The Knicks started off the season much stronger than expected. While they still own an impressive home record at 15-9, the team has come back down to earth a bit with a 21-26 record overall. Currently sitting three games out of the final playoff spot, hope is quickly fading as reality is coming back into focus. New York has a lot of room to grow, but if they want to legitimately compete for a playoff spot, they won’t have much time to do it in. Alas, it’s much more likely that they’ll become sellers than buyers (or even gamblers) leading up to the trade deadline.
With that in mind, Ian Begley reports that New York’s excess of big men is attracting interest across the league. Backup center Kyle O’Quinn is among the most desirable and could be a fit for many teams. His contract is incredibly reasonable and he holds a player option for next season. Most teams should want him to opt in, but even if he opts out to cash in on a bigger deal, competitive teams looking to bolster their roster in hopes of a playoff push wouldn’t be obligated to pay up this coming summer.
Begley adds the Golden State Warriors have interest. This would be a tremendous match. O’Quinn could, ironically enough, start for Golden State. He rebounds the ball well, provides a defensive presence, good mid-range jumper, and is a terrific passing big man. He’s matured quite a bit during his time in New York. He’s not a chiseled veteran, nor would he offer quite as much of an intimidation factor as Zaza Pachulia, but O’Quinn would fit in just fine and warrant important minutes. The Knicks are looking for future assets, however, and it remains to be seen what Golden State could send back in return.
O’Quinn’s departure would open up minutes for Willy Hernangomez, who is also reportedly drawing interest. It’s not in the Knicks’ best interests to trade him unless he’s included in some sort of package for an all-star talent (a la Kemba Walker). The young center has bargain-like value, under contract on a rookie scale for two more years after this one. New York has time to develop him and could keep him as part of their core, but needs to make that a priority before they dilute his value.
Enes Kanter is a player who intrigues many teams as well, and rightfully so. He’s served as the heart and soul of this team. If the Knicks were higher up in the standings, his 13.5 point and 10 rebound double-double average would almost certainly garner him more NBA All-Star Game consideration. Still, that same prowess could make him very valuable if New York opts to sell the farm closer to next month’s deadline.
Under that same assumption, veterans Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas could be appealing to playoff contenders as well. Moving O’Quinn makes the most sense regardless of the Knicks’ direction. He’s likely to opt out this summer and the team should act accordingly to get something of value back before it’s too late. An “addition by subtraction” mentality would also move Hernangomez’s development into the forefront.
With just a few weeks remaining until the trade deadline comes along, the Knicks will need start winning more games if they want to justify keeping these talented veterans in town.