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NBA Trade Deadline: 4 most-likely New York Knicks targets

New York focused on bolstering the second unit, not landing a superstar before the summer.

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Two weeks and three days. That’s all that’s left for NBA teams to bang trades before it’s too late and the market goes dark until buyout-season opens in late February.

With just so little time left and rumors pilling on top of each other daily, some trends are starting to emerge with only a few names making it to the rumor mill on a steady basis when it comes to New York Knicks targets.

A few months ago nobody would have batted an eye finding out about the then-rumored interest of the franchise in trading for the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Karl-Anthony Towns, or Zach LaVine. That’s not the case these days, with those players not even remotely getting floated as options for New York days ahead of the deadline.

On the contrary, a few players have emerged of late as potential targets and they’ve all gained steam on an increasing basis leading to many different reporters beating the same drum.

All of those reporters usually cite sources close to the players and franchises as the feeders of their intel, and while we don’t know how much of the conversation is true and how much is not, or even if those “sources” overlap, only a very select group of players seems to have made the Knicks final cut of trade targets before the curtain drops on Feb. 8.

One thing is clear, and it is that the Knicks seem to have moved on from trying to land a bonafide superstar this winter and instead focusing on bolstering the depth of the roster by adding one or two players that can boost the second unit for the remainder of the season.

That means no Dejounte Murray, Donovan Mitchell, or any other high-profile player arriving in New York before the All-Star break, with the Knicks prioritizing keeping most of their trade assets in place while building toward and gearing up to a mammoth mid-summer trade for the “disgruntled” superstar they’ve been waiting to land for years on end.

Here are the four most probable candidates for the Knicks to trade for in the next few days and weeks, according to most insiders reporting overlapping information about the interest of the franchise in acquiring them.

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

(G) Bruce Brown Jr. — Toronto Raptors

There was always a certain level of interest in Bruce Brown, but the Knicks simply couldn’t sign the guard to the hefty deal Indiana gave him last summer when he inked a $45 million deal to play for the Pacers.

Before signing with Indy last July, Brown met with the Lakers, Mavericks, and Knicks. According to Ian Begley of SNY, “Some people with the Knicks would love to bring [Bruce Brown Jr.] on ahead of the trade deadline.”

Fred Katz of The Athletic confirmed the interest, writing, “[New York] expressed interest in Brown during free agency. He’s a CAA client, as well. Under contract for $22M this season w/ a $23M team option in 24-25.”

Brown can only be traded in a one-player package after getting acquired by the Raptors earlier this month. That said, the Knicks can match his $22 million salary by sending Evan Fournier the other way, as well as draft picks or any other salary-filling player if Toronto wants more from New York, which seems to be the case.

Marc Stein, in his latest newsletter, reported that the Raptors asking price for Brown “has been described as a future first-round pick and a quality player... at a minimum.” Stein names the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks as two teams “known to have coveted Brown last summer,” and “likely suitors.”

Brown himself told media members ahead of last Saturday’s game against the Knicks that he thinks he is “the type of player that Thibs likes,” a “dog,” and he revealed “Every time we play Thibs, I go up to him and shake his hand, just because of what he’s done. Nothing but respect for Thibs.”

Added Brown: “I love New York. I hated New York before I lived here, but as soon as I moved here I loved it.”

From the Raptors' side, president Masai Ujiri was asked if more trades will happen between now and Feb. 8, to which he answered “Definitely.”

Brown recently said that he wouldn’t have a problem staying with the Raptors and that he has not requested a trade following his move to Canada as part of the trade package that sent Pascal Siakam to the Pacers.

“I don’t know anything. I’m not requesting anything,” Brown said. ”That’s up to Masai, whatever he wants to do. If he moves me, he moves me. If he doesn’t, I’ll stay. It is what it is.”

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

(G/F) Jordan Clarkson — Utah Jazz

The second name on the list belongs to the 2021 Sixth Man of the Year and current Utah Jazz microwave scorer Clarkson, who is playing in the NBA for the ninth year this season and who doesn’t turn 32 until next June.

Clarkson was not linked to the Knicks as early as other players listed here and who are no longer of interest (not at least at this point and ahead of the deadline) for New York. However, Clarkson has emerged as someone with a very high chance of getting traded in the next few days with the Knicks sitting atop the leaderboard of candidates to land him.

It might take a bunch of stuff, though, considering the Jazz are helmed by Danny Ainge. According to Begley (h/t New York Basketball), “Teams looking into [trading for Clarkson] say Utah’s gonna want a lot.”

Clarkson signed a three-year, $51 million deal last summer and is earning $23.5 million this season on a frontloaded-structured contract that will see that figure go down to a more palatable $14 million each of the next two seasons.

“The [Jazz] organization really loves Jordan Clarkson, and he’s been helping them win games,” said Begley. “If you’re a Knicks fan, and you want Jordan Clarkson, just know that the Knicks would have to pony up significant trade assets to get him.”

Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report confirmed that Clarkson is drawing attention from top teams. “There are contending teams out there [who] are calling in, looking to see how they can get Jordan Clarkson.”

Portland Trail Blazers v New York Knicks Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

(G) Malcolm Brogdon — Portland Trail Blazers

Stein reported on Sunday that Portland is seemingly adamant to trade forward Jerami Grant away after signing him to a bulky multi-year deal recently. That said, he revealed that guard Malcolm Brogdon is “considered very likely to be traded before the deadline.”

The insider followed that up by writing ”Brogdon’s name has been mentioned as a potential Knicks target in their well-chronicled search for a guard to fortify their bench ever since they [traded Immanuel Quickley].”

Brogdon is in the first season of a two-year, $45MM extension that pays him $22.5MM annually, similar to the deal inked by Brown last summer. Stein already reported a few days earlier that “Word is that the Knicks have a level of interest in Utah’s Jordan Clarkson as well as a trio of guards they have been linked to previously: Portland’s Malcolm Brogdon, Charlotte’s Terry Rozier and Detroit’s Alec Burks (a recent Knicks alumnus).”

Adding fuel to the Brogdon rumors, Jake Fischer of Yahoo was one of the first insiders to report some level of interest in the player being shown by New York, all the way back to Jan. 5. Fischer mentioned Brogdon and Alec Burks as two possibilities the Knicks could explore to bolster their rotation.

Detroit Pistons v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

(C) Daniel Gafford — Washington Wizards

Gafford has been popping up the rumor mill for a while now but he’s also vanished as easily from it when it comes to a potential trade to the New York Knicks. That has changed of late, perhaps even more considering that Mitchell Robinson is still months from returning to the court (if he ever does) this season and that Isaiah Hartenstein suffered an injury last Saturday leaving New York’s depth at the center spot as shallow as it gets.

According to Stein, “sources say Washington established considerable asking prices months ago” for Daniel Gafford and some other players.

“Rest assured [Washington] won’t surrender Kuzma, Daniel Gafford, or Tyus Jones without making up for the first-rounders they didn’t get [when they traded Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis]. All three players are drawing no shortage of interest leading up to the Feb. 8 deadline despite Washington’s 7-34 record. The Wizards appear determined to capitalize on the demand,” wrote Stein.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype has been the most vocal when linking New York to Gafford in the past, mentioning him in mid-January as a player “the Knicks have inquired about.”

On Sunday, Matt Moore of Action Network discussed Gafford in a section about the New York Knicks’ plans for the upcoming trade deadline, saying “Daniel Gafford is a name they’re interested in, league sources have said.”

He added that while the Knicks “will continue to be on the line if a major star suddenly becomes available,” adding that “they’re also working on smaller additions,” which would align with other reports from different insiders/sources talking about players such as Clarkson, Brogdon, Brown, or the very own Gafford.

Moore also mentioned the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets as teams interested in trading for Gafford.

Gafford has a $12.4 million salary this season and two more years attached to his increasing one million per season through June 2026. He missed a couple of games last week due to a concussion but he returned to the Wizards starting lineup on Sunday.