The New York Knicks are in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. The race is tight and the upcoming trade deadline will give teams a chance to add some extra firepower to get over the hump.
The Knicks have already added Derrick Rose and, to this point, the trade has panned out. Still, the Knicks are just .500 and one losing streak could outright end their postseason bid. Is there a move out there that could solidify their playoff hopes?
There is one deal that would solidify a playoff spot for the Knicks but also raise their ceiling significantly. As currently constructed, it is difficult to envision the Knicks being anything other than a first-round exit. However, a trade for Kyle Lowry could dramatically change their outlook this season.
It’s a dream scenario for a variety of reasons. First, Lowry may not even available. Set to be an unrestricted free agent, Lowry is the face of the Toronto Raptors franchise and, arguably, still their best player. Any trade for the 34-year-old, despite his contract situation, should command a big offer and stiff competition from other contenders that covet his services.
New York has the assets to make a deal — the question is how far would they be willing to go? With an abundance of draft picks and younger players like Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox who could be included in a deal. That said, the team should avoid including players such as R.J. Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and Mitchell Robinson — players that are set to play a significant role in the team’s future and the type of players Toronto would likely demand in any deal, at least initially.
That’s why it’s the team’s dream scenario, however. If the Knicks can manage to snag Lowry without including any of those three, it would be an absolute win. That said, if the Raptors won’t budge and either look elsewhere for a deal or decide not to trade Lowry outright, there are a number of other options on the trade market that could provide New York a significant boost.
One of those players could be Victor Oladipo. Arguably the biggest attainable name out there, Oladipo’s price might not be too high, given his uneven play this season and the fact that he’s expected to leave the Houston Rockets in free agency. Likewise, Oladipo has dealt with numerous injuries in recent seasons, but could still help a team in the right situation.
New York will have competition for him. The Miami HEAT, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors, among others, have expressed interest in the guard and could put up pretty good offers to boot. That said, if they’re sold on Oladipo, New York should be able to top any hypothetical offer.
A player like Evan Fournier could be another name the Knicks target. Fournier can provide a significant presence on the perimeter, something the Knicks have sorely lacked this season, wouldn’t cost too much to acquire and could thrive in a role either as a starter or off the bench. Also set to hit free agency after the season, the 28-year-old is young enough that New York could look to re-sign him long-term should he play well. And while Fournier isn’t a great defender, the Knicks, one of the best units on that end of the floor this season, should easily be able to cover up his deficiencies.
Another potential acquisition could be the Sacramento Kings’ Harrison Barnes. In the midst of a career year, the 28-year-old has averaged 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists this season, shot 37.6 percent from three and played some solid defense. The Knicks, meanwhile, could benefit greatly from an upgrade at the small forward position, while Barnes’ versatility would allow him to play some power forward as well. Barnes is under contract for two more seasons at a reasonable rate, so he might provide New York with the most bang for their buck if the team is looking to maximize the value of their potential assets.
The reality, however, is that the Knicks may not need to make a bold move. If they can continue to improve, yet retain their most significant assets, the team would position itself nicely for a big move after the season, one that would more realistically fit the franchise’s timeline.
Whatever they decide to do, New York would is in a good position to make a splash. The question is not necessarily if, but rather just how far they are willing to go — and how much would they be willing to give up — to improve the roster. Consider them a wild card at the trade deadline.