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Game Preview: Knicks vs. Kings- 01/31/22

Potential trade partners size each other up tonight

NBA: New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks seem destined to be trade partners. Both teams have been underachieving this season and seem caught between malcontented veterans and over-hyped youngsters. Both teams look to pivot towards building around their young cores and off-loading their vets.

With the Kings recently ending their pursuit of Ben Simmons, they could turn their attention to the Knicks as a viable trade partner. The two teams could make perfect partners in a deal for Julius Randle, who has seemingly given up as the star of the Knicks. Randle doesn't seem built for New York and could thrive in a change of scenery, especially to the often-overlooked Kings.

What could a package of Randle to the Kings look like? It’s enough to make some Knick fans, including myself, salivate. Perhaps we swap him straight up for De’Aaron Fox and finally bring in a young, 20 PPG point guard we have desperately needed for 15 years. Or the Knicks trade him for a pick, Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes. The possibilities are endless since the Kings have as many desirable young assets as the Knicks. Picks coming from the Kings are always profitable bets to bank on.

Young guards Tyrese Halliburton (who many, including Stephen A. Smith with the Knicks, would have taken over Obi Toppin in the 2020 Draft) and Davion Mitchell seem to be the only Kings players off the table.

Although the Kings have supposedly told teams Fox is too. But with the right deal, that could change due to Fox’s ridiculous price tag. So is it worth it for the Knicks to swap Randle for Fox? Even though the young guard’s salary is one of the worst overpays in the NBA? It’s a highly debatable topic among Knicks fans.

Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m. EST. So get your trade checkers ready, Knicks Nation.

PROJECTED STARTERS

De’Aaron Fox, on paper, looks like one of the best point guards in the league. He’s got great size at 6’3 and might be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, guards from end to end. At just 24-years-old, he has already averaged 20 PPG three out of his five young seasons. He’s unstoppable downhill and possesses the IQ and facilitating instincts to find teammates for lobs, breakaway cuts, and kick-out threes. He’s also an efficient shooter from the mid-range inwards. He consistently gets to the basket, cutting through the teeth of the defense for lay-ins and spray-outs.

It's the three-point shooting that’s the problem. A career 31% shooter from the perimeter just won’t cut it in today’s NBA. This would only amplify the spacing problem with the Knicks if he came on board in a Randle swap. He has also had issues with the Kings with his attitude and work ethic, seeming not always to give 100% every game. There’s no denying his talent. It’s just a bit insane to want to replace one ego-centric semi-star for another if you’re the Knicks. For all of Fox’s statistics, it has yet to translate to winning or the playoffs for the Kings. He’s listed as questionable, but you have to imagine the Kings want to advertise the young guard if they decide to move him before the deadline.

Tyrese Halliburton is one of the most exciting young two-way guards in the league. His 14 PPG as a sophomore doesn't tell the whole story of his impact on the court. Halliburton plays like a wise vet, as he is just as likely to dive headfirst for a loose ball as he is to drop 30 on an unsuspecting team. It stings a little he could have been the Knicks in last year’s draft when they selected Toppin at No. 8, but he has rejuvenated this Kings squad as their leader and franchise centerpiece.

Harrison Barnes has made a career for himself as a reliable, high-character wing capable of locking up the opposing team’s best player while chipping in 17 PPG. Since being drafted by the Golden State Warriors, he has played this role in the early days of their contending shaping core. After a semi-successful stint in Dallas as Dirk Nowitzki’s semi-successor, he has provided the Kings with a valuable locker-room presence and production on the court, exceeding expectation. He is sure to be desired by every contender come the deadline and will have a great matchup tonight in RJ Barrett, who resembles his demeanor and game.

Damian Jones is likely to start at the power forward position against the Knicks with an apparent injury to Marvin Bagley. Jones has bounced around the league until finding a home, for now, with the Kings. He is a gritty, low-post bruiser who shoots a solid 60% from the field while posting a modest PER of 15.7. With Randle’s inconsistent efforts lately, he and Richaun Holmes could have their hands full if Randle breaks out of his slump to post one of his torching fests from mid-range and the post.

Speaking of Holmes, he has been really impressive since inking a four-year, $46,522,560 contract extension this past off-season, putting up 12 points and eight rebounds per game. With the Kings building around their dynamic backcourt, they could opt to go younger and move on from Holmes. If so, he will have plenty of suitors as a talented big on an affordable deal. Holmes shoots almost 70% from the field and gives the team a block a game. He’s a complementary player who hustles, similar to Montrezl Harrell's role for the Wizards.

PREDICTION

This Knicks team has been all over the place this season. But so has this Kings team. I think in this battle of the bums, RJ Barratt and the kids show up and show out against the Kings' inconsistent defensive efforts. Knicks by 10.