There is no doubt about it, in the lead up to the NBA trade deadline, the New York Knicks are the most intriguing team out of the entire NBA. Nobody knows what they will do, who they will target, and who, if anyone, is available for trade. The Knicks have huge decisions to make over the coming days: are they going to buy or sell? Do they think they have a shot at the playoffs, or are they happy to let their chances slide this season?
From now until February 8, this is going to be a rollercoaster ride for Knicks fans.
Going forward, let’s take a look at the players available to the New York Knicks, assuming they are going to go out and buy at the deadline. They have a number of options, both small, cheap deals and big, monster deals that would attract a huge amount of attention. Let’s break them down, and see who the New York Knicks should be targeting as potential trade options over the next two weeks if they are to make the playoffs this season, and contend going forward.
No. 5 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the Los Angeles Lakers
It is no secret around the NBA that the Knicks are taking a serious look at the possibility of signing Caldwell-Pope as a free agent in the summer. Should the Knicks be taking their playoff chances seriously this season, then it may make sense for them to go ahead and bring him in early. He is clearly a player the Knicks like, and someone who they have already done their homework on, so bringing him in right at the deadline would be no issue for them.
The Knicks see Caldwell-Pope as the athletic winger they are desperate to find, alongside Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr, he gives the Knicks a very good foundation to work with on the wing. There will be people wondering why the Knicks should give up something now when they can get Caldwell-Pope for free in the summer, but the answer to that is simple: to make the playoffs. The Knicks are desperate to get back into the playoffs, and if they think they have a shot at them this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them go for it. If that means spending on Caldwell-Pope to bring him in early, then that will have to happen, and would be a worthwhile move.
Caldwell-Pope is clearly a player the Knicks like, and if they are serious about making the playoffs this season, he is someone they should be considering.
No. 4 Jordan Clarkson from the Los Angeles Lakers
Another player from the Lakers who should interest the Knicks is Jordan Clarkson. The guard is available as he is tied down to a long-term deal and the Lakers are desperate to have as much cap space as possible for their impending big summer moves. While they would like to keep a hold of Clarkson, their future is more important, and getting him off their cap would be a big move for them. The position L.A. is in may even lower the price a little for Clarkson and if that is the case, the Knicks should be picking up the phone.
The Knicks are putting vast importance on defense right now, and that is something that Clarkson would have to buy into if he moved to New York, but if he did that he would be a nice pick up. Clarkson would give the Knicks someone to turn to off the bench at any time in the game, he would more than likely be the first change and would bring offensive production right away. He can shoot well, and also attacks the basket very well, making him useful in a variety of different positions and scenarios.
If the Knicks feel that having someone who could come off the bench and play in numerous positions, as well as put points on the board is what they need, then Clarkson could do that for them.
No. 3 Stanley Johnson from the Detroit Pistons
There is no doubt about the availability of Stanley Johnson right now and he looks to be one of a number of players who will be moving before the February 8 deadline. When you put his availability together with the big hole the Knicks have at small forward, they look like a match made in heaven.
Not only would Johnson come in and contribute right away, but he is also a player for the future at just 21 years old. While his offensive capabilities don’t jump off the page in a huge way, he adds to the defensive play the Knicks have, and their focus on playing good defense. He also adds to their 3-point shooting, something the Knicks are in desperate need of, although Johnson is just under 30 percent from the outside in his career so far.
Johnson’s defensive abilities have been on show in Detroit for a couple of seasons now and he is very versatile too, which general managers love. He has the size to stand up to the biggest players in the league, and loves the challenge of that, as we saw when he faced LeBron James in the 2016 playoffs.
Projecting forward with Johnson, there is a genuine possibility that he could become the go-to defender in New York, and a player the Knicks can play at the center of their defensive structure.
No. 2 Evan Fournier from the Orlando Magic
There is a chance that the Orlando Magic are going to be aggressive at the deadline, trading away some of their assets. One player they would like to keep hold of, but may not be able to is Evan Fournier. He would bring a nice return for the Magic and while keeping Fournier would be good, they could probably do with the return more due to the situation they are in.
There may be other bigger and more attractive clubs looking for someone to score who Fournier would much rather sign for, but that shouldn’t put the Knicks off having an interest in this dynamic scoring wing. If there is one area that the Knicks need to improve going forward it is their 3-point shooting, they are amongst the worst teams in the NBA this season, and that is certainly not playoff material.
Fournier would quickly improve the Knicks on the outside, we have seen what a great 3-point shooter he is during his time with the Magic. While he may have a few questions to answer defensively, at the other end of the court, he would get The Garden rocking for sure. Whether or not Fournier fits into what the Knicks are trying to achieve defensively is the big question mark here, but he would be a huge asset, and would add enough scoring to offset his defensive play.
No. 1 Kemba Walker from the Charlotte Hornets
The Kemba Walker sweepstakes continue to roll on, and if the New York Knicks are serious about their playoff chances this season, then adding a player like Walker would show the league their intent. Walker is a star, there is no doubt about it, and he would be able to come in and add serious play at both ends of the court immediately if the Knicks brought him in.
Landing Walker is not going to be easy as there are many teams looking at him right now and the price tag is high. That price tag will only go up as more and more teams show an interest in him. The Knicks have been building for a little while now, and we have been waiting for them to come to the forefront, and signing a player like Walker would announce their arrival as an Eastern Conference playoff team. Walker has the ability to change a team just like that, and what he brings to the Knicks would give them a great shot at making the post season.
Walker has ties to the city after being raised in the Bronx, so this would be somewhat of a return for him, which could be something that goes in New York’s favor when teams start negotiating. There is also something else that makes Walker an attractive player for New York, and that is someone else they have on their team.
Kristaps Porzingis is a legitimate All-Star player, he is a dynamic scorer and the fans at The Garden love him. Now, think of a scenario where you add the scoring ability of Kemba Walker alongside Porzingis. Suddenly the future looks very bright for the New York Knicks, and the crowds in attendance at The Garden would be whipped up into a frenzy with those two on the courts. The Knicks would be fun to watch again, and that is how important a move for Kemba Walker could be for this franchise.
The Knicks have plenty to think about, and many big decisions to make. Should they go on to buy at the window, a move for Kemba Walker would electrify The Garden.