ready to strike once the right opportunity presents itself.

Poll

What should the Knicks do at the trade deadline?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Trade for Beal.
    (366 votes)
  • 18%
    Don’t Trade for Beal.
    (233 votes)
  • 8%
    Trade for Oladipo.
    (100 votes)
  • 19%
    Don’t trade for Oladipo.
    (241 votes)
  • 23%
    Trade for someone else (say who in the comments!)
    (293 votes)
1233 votes total Vote Now