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Reviewing the Knicks’ trade deadline

It wasn’t flashy, but it wasn’t bad, and that might just be good?

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the dust that is the trade deadline has settled, let’s take a look at what the Knicks did and, just as importantly, what they didn’t do.

Let’s start off with the lone move they did make. The Knicks sent out Cam Reddish, Ryan Arcidiacono, Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2023 lottery-protected first-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers and in return, they acquired Josh Hart. The former Villanova Wildcat is as Thibodeau as one can get. First off, he’s a high-energy competitor who defends. Hart is a versatile wing who can guard multiple positions and does so at a high level. And he does it without the elite athleticism that some of the great defenders in the league possess. Instead, Hart uses his 6’9” wingspan along with an incredibly high motor and high IQ to fuel his defense.

Hart, who was a college teammate of Jalen Brunson’s, is also a great rebounder. Despite being just 6’5”, Hart averages a ridiculous 8.2 RPG which puts him at 30th in the league and first in the league if you take out all players listed at 6’6” and higher. And this is something Thibodeau absolutely loves and values. After a game between the Knicks and the Trail Blazers last November, one in which Hart grabbed 19 rebounds, Thibodeau said of Hart, “he’s probably the best rebounding guard in the league,”. And the praises about Hart don’t stop there. When he was recently asked about the newest Knick, New York’s coach excitedly said, “I have great respect for him. He’s been a top-flight competitor in this league for a long time, and he brings a lot of intangibles to the game,”. The former Trail Blazer is also an incredibly smart offensive player who is shooting 50.4% from the field despite struggling from 3. With his cutting, finishing abilities, and playmaking abilities (3.9 APG), the offense should see an uptick overall.

There are some questions surrounding Hart and his role going forward. Despite being a very good player, Hart’s outside shooting (or lack thereof) doesn’t address the Knicks’ biggest weakness, and and he isn’t a star player, or one that will miraculously fix all of the Knicks’ problems. So fans for now are left wondering if he’ll start, how many minutes he’ll play, and where those minutes will come from. Hart is currently averaging 33.4 MPG and while he will most likely see a drop in playing time, it’s hard to see the team trading for him if they were just going to give him the Deuce McBride role and set aside only 10-12 MPG for him. So if he were to play closer to 20-25 MPG, the likelihood is that the minutes will have to come from the aforementioned McBride, as well as Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, and quite possibly, RJ Barrett, who has seen his minutes fluctuate more than we’ve been accustomed to seeing this season. There’s also a chance that Thibodeau opens up the possibility of expanding his nine-man rotation back up to 10, but that seems rather unlikely given the team’s success with the smaller rotation.

All in all, this trade should be looked at as an improvement. Sure the Knicks had to part ways with a pick, but the Knicks likely weren’t looking forward to fitting two rookies into next season’s rotation, and are sending out three players who weren’t even in this year’s rotation. Everybody knew the Knicks were trying to get rid of Reddish, but they were still able to avoid buying him out. And remember how they were reportedly looking for one or two second-round picks? Well Josh Hart, regardless of how much he’s being paid and will be paid after a potential extension, is worth more and is better (at least for this Knicks team) than those picks. Count this trade as a win.

So what about the rumored trades that didn’t go down? There were a few rumors that the Knicks were looking at adding bench shooting in the form of Malik Beasley, Eric Gordon or Grayson Allen. While those additions would have been nice, it’s not the end of the world. Hart is certainly a different type of player than those guys but what he adds to this team, even if it is something they weren’t prioritizing, is still incredibly valuable. And with Reddish out and Hart in, it was hard to see them getting another rotational piece and doing so without giving up more picks or even one of the younger assets.

That takes us to the bigger trades — the OG Anunoby and Zach LaVine trades that didn’t happen. It sounds like the asking price for both players were pretty high, so it seems like the right move to not try too hard to go all in for either players. Both are solid players who’d definitely help the team out instantly. But as many have stated before, the Knicks are not good enough yet to go all-in on someone unless they are a top 15 or 20-type guy. If they already had an elite star or two and were just one move away, then sure using future picks to go for an Anunoby of LaVine could’ve made sense. But add either of those guys, and the Knicks are still a second-round exit at best.

We also have the injury history problem that they both have, and the contract situations that many seemed to gloss over as well. Anunoby has a player option in 2024 and is an unrestricted free agent in 2025. And considering the fact that Anunoby shares the same agent as Reddish, who most likely wouldn’t have the most glowing review of his time in New York, it’s unlikely to expect Anunoby, who is already unhappy with his offensive role in Toronto, to come back to a team that has three guys averaging over 16.5FGA per game. LaVine, unlike Anunoby, won’t be a free agent anytime soon, but that might be the problem. The former dunk contest champion recently signed a 5-year $215 million contract that would make it extremely difficult for the Knicks to make any additional moves. So count these two non-trades a win as well.

The only trade deadline loss for the Knicks may have been their inability to ship out and get something for Obi Toppin. It was reported that the team’s asking price for him was high which is weird given the fact that he plays such a small role for Thibodeau. Despite being a lottery pick, Toppin has been misused and underutilized criminally so it would’ve been nice to see them send him somewhere he can flourish and get something in return while they can. It also would have been nice to see Derrick Rose sent to a contender where he may be able to play more but given his salary and how it can be used as a filler in any potential deals in the offseason, it was understandable why they didn’t.

Overall, it was not the most exciting trade deadline for the Knicks, especially when compared to the rest of the league. But it was still a solid one. They didn’t mortgage their future by sending out multiple picks for an injury-riddled player, they didn’t take on any negative assets, and they got better and did so without sending out any rotational pieces. And while some of the teams in the east like the Hawks, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks got better, so did the Knicks while two teams ahead of them, the Heat and Nets, stood pat and got worse respectively. The Knicks do have one of the harder remaining schedules but this trade deadline quietly but effectively opened up the possibility for this overachieving bunch to make a run for a top five or six finish to avoid a play-in game. For now, the Knicks didn’t screw things up and sometimes you just have to look at that as a win with this franchise.