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April 25, 2019

Bondy: Anthony Davis leads off Knicks trade deadline questions

February 6, 2019

Assets and priorities have changed dramatically since the last time we took the temperature of the Knicks’ trade deadline options. With no Kristaps Porzingis, new expiring contracts and a boatload of cap space heading into the summer, the Knicks will have two days to try to recoup more from their going-nowhere-roster.

They are sellers with one exception (if a deal includes Anthony Davis). But they don’t have much to sell.

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Here are the four big questions ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline:

Can they trade for Anthony Davis?

It’s very unlikely. By dealing Porzingis, the Knicks also got rid of their second-greatest asset next to their 2019 first-round pick. It was also reported that the Pelicans rejected a previous Knicks offer that included Porzingis and that pick, so it’s difficult to see any new combination that could possibly be better. Any real hope of acquiring Davis is in the summer. By then, the Knicks will know where they landed in the draft lottery and will likely have a 14 percent chance to dangle Zion Williamson. At the deadline, other teams — ahem, the Lakers — could blow away the Knicks’ offer.

Anthony Davis. (Harry How / Getty Images)
Can they trade Enes Kanter?

It’s safe to say the Knicks would love to rid themselves of Kanter and his daily theatrics, but they’ve also been shopping him for months and haven’t found something worthwhile. New York’s hope is to recoup some sort of asset – whether a second-round pick or a young player with potential. Maybe they back off that stipulation just to save some money and get rid of Kanter. In the grand scheme of things, trading Kanter by Thursday is not a big deal, one way or another. He’s on an expiring deal and is a prime candidate for a buyout if he’s still on the roster. But no Kanter hurts the Knicks’ entertainment value, which, at present, is already at an all-time low. Who else can the bored crowd chant for?

What about all the other expiring contracts?

The Knicks, amazingly, have eight players on the roster who can become free agents after the season. Those can be assets if they help a playoff team. DeAndre Jordan ($22.9 million), Wesley Matthews ($18.6 million), Lance Thomas ($7.2 million), Emmanuel Mudiay ($4.3 million), Mario Hezonja ($6.5 million), Noah Vonleh ($1.6 million) and Luke Kornet ($1.6 million) join Kanter ($18.6 million) as the expirings. Of that list, Jordan, Matthews and Vonleh would be the most attractive to a playoff push. The Knicks have given off the impression they want to keep Jordan around to mentor young center Mitchell Robinson, but Matthews – who was also just acquired from the Mavericks – is being shopped around, according to sources.

One other thing to keep in mind: the Knicks are awfully close to the luxury tax line and absolutely want to avoid it so they can use the non tax-payer exceptions in the summer.

Will they trade Frank Ntilikina?

Ntilikina has been a disappointment and the Knicks sent a not-so-subtle message that he’s not part of the future by trading for Dennis Smith Jr. Remember, Phil Jackson drafted Ntilikina one spot ahead of Smith Jr. and they play the same position. It took a full season for Ntilikina to start at point guard for the Knicks, and that privilege was quickly snatched away. Smith Jr.? He started on Day 1 without a practice. In other words, it’s already clear where the Knicks’ priorities lie. But with Ntilikina injured and his value at an all-time low, it’s not a good time to sell him, either. He’s one of the few Knicks under contract next season so this can wait.

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