As the trade deadline looms, it would make sense for the Knicks to move one or more of their excess big men. Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez have been mentioned in reported trade discussions. Both Kanter and O’Quinn have expiring contracts and could provide value to a playoff team. New York is also looking to part ways with Joakim Noah, which would mean using the stretch provision or buying out the remainder of his contract if they cannot trade him first.
With four centers on the roster, it’s nearly impossible to get each significant minutes, especially during crunch time. As the younger Hernangomez struggles to see the NBA hardwood, would it benefit the 23-year-old center to get some run via the G League in Westchester?
In November, Jeff Hornacek said the organization wasn’t considering sending the second-year big man to the G League, per Ian Begley of ESPN. Three months later, Hernangomez is averaging just 9.2 minutes per game in 25 games this season.
With Kanter and O’Quinn occupying most of the minutes at center, it would be wise for the Knicks to have Hernangomez get playing more time in Westchester. He could have more of an opportunity to further develop on the defensive end against solid competition. He’s is still a young player who has shown his value on the offensive end. He still has room to grow defensively, so a stint in the G League would benefit the second-year big man.
Maurice Ndour, who spent 18 games on minor league assignment during the 2016-17 season, discussed how he developed confidence after playing in Westchester and listed his takeaways from his time in the G League.
“Every time I come here I get more and more confident,” Ndour told me in January of 2017. “The one thing is [seeing action] when the game is on the line. That’s when we need to be more focused and more alert. That’s when we need to communicate more on the defensive end and execute better. We just got to learn and try to get better at things.”
In the past, New York has utilized their G League affiliate by sending their young players to Westchester to further develop and get additional playing time. In the past two seasons, Ron Baker, Ndour, Marshall Plumlee, Chasson Randle, and Damyean Dotson have spent a combined 52 games in Westchester on assignment.
When those young players had the opportunity to suit up in the G League, they were able to experience increased playing time and get reps they normally wouldn’t have seen with the big club. With the five players seeing tons of playing time in the G League, it has proven the value of having an affiliate where players can hone their skills.
“This league serves a lot of different purposes for players and organizations,” Westchester head coach Mike Miller said. “[It makes sense] to allow the guys to come in and get extended minutes because you really learn a lot when they play those extended minutes. If any of the guys come in and play 25-35 minutes and get all of that game experience, it keeps them in a good game mode for when they’re needed. I think there’s a lot of value to it.”
New York has to figure out the center situation. With the Knicks hampered by guaranteed salary, Hernangomez has a controllable contract ($1.4 million next season and $1.5 million in 2019-20), which is great for a team that has limited cap space this summer.
Knicks president Steve Mills has listed Hernangomez as part the Knicks’ young core, alongside Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr and Frank Ntilikina. If New York is invested in the big man being apart of their future, it may be worth having him further develop and hone his skills with Westchester.