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P&T’s 2021 trade deadline primer

Lonzo Ball, Victor Oladipo, Andre Dummond. These are all names.

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Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans
Might either one of these guys be a Knick come Thursday at 3 pm?
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Knicks have been eyeing multiple players as Thursday’s trade deadline approaches, but it seems more likely that the front office will ink a move around the margins than make a blockbuster trade that could harm team chemistry. Still, deals come together quickly, so you always have to be prepared.

The Knicks are 22-22 and sitting in 7th place in the Eastern Conference as the trade deadline approaches. The roster could certainly use an upgrade, but at the same time there’s no need to rush; the rebuild is going swell.

Let’s explore who the Knicks have reportedly targeted, and tackle whether they are likely to land in New York once the deadline hits at 3 pm ET on Thursday, March 25.

Lonzo Ball

Ball has been balling this season for the New Orleans Pelicans, with averages of 14 points, 5.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals, not to mention career high shooting percentages across the board (42.5% from the field, 38.5% from three and 77% from the free throw line).

His passing abilities could be very advantageous for Knicks like Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin. And if he could somehow replace Elfrid Payton as the starting point guard, it would enable Tom Thibodeau to keep the Derrick Rose-Immanuel Quickley bench duo intact. Even Magic Johnson thinks the Knicks should go after Ball.

Unfortunately, Ball is like Bitcoin: everyone wants in, his stock just keeps rising, and no one knows with 100% certainty whether this year’s gains are here to stay. The Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets are among other teams that have been mentioned as suitors. Meanwhile, Ball will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and is in line for a hefty contract.

It feels unlikely that the Knicks will strike a deal for Ball within the next 24 hours, unless they are extremely confident in his improved shooting splits and believe they’ll be able to lock him up as a free agent in the offseason.

Kyle Lowry

A veteran so seasoned he might as well be curly fries, Lowry would be a welcome upgrade over Elf. And one could argue there’s destiny at play, since Lowry was supposedly on track to be traded to New York back in the Carmelo Anthony days, only for James Dolan to reportedly veto the deal.

However, barring something seriously unforeseen, Lowry ain’t coming to the Knicks this year. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the 34-year-old could be traded, but “those with knowledge of Lowry’s mindset believe he wants to compete for a championship.”

The Knicks are fighting for a playoff spot, not a title. And even if you want to talk yourself into thinking that Lowry puts the Knicks closer to being a competitor, there will be rival suitors driving up the price tag. How much of the future are you willing to mortgage for Lowry at this point in his career?

Andre Drummond

The Knicks reportedly kicked the tires on Drummond, but the tea leaves currently have the center heading to Los Angeles in order to try and help LeBron James and Anthony Davis defend their title. Good. Mitch is back, and Nerlens Noel is a terrific backup.

Victor Oladipo

The Houston Rockets have “strong confidence they’ll execute a deal” ahead of the deadline, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, although it’s not super clear who they think they’ll be executing that trade with.

Miami is named as a potential destination where Oladipo would be interested in signing long term, and Woj notes that there are multiple bidders who don’t have tons of cap space in the offseason to re-sign Oladipo but are hoping to retain him using his Bird Rights.

Per Woj, the Rockets are “increasingly comfortable with the offers on Oladipo in the marketplace, which include young players and first-round pick combinations that the franchise believes are suitable returns to make a deal.”

Further, the following:

Oladipo has a mutual interest in the New York Knicks too, sources said, and New York — armed also with summer cap space — has been reluctant to make an aggressive trade offer on Oladipo too, sources said.

Once again, it sounds like the Knicks are determined to show patience. No need to overpay for a guy coming off an injury who is set to become a free agent in the offseason.

Other miscellaneous items:

Ian Begley of SNY notes that the Knicks have held discussions with the Orlando Magic about a deal for Evan Fournier, another figure who would clearly be an upgrade over Payton as the starter. Only he’s also been named in other rumors, and considering how good he’s been (19.6 points, 3.7 assists, 1.1 steals), it’s hard to Orlando giving him up for, say, Austin Rivers.

Speaking of Rivers, he sounds like the Knick most likely to wind up elsewhere after the deadline. But it sounds possible he could reach a buyout if no deal emerges. Per Begley:

ESPN reported Monday that Rivers will likely be traded before the deadline or bought out by New York. SNY can confirm that a trade or buyout for Rivers is under consideration.

If Rivers is moved and the transaction opens up a roster spot, big man John Henson is among the players on the Knicks’ radar for that roster spot, per SNY sources. Big man Norvel Pelle is also on New York’s radar if a roster spot opens up, per SNY sources.

And one final thing from Begley before we go:

Something else you may see at the deadline: New York operating as a third team to help facilitate a trade. This would allow the Knicks to receive an asset in a deal by taking on another team’s unwanted asset.

The Knicks have roughly $15 million in cap space and can absorb a contract as the third team in a three-team deal. In such a scenario, New York would also receive a draft pick or a desirable player in the trade.