Why the Knicks shouldn’t trade for a star during 2023 offseason

Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau

Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

New York has a pivotal offseason in front of it, fresh off their most successful season in a decade and armed to the teeth with prospects, picks, and salaries to potentially move. As always, the Knicks’ front office and fanbase attention will be directed towards high-level stars disgruntled with their current situations or whose teams may be willing to deal them.

There will be much debate over which A-lister best fits this roster and what the outgoing package should look like, but not enough time spent on if the Knicks should trade for one at all. Judging past deals and the current look of the franchise, they may be better off avoiding it altogether.

If you look at megastar deals in the NBA, you’ll find a whole lot of risk for the buyers with little reward. Packages nowadays include multiple unprotected first-round picks and multiple prospects, all but ransacking teams in the hope of a championship run.

The results include Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday winning championships for Los Angeles and Milwaukee, but nearly every other recent example falls short. Just this season we saw Phoenix, Dallas and Cleveland disappoint after respective trades for Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell, and none are in particularly good spots to rebound.

Knicks fans are sure to remember the overpay for Carmelo Anthony, all for a lone second-round exit they just achieved without a mega-trade. They’ll be able to achieve even more if they continue without one.

A potential deal will almost certainly cost all the draft capital New York’s built up for years, that when utilized has turned into RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin. Many of those young players would likely be dealt, as well.

For what in return? The Knicks need a top-20 guy, as their best two players fall slightly outside of that elite club, but they can’t be too old or injury prone and have to fit the system and roster construction.

That criteria basically leaves them with Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jaylen Brown, who are all untouchable as of this moment. Should that change, maybe the Knicks can go for it, but history has proven it’s rarely worth it.

The alternative is much more attractive. Organically growing this improving and still very young roster will give them a major continuity boost, and allow them to develop without throwing away much of their progress.

Jan 6, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) and New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) react against the Toronto Raptors during the second quarter at Scotiabank Arena.

Much of the star trade talk is surrounding finding that No. 1 guy since Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle are largely considered lower-tier All-Stars and ideal second-fiddles. But Brunson has played like a number one scoring option for two straight postseasons now, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Brunson was a top-ten scorer in the Playoffs, putting up 27.8 points on 47.4 percent shooting from the field, numbers comparable to Durant’s, Tatum’s, Ja Morant’s, Trae Young’s, and the list goes on. Is there actually a need for a top scorer when we just witnessed him score 79 points in back-to-back elimination games against one of the league’s best defenses?

Barrett took a leap this postseason, likely not his last given his work ethic and age. Randle may have struggled in part due to his ankle injury, but he’s also coming off his second All-NBA season in three years.

These seem like key building blocks you wouldn’t want to mess with, especially in light of the draft-and-develop plans coming to fruition in Denver, Miami and Boston. Those teams also made trades, but targeted, lower-risk ones.

That option is available to the Knicks, who obviously can’t keep pushing off multiple extra picks and a bunch of rookie contract extensions. They can flip Toppin and picks for Toronto’s OG Anunoby, or someone of that caliber, to upgrade the lineup without overturning the rotation.

The big swing will always be attractive, especially for a Knicks team that now looks one piece away. But that kind of move hasn’t had a good track record, while this developing core is building one.

New York might be better off sticking to what’s working.

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