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Should the Knicks trade for Trae Young?

Note: not “can.” Just “should.”

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Atlanta Hawks v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

First of all, let’s be clear. There is zero smoke, much less an ember of fire, that suggests Mr. Rayford Trae Young is angling for an escape from Atlanta. Yes, that’d be the same Young who tweeted this after Team USA lost to Australia in the 2018 Olympics, which came after his former Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce agreed with Gregg Popovich snubbing Young from the team in favor of Harrison Barnes and Mason Plumlee.

Loyalty is a two-way street, and Pierce had given Young reason to question that, a tension that emerged in a piece in The Athletic after Pierce’s firing:

Interestingly, away from the team, Pierce’s comments about Young’s game raised eyebrows around the league.

During a league office Competition Committee call on Dec. 30, Pierce was among a couple of members who spoke out about the way certain players are able to draw fouls and, at times, bait officials into making foul calls. Multiple sources said he spoke about how he “hates” the shots Young takes at times and the fouls he’s able to draw on them. It was perceived as an interesting comment for several people on the call because Pierce’s star player has seemingly taken advantage of drawing fouls and getting to the foul line. But it was made in the broader picture of how players are drawing fouls by manipulating their bodies.

As Knicks fans know all to well, Atlanta replaced Pierce with Nate McMillan, who helped lead a furious late-season run to the fifth seed and an unexpected and competitive berth in the Eastern Conference finals. McMillan received a four-year extension, the NBA’s version of Leonard DiCaprio telling a girlfriend who’s turned 25 he’s attracted to her maturity — they may mean it in the moment, but a moment is a limited period of time. Less than two years after their best season ever, arguably, there are rumblings of discontent.

Sam Amick and Shams Charania wrote yesterday that “sources [say] McMillan’s job is safe.” But “safe” is not the same as “sound.” From the same article, regarding an exchange between McMillan and Young a few days ago in Denver:

While Young was receiving treatment on his right shoulder, sources say McMillan asked him whether he would participate in shootaround, receive treatment during walk-through and play in the game against the Nuggets. But Young made it clear that he wanted to focus solely on his treatment while missing shootaround and deciding later in the day whether he would play.

That approach, however, was not McMillan approved. Since the face of the Hawks’ franchise was deciding not to take part in shootaround, McMillan ultimately presented him with two options for that night’s game, sources said: Play off the bench — or do not show up to the arena. Young responded by saying he would not be playing against the Nuggets, and the team ruled him out while citing right shoulder soreness.

What, if anything, this means for the Hawks is unclear. What is clear is it gives us the chance to get our inner Rod Serlings on and play around with a strange notion. What if the situation in Atlanta devolved to the point where Young wants out? Specifically, what if Young were willing to come to New York? Would you want him here?

This question fascinates me for so many reasons. Young is the grail Leon Rose has lusted over since his New York POBO quest began: a 24-year-old All-Star (two years younger than Donovan Mitchell and a half-year younger than Obi Toppin) who’s averaged 25 points and nine assists a game for his career. Despite shooting a career-low this year on 2s (47%) and 3s (30%), Young is the rare player the defense has to account for as soon as he crossed midcourt, We know he can handle the New York crowd. Makes a lotta sense, right?

But then there’s the realpolitik to consider. Acquiring Young, if it were possible, would mean a trade package similar or slightly superior to what was being bandied about a few months ago when Mitchell was the flavor of the day. The Knicks would have to give Atlanta their pick of at least three of New York’s young core; I’m guessing neither RJ Barrett or ex-Hawk Cam Reddish hold much appeal, so let’s say the Knicks had to surrender Toppin, Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley. The Knicks would also have to give up 3-4 unprotected first-round picks, plus throw in 2-3 pick swaps. And what if, for whatever reason, the Hawks asked for Jalen Brunson?

A Brunson/Dejounte Murray backcourt doesn’t make a ton of sense. But Serling’s show was called The Twilight Zone, not The Verisimilitude Zone. I’m not nearly as interested in the Hawks’ end of things as I am in how you, a Knicks fan, would feel. Brunson has become immensely popular in his twentysomething games as a Knick. Rooting for that man is easy as Sunday morning. So would you be in mourning if he were shipped off after December 15th, along with all the other players and pieces required, for Young? Take the poll and tell all in the comments.


Would you trade Brunson, IQ, Obi, Grimes, picks and swaps for Trae Young?

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  • 23%
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