The New York Knicks are caught in a downward spiral with no end in sight. After winning three of their first four outings of the 2022-23 campaign, they went on to drop five of their next seven and, in turn, sport a sub-.500 record of 5-6.
To many, the only hope for this club to stave off a second consecutive season in NBA purgatory is to make some sort of trade to acquire a much-needed talent who can help plug the holes that are currently present within Tom Thibodeau’s rotation and, according to recent rumblings, it seems as though some in the know believe the franchise is gearing up to do exactly that.
According to a November 9 report by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, executives around the league are under the impression that the Knicks are “hoarding” first-round picks — they hold the rights to eight first-rounders through 2027 — to set themselves up for a blockbuster trade for the next available star player rumored to be on the block.
Now, whether these beliefs are true or not is genuinely anyone’s guess, but, should they be, there’s one individual New York should strongly consider monitoring moving forward.
That player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Knicks Could Package Picks, Players For SGA
Heading into the season, rumors were heavily circulating suggesting that the rising star guard was growing frustrated with the constant losing and persistent tanking that has been taking place in Oklahoma City over the years, and, in turn, many believed this could force Gilgeous-Alexander to request a trade.
Through nearly a month into the season, he still finds himself donning the Thunder’s blue and orange threads and, by all public accounts, has yet to voice his interest in parting ways with the franchise.
However, though things may be silent on the guard’s front, the rumor mill is still churning behind the scenes, as Sam Amik of The Athletic stated in an October 10 piece that talk of the 24-year-old asking out of Oklahoma “won’t be going away anytime soon.”
“Not only is the fifth-year guard playing at the kind of All-Star level that is sure to draw interest from most of the league, but the prospect of the Thunder (4-7) having one of the league’s worst records for a third consecutive season remains a very real possibility after No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren went down with a season-ending Lisfranc injury to his right foot in the summer.”
Should the budding star wind up being shopped at some point in the near future, it is a popular assumption that the Knicks will be interested in vying for his services, and, should this happen, an ideal and yet realistic hypothetical transaction could wind up looking as follows:
New York Knicks receive:
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- Mike Muscala (*can’t be traded until December 15*)
Oklahoma City Thunder receive:
- Julius Randle
- Quentin Grimes
- Immanuel Quickley
- Cam Reddish
- 2023 first-round pick (via Dallas)
- 2024 first-round pick
- 2025 first-round pick (via Milwaukee)
- 2027 first-round pick (top-5 protected)
With this move, the Knicks would be adding yet another young two-way building block to slot next to RJ Barrett heading into the future, while also giving them that legitimate star who can go out and take command of a game that, at the moment, they simply do not have within their arsenal.
Throughout his five-year career, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has managed to establish himself as one of the best young players in the NBA and, during his tenure in the association, has accumulated impressive all-around averages of 18.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and just shy of a block on 47.7% shooting from the floor.
Through 10 games played in 2022-23, he finds himself going full nuclear on the floor, putting up career-best numbers all across the board with 31.6 points, 5.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 1.5 blocks a night on 53.7% shooting from the floor.
With him in tow, New York would be rolling out an expected starting five of Jalen Brunson, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin (taking the place of Julius Randle), and Mitchell Robinson which, at least on the surface, looks to be a far more menacing and explosive unit on both ends of the floor than the one they currently have at their disposal.
On top of acquiring the talented combo guard, the Knicks would also be bringing on trusty veteran big man Mike Muscala who would help fill out the team’s frontcourt depth while also adding more floor-spacing (37.5% career 3-point shooter) to their 23rd-ranked long-range shooting unit.
Why Oklahoma City Would Accept
If we’ve learned anything about the Oklahoma City Thunder over the last few years, it’s that they’re prioritizing two major things whilst they rebuild the franchise: draft capital and young prospects.
This proposed trade with the Knicks would give them both of these types of valuable assets in droves with the potential of them accumulating even more should they play their cards right with the lone seasoned veteran they’d receive in return.
If one recalls, just four short years ago general manager Sam Presti took a swing at a similarly packaged trade that netted the franchise a bevy of draft picks, several young assets (one of which turned out to be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), and a presumed fading All-Star in Chris Paul.
Julius Randle, though by no means the all-time talent Paul is, is several years younger than the guard was when shipped to Oklahoma City (27 compared to 34) and also possesses a much cleaner health report (Paul was coming off of several injury-ravaged seasons while Randle has played in 71+ games in seven of the last eight years).
Though his fit with the Knicks has been questioned for some time now, this is not to say Randle’s a bad player in this league.
In fact, he’s far from being considered one.
Over the last three seasons, the big man has found himself posting impressive per-game averages of 22.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game on 43.6% shooting from the floor and 35.9% shooting from distance while also being one of just three players in 2021-22 to finish the year off posting averages of 20+ points, 9+ rebounds, and 5+ assists.
Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two most recent league MVPs, were the only other players to put up such numbers.
Similar to how they handled Paul, by acquiring Randle the tanking, zero expectations Thunder would likely allow the point forward to run the show and put his talents on full display on a nightly basis, with the hope of raising his stock to then try to flip him elsewhere down the road for even more draft compensation.
However, even with this high-hopes situation, the more desired aspects of this trade for OKC would be the acquisition of three rookie-scale players all under the age of 24 in Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, and Cam Reddish and, of course, the four future first-round picks that would be heading their way.
With these high-upside youngsters, Presti would be bolstering the talent pool around presumed building blocks, Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren, moving forward, all while automatically receiving four more opportunities to add even more high-end talents with the capital acquired.
Should Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ultimately wind up requesting out of Oklahoma City, a trade with the New York Knicks that resembles something similar to this could prove to be a best-case scenario for both franchises involved.