As the new NBA trade deadline quickly approaches the Knicks are faced with trade issues that stem throughout the roster. Multiple players have been listed for trade from the Knicks roster including, Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn, Willy Hernangomez, Courtney Lee, Jarrett Jack, and Lance Thomas. Along with the recent problems between Jeff Hornacek and Joakim Noah leading to a probable early exit for Noah. On top of the comments from Kristaps Porzingis saying he hopes that the Knicks will be active in the trade market in order to make a push for the playoffs. Kristaps had this to say about his playoff hopes with the Knicks, “I think they know I want to be in the playoffs and that’s the only thing on my mind,” he said. “I’m not going to go in there and be like, ‘No, we’re tanking. There’s no reason to play.’ That’s the only thing I’m focused on. What I need to do on the court to play better, make my team win.” But in order to make the Knicks a playoff contender Kristaps might need to be prepared to lose close friends on the team. When asked about the possible roster turnover involving close friends Kristaps said this about it, “It’s a business. Anything can happen,” he said. “The situation is what it is and stuff happens. We’ll see what happens.” Then said, “I have a great relationship with a lot of these guys, and every year it’s like that and every year a lot of new guys come in. It’s changing and it’s changing quick, so we’ve got to understand that part of it.”
In my watching of the Knicks throughout the season so far it has been hard to see the positives of Willy Hernangomez’s game as he sits on the bench for a majority of games because of his lack of defense. But he has great upside with a solid offensive skillset, great footwork, and the already developed chemistry with the star of the team Kristaps Porzingis. This season Hernangomez is averaging only 9.6 minutes per game, about half of what he averaged in his rookie season at 18.4. In his rookie season he recorded solid stats where he started 22 of his 72 games played, averaged 8.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game with a solid 72.8% from the free throw line. But for his sophomore season he has hit a serious slump, with almost no improvement to his defensive game he has lost the majority of his minutes, his defense rating for his rookie season was at 107.6 and this season it stands at a mediocre 106.4. But the two biggest factors that could involve Hernangomez’s fall off is his plummeting of a free throw where he now shoots 41.7% down from 72.8%, and his offensive rating has dropped from a 104.8 to a 98.5. It is easy to say that his offensive rating and free throw are down because lack of consistent minutes on the floor, but I still think he should be the one to stay over Kyle O’Quinn.
Now O’Quinn does provide a lot for the Knicks at times, he is a solid all-around player that hustles on each end of the floor and can create a spark off the bench that the Knicks can sometimes really need. But the Knicks have a logjam at Center with four players (Kanter, O’Quinn, Hernangomez, Noah) all being healthy and fighting for minutes, not including Kristaps who leads the league in blocks and could easily play the center position as well. It’s my hope that the age of these players should seriously factor in to who gets traded and who doesn’t. It’s clear that the Knicks are in a state of rebuild and have already begun the process with the young Knicks draftees Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina, while also acquiring young players like Enes Kanter (25), Trey Burke (25), Tim Hardaway Jr. (25). O’Quinn is already 27 years old with six years in the league, his first three seasons on the Magic and second three with the Knicks. I think with O’Quinn being 27 he has already almost maxed if not maxed the potential he has with his game because he is in his prime at this point. While Hernangomez is only 23 years old in his second NBA season, he has yet to show a strong skillset on the defensive end. But due to the fact that he is only 23 it could be easy for the Knicks training staff to develop the weaker part of Hernangomez’s game, which is his rebounding and defense with his footwork in the post and scoring both being very solid parts of his game. In regards to their contracts, we have O’Quinn on a decent contract with it being a 4 year 16 million (4 million/year) contract ending this 2018 season. Along with O’Quinn having a player option so it would be smart for the Knicks to try to receive something for a possible departing O’Quinn at the end of the season. Hernangomez is still on his rookie contract that’s 4 years and 5.86 million (1.5 million/year) with him becoming an unrestricted free agent in the 2020 year when he is 25 years old.
From what I have seen around the Knicks in the past couple of weeks it feels like they are leaning more towards wanting to keep O’Quinn. But with practically all four centers being on the trade block it makes it hard to tell what their plans are. O’Quinn has gotten interest from the Warriors, and the Knicks have begun fielding offers for both Hernangomez, Kanter, and Noah. I think it would be smarter for the Knicks to play the young game and decide to keep Hernangomez and possibly move both O’Quinn and Kanter. Mainly Kanter due to his increased play he could be asking for a bigger piece of the salary cap. With the trade deadline quickly around the corner on February 8th at 3:00 PM eastern time, the trade season has officially started with Blake Griffin being moved to Detroit. Hopefully meaning more exciting things are bound to happen as February 8th draws closer.