The New York Knicks proved to be one of the busiest teams in the association during this past offseason, taking part in numerous trades and shelling out several long-term contracts on the free agency market, all in an effort to better bolster the team’s overall talent pool heading into 2022-23.
And despite these efforts put forth by Leon Rose and company, there are some who would argue that the club still hasn’t done enough, particularly when it comes to adding on complementary talents around centerpiece RJ Barrett.
After inking a new four-year, $120 million contract extension this summer, the 22-year-old can officially be deemed as the focal point of New York’s foundation, meaning that the majority of moves made by the front office moving forward should be done with Barrett and his particular skillset in mind.
And while there are several moves the Knicks’ decision-makers could look to improve the pieces surrounding their young rising star, an Eastern Conference executive recently discussed with Heavy Sports one player, in particular, who could prove to be the “perfect” running mate for their 2019 lottery selection.
Portland Wing ‘Perfect’ Fit for Knicks Star
In a recent sit down with Heavy Sports’ NBA insider Sean Deveney, an anonymous Eastern Conference executive discussed the concept of the Knicks targeting numerous players around the league.
When asked what names, in specific, could be seen as ideal running mates for RJ Barrett moving forward, the executive tabbed veteran swingman Josh Hart as being a potentially tremendous complementary talent worthy of New York’s consideration.
“A guy who would be perfect would be Josh Hart, who can rebound [well at] his position, can defend out on the perimeter, can knock down [three-pointers], [and is a] very good passer,” the executive told Deveney.
A former first-round selection by the Utah Jazz (subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers) back in 2017, Hart has established himself as a trusty 3-and-D talent throughout his six-year career in the association which, according to the executive, is a skill set the Knicks could certainly use within their lineup.
After being traded to Portland from New Orleans back on February 8 of last season, the 27-year-old has only managed to show out whilst on the court, boasting stellar per-game averages of 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.3 steals on 50.7% shooting from the floor and 37.4% shooting from distance since joining the Trail Blazers.
So far this season, Hart finds himself posting impressive averages of 10.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest on 37.5% shooting from deep while also leading the starting unit in both defensive box plus-minus and defensive win shares.
With his production since becoming a member of the Blazers, it should come as no shock that the executive told Deveney that a trade involving the veteran heading outbound is rather unlikely this season, as they noted that Portland “likes him a lot.”
That said, they did point out that Hart “could be a free agent next summer,” as his current contract has a player option for the 2023-24 season, so, should the Trail Blazers fear that the wing could price himself out of their pay-range and, in turn, lose him for nothing on the open market, this could bode well for a possible trade involving him heading to the Knicks down the road.
Knicks Landing Rose’s Star Clients ‘Not Going to Happen’
In the same conversation with Deveney, the NBA executive discussed the concept of President of Basketball Operations, Leon Rose, finally executing that long-awaited transaction that would land the Knicks one of his old star clients from his days as a sports agent.
While he stated that seeing New York acquiring players such as Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Joel Embiid (all of whom were represented by Rose) would indeed be a dream come true for the vast majority of Knicks fans, ultimately, the exec believes that such a concept is nothing more than the first part of that statement — a dream.
“Ever since Leon Rose got the Knicks job (in 2020), you hear all kinds of things about him getting his former clients to New York. I am sure that was part of the appeal in hiring him in the first place for the Knicks,” the executive told Deveney.
“So, yeah, Embiid, Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, there has been talk about them going to play for Leon for the last couple of years. It’s not going to happen, though. They’re all signed to big contracts and their teams have no incentive to move them in the near future.
“KAT just signed his deal, Embiid is signed to a huge deal for the next four years, Booker is signed to a huge deal for [four] years. The Knicks can wish for players like that, we all do. But there’s nothing solid there.”
This past summer, all three players landed themselves new long-term contract extensions with their respective organizations, with Embiid receiving a $196 million supermax and Towns and Booker both receiving a $224 million supermax.
Though any one of these aforementioned talents could go on to help the Knicks in a plethora of ways if ever acquired, the executive believes that, considering their statuses with their current clubs coupled with the complications that would come with simply trying to make the money work in a trade, seeing New York adding on one of these top-billed players any time soon should be viewed as nothing more than a far-fetched hope.