After a 37-point drubbing at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, the New York Knicks are in bad shape. They've lost eight consecutive games, and they've lost by at least 28 points in three of their last five contests.
After the Knicks struck out on superstar free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they added several mid-tier veterans. With hopes of being competitive while retaining cap flexibility in the future, the Knicks signed five different players to two-year contracts.
All five deals featured a team option or a partial guarantee in the second year. That makes those five players essentially expiring contracts in the trade market. Add in a one-year deal for Marcus Morris, and the Knicks have six veterans who will likely enter the free agent market this summer.
The concept of a competitive team faded very quickly. Through 22 games, the Knicks (4-18) have a worse record than last year's tankathon (7-15). Even more troubling is how large the disparity in point differential has grown. After 22 games last season, the Knicks were fifth worst in net rating (-4.7 points per 100 possessions). This year they are dead last, outscored by 10.9 points per 100 possessions.
It felt inevitable that the Knicks' roster, ill-fitted with veterans on expiring contracts mixed with young players, would fail. Luckily for the Knicks, they can finally drop the charade of competition and focus on player development, because December 15 is the date that players signed in the offseason can officially be traded. Here's a look at what trade value these Knicks veterans currently possess.
1. Marcus Morris
Morris is shooting a blistering 50 percent from three, which is third in the league. In terms of efficiency, Morris has also received a boost from attempting a career-high 5.0 free throws per 36 minutes. That has allowed the 30-year-old forward to post a team-high and career-high 18.3 points.
Defensively, Morris has been bad. That has much more to do with New York's positional glut in the frontcourt. The presence of Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis has forced Morris to play at the small forward position for the most time since three years ago, when he toggled between both the three and four with Tobias Harris in Detroit. Having Morris chase perimeter players around on the wing and contain drives from quicker players is less than ideal.
Morris has the most value for the Knicks' caravan ofpotentially expiring contracts. His ability to space the floor and create his own shot would make him an attractive bench option to a playoff team. Since Morris would essentially be a rental, it will be hard to procure more than two second round picks for him. If the Knicks were willing to take back an unsavory long-term salary, they might be able to pluck a first round pick from a desperate team.
2. Bobby Portis
Portis has had his moments on offense for the Knicks. He's shooting well from three (38.3 percent), but is struggling from inside the arc, shooting just 40.8 percent on twos. Defensively, Portis is severely limited.
A weak rim protector, opponents are shooting 62.5 percent when Portis is defending six feet or less from the rim according to the NBA Stats page. Portis is also a poor defender of switches out on the perimeter. The 24-year-old has struggled to figure out his true position on the court due to the liabilities he causes on defense.
Portis' ability to stretch the floor could help convince a team to add him in a trade as a stretch-big option off the bench. If he were to be traded, the Knicks would have to find a way to take back salary approaching the $15 million he makes this season. Portis could be had for a second round pick.
3. Elfrid Payton
Payton had missed the past 17 games with a hamstring issue, before returning Thursday against Denver. Though it's an extremely small sample size, Payton is shooting 62.5 percent on eight three-point attempts.
Payton has his limitations on offense. Teams constantly go under screens against the career 30.7 percent three-point shooter. Payton's solid, but not spectacular on the defensive end. He is the best playmaker on New York's roster, but that's not saying much. A team with a severe need of a backup point guard could always pop up, but it wouldn't amount to more than a second round pick, and that seems like a stretch.
4. Wayne Ellington
Ellington's minutes have been sporadic to say the least. A career 37.8 percent three-point marksman, Ellington has struggled this season, shooting at a 30.9 percent clip on 68 attempts. Ellington is a unique talent with his ability to run off screens and grab the defense's attention. That skill is useful in the right situation, and like we see with the Knicks, could have little impact in the wrong environment.
An off year and an expected decline at the age of 32 limit Ellington's value as a trade asset. A buyout candidate last year, it would not be a shocker if Ellington hits the buyout market for a second consecutive year. The second year of his contract only contains $1 million guaranteed. Ellington would fit well on playoff hopefuls with scarce shooting options such as the Minnesota Timberwolves or Orlando Magic.
5. Taj Gibson
If a team is looking for steady play from a veteran, Taj Gibson would be a solid answer. At age 34, there's not much more to expect from Gibson other than hard work and leadership. The factor that limits Gibson's value on the trade market is the limitation that he holds in the modern NBA.
Shooting just 2-for-8 from three this season and averaging a career-low 0.5 blocks per 36 minutes, Gibson is an NBA dinosaur that doesn't space the floor or protect the rim as a big man. For that reason, he has little trade value besides making the math work in a big trade with his sizable $9.8 million salary.
6. Reggie Bullock
Bullock hasn't played at all this season, recovering from surgery after a herniation of his cervical disc. Bullock is a solid two-way player. He shot 40.5 percent from three in the past two seasons and has held his own on the defensive side against opposing wings. Bullock's value is a question mark since he hasn't played in a game, much less participated in practice contact drills.