Dec. 15 was the unofficial start of trade season in the NBA, opening the doors for recently signed free agents to be dealt.
This creates options for the Knicks, who have surged lately, but may still look to make a number of moves. The logjam at power forward could make way for a Julius Randle or Marcus Morris deal, with both on short-term contracts and a potential return of a young player or draft pick in play. New York can also ship out one of their three young point guards, all scrapping for playing time and trying to show flashes of their potential.
Here are five trades the Knicks could make involving one or more of these names:
Knicks get: Derrick Jones Jr., James Johnson
Heat get: Julius Randle
There aren't a great deal of suitors for Randle, who struggled out of the gates this season but has improved under head coach Mike Miller. But with Miami cap-strapped and looking for upgrades to carry their team from tough postseason out to contender, they could jump on the opportunity to flip a dead contract and a young stud due for a paycheck for Randle. He'd likely succeed better with the Heat's motion offense and defensive core around him, and his toughness will fit well with their culture. The spacing issues that plagued him in New York would be slightly alleviated as well, given Bam Adebayo's mid-range game and Kelly Olynyk's long-range shooting to pair with him.
For the Knicks, this return may not conjure the image of dozens of gifts under the Christmas tree, but fans would have a lot to look forward to with Jones Jr. He's a dynamic 22-year-old wing with a unique bag of skills: offensive rebounding, above-the-rim play and high defensive potential. He was hurt to begin the year, but has scored in double-digits in three of the last four games and would give the Knicks another developing southpaw to add to their lineup.
Knicks get: Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica
Kings get: Marcus Morris and Frank Ntilikina/Dennis Smith Jr.
With the Kings choosing to extend Buddy Hield over Bogdanovic, the latter of their two impressive shooting guards is likely on the way out. If the Knicks want to take a crack at a player who could become a future Klay Thompson-type scorer, it'll cost them a couple of solid pieces, maybe more, but it could be done. Sacramento could use Morris in their hunt for the playoffs, and one of New York's neophyte guards would sweeten the deal.
Knicks get: Tyler Johnson, protected first-round pick
Suns get: Marcus Morris
Morris has become a fan favorite with the Knicks, but with a short-term deal and competitiveness nowhere in sight, flipping him for a solid pick may be worth pursuing. The Suns have surprise postseason hopes and Morris would be a legitimate upgrade at the forward spot. Johnson is on an expiring deal, opening cap space immediately for New York.
Knicks get: D'Angelo Russell
Warriors get: Marcus Morris, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina/Dennis Smith Jr., draft pick
This is about as good as home run plays get for the Knicks, unless an Andrew Wiggins or Kevin Love is more appealing to them. Russell is a sure-fire All-Star who's shown he can lead a young team to the playoffs in the East. New York may not have quite enough talent at this point for such a run, especially after this trade, but Russell could also entice potential free agents to sign on.
For those on board with this deal, it's highly unlikely given the Warriors appear content with holding onto Russell at least until the summer. This would be an intriguing package however, and if a young star becomes discontent elsewhere in the league, the Knicks could consider offering it then.
Knicks get: Rodions Kurucs, Theo Pinson
Nets get: Frank Ntilikina/Dennis Smith Jr.
A basic swap for two NY teams that may be indifferent about their young guys. Kurucs has an ongoing criminal investigation lingering over him and hasn't seen much floor time, but was a key cog in his rookie year for Brooklyn. The Nets could use an extra ball-handler, and if the Knicks consider Elfrid Payton their best option at the one, they could prefer flipping young piece for young piece instead of letting Smith Jr. (or Ntilikina if things change) rot on their bench.