What a bittersweet way to finish the year, wasn’t it?
Whether you liked them or not, trading away RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley and breaking all ties to the two of them surely marked the end of an era and the start of a new one, nearly coinciding with the flipping of the calendar page to the year 2024 of our Lord.
If you’re lost or have simply been living under a rock, the Knicks pulled the trigger once and for all on Dec. 30 and sent RJ and IQ (as well as Detroit’s upcoming 2nd-round pick) to Toronto in exchange for OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Malachi Flynn.
Welcomed additions to the squad pic.twitter.com/vTMS0GIQTY— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 30, 2023
I was the first to doubt this trade the minute it was announced, and simply looking at the current on-court impact the shuffling of pieces will have on the short-term (this season) future of the franchise. If the Knicks didn’t downgrade by basically moving RJ/IQ in exchange for OG, then they simply stayed where they were.
The team, right now, as currently constructed and in a best-case scenario, is not any better nor any worse than it was last Friday.
Is OG a better fit alongside Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle? Yes, so that improves the team.
Is the bench going to miss IQ? You bet, so that downgrades the team.
Yin, yang, balanced outcome.
Of course, this cannot be the trade. That’s why, looking at the bigger picture, the Knicks front office might have made the right move here by making a lateral move now that can evolve into a much more impactful transaction in a month... or six.
For starters, the Knicks did indeed get rid of two of their most prominent trade assets Barrett and Quickley while acquiring three players currently on expiring deals. OG Anunoby has a player option attached to his contract but he’s expected to decline it next summer, and Achiuwa/Flynn are playing on contract years.
But the Knicks were able to hold onto pretty much all of their first-round picks and valuable draft assets. I am not a fool to think all of those picks are going to be highly coveted by whoever helps New York make a deal, but the Association seems to have turned into a hoard-all-picks-you-can type of business so you can never have/send enough away, even if most (if not all) of those selections are going to fall in the second half of those future first rounds.
The Raptors received trade offers for Anunoby a few months ago that reportedly included multiple first-round picks, but it turns out Raptors president Masai Ujiri was more interested in tangible assets (aka young but experienced NBA players), thus the RJ/IQ package making it work for him.
As reported by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Anunoby ditched Klutch Sports recently and signed with CAA. He’s represented by agents Andrew Morrison, Austin Brown, and Sam Rose, the son of Knicks president Leon Rose.
On Saturday, Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports added an interesting nugget to consider for the long-term future and outlook of this trade, revealing that Anunoby “told potential representation he was interested in a larger offensive role that would be commensurate with a salary figure in the ballpark of $40 million in average annual value—however, Anunoby did leave those potential agents with the impression he would be willing to accept a smaller figure if he landed in New York, sources said.”
This trade, on a vacuum and as things stand today, is a high-risk, high-reward proposition. The Knicks are betting the house on re-signing OG for the long-term future next summer. If they don’t convince him, they will have sent two key pieces of the roster away for nothing (remember, not even Precious/Flynn are under contract past June).
It’s fair to assume Rose (father and/or son) has discussed that with OG before completing the trade, but you never know what might happen next, let alone in the freaking NBA of all professional sports leagues out there.
Having kept all of the future firsts in tow, as well as ancillary pieces such as Quentin Grimes (nice potential) and Evan Fournier (hefty expiring contract), clearly points toward a second move getting plotted by the Knicks front office as I’m writing this, for either February’s trade deadline or next summer once more opportunities might emerge.
Scotto reported in his piece that sources have told HH, “Grimes has received continued trade interest from rival teams around the league.” Nobody has shown much interest in Fournier for now, but we’ve been told a bulky expiring paired with a bunch of picks is all you need to complete a big deal, ain’t it?
“The Knicks are in a good place to use Julius Randle and picks to make another big move, so that justifies them giving up two of their scoring options,” an NBA executive told Scotto.
“New York got the big wing defender they were searching for, and I also think this means they’re not done yet,” another executive said.
“It’ll be interesting to see how long it’ll be before the Knicks make another move,” a third one added.
Having added OG, the rumors about a potential interest in trading for Dejounte Murray of the Atlanta Hawks have not gone (and won’t be going) away for the next few weeks. Scotto wrote, “Murray remains a player the Knicks are interested in acquiring, league sources said,” and he added, “The Knicks will continue to be active on the trade market,” per league sources.
That’s pretty much everything that has gone on in the past few hours, and what you can expect to happen in a span between one and six months.
Boil it down to its essence, and the Knicks are simply where they were a couple of days ago.
The difference now, however, is that New York has a legitimate low-usage 3-and-D wing (assuming they re-sign OG) paired with Brunson and Randle (who can also be packaged and sent away in a trade) while still having a few assets to dangle around and exchange for the mythical long-chased big-time “Needle Mover” when (not if) the chance emerges.
What happens next, only time will tell. First order of business: a New Year’s afternoon debut for the newcomers as the Knicks host the Wolves at MSG. Not bad for a start. Go NYK!