After receiving the eighth pick in the NBA lottery, the New York Knicks options are thin, in regards to drafting a franchise point guard. That should motivate them to, at the very least, entertain the possibility of trading for Lakers’ point guard D’Angelo Russell – who has become expendable.
Tuesday night, the NBA Draft Lottery took place and the New York Knicks didn’t exactly get their wish in regards to draft position. Despite having the seventh best odds of winning the lottery, the Knicks fell back a spot to eight. Them doing so hurts their ability to draft a franchise-changing point guard.
With Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Kentucky guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, as well as NC State’s Dennis Smith Jr., likely gone by the time eight comes around, the Knicks will have to search for alternative options. One of those options could very well be French point guard Frank Ntilikina — who the Knicks have heavily scouted. However, Ntilikina is an unknown going into this draft given that he’s been playing overseas. That makes him a tough sell to the desperate Knick fan base.
As a result of his NBA uncertainty, paired with the potential for no top guards to be available when they select, the Knicks should entertain a trade for Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell.
With the Los Angeles Lakers granted the number two pick in the NBA draft, they’re likely to select UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball (assuming the Celtics don’t take him). With the drama with his father, Lavar, aside, Ball is a promising NBA player. Given his ability to facilitate for his teammates and find the open man, Ball has been compared to the likes of Jason Kidd. Given the potential for him to have a Kidd-like impact in the NBA, the Lakers have their sights set on drafting Ball. Them doing so makes current point guard D’Angelo Russell expendable, and many teams are taking notice.
According to SI.com, the Lakers are receiving a number of inquiries on a Russell deal, and for understandable reasons. If and when the Lakers select Ball, they’ll have a bit of a logjam in their backcourt with him, Russell, and versatile guard Jordan Clarkson — who signed a four-year, $50 million dollar deal last summer. With Clarkson under contract for three more years at an eight digit future per year, he’s likely to stay put; that makes Russell the odd man out. When that scenario presents itself, the Knicks should take a hard look at striking a deal with the Lakers for Russell.
Throughout the course of his two-year career with the purple and gold, Russell hasn’t been a force to be reckoned with, but he has produced. Despite not quite playing up to the standards of being selected with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, Russell has shown some promise.
In his rookie season, Russell averaged just 13.2 points and 3.3 assists per game. While they’re not horrific, Russell didn’t play up to the hype in his rookie year. He saw some improvements in his game though, in his sophomore season. This year, (his sophomore year), Russell saw a bit of an increase in his production. Averaging 15.6 points and 4.8 assists per game, Russell began to showcase his ability to be a consistent scoring option and facilitating presence at a bit of a higher level. Russell also increased his shooting percentage at the free throw line. After shooting 73.7% from the charity stripe in his rookie year, Russell shot 78.2% from the line last year.
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A key thing to remember with Russell, though, is that while he isn’t a star guard, he has room to grow.
While he hasn’t produced at an All-Star level in the first two years of his career, Russell is still just 21 years old; he hasn’t even entered the prime of his career and can only get better going forward. Whether it’s improving his jumper or even becoming a more potent force on the defensive end, Russell has facets of his game which he can improve in. The potential for him to grow paired with his current skill set should intrigue the Knicks to make a deal.
While having a top 10 pick is always a luxury for any NBA team, the Knicks are in a tough spot at number eight. With all the draft’s top point guards likely to be taken before they select, the Knicks are going to have a tough time finding a franchise changing guard or forward. Trading for Russell, though, could allow them to potentially find such a player.
If acquired, Russell would instantly start at point guard and be paired with forward Kristaps Porzingis. The former 2015 first round picks could form a lethal duo in the near future. With Porzingis being a run and gun, fast break player, having a quick, scoring guard like Russell would be beneficial for his game. With Porzingis and Russell getting out and running in transition, the 21-year-olds could blossom into a dynamic combo in the big apple. could potentially pan out to be a lethal duo down the road.
Acquiring Russell could also be a safer bet than swinging for the fences with their pick.
While trading away their first rounder could sting, it would hurt even more if their pick doesn’t pan out to be a game-changing player, which the Knicks would be running the risk of transpiring. With Russell, the Knicks, at the very least, know what he can do and with the potential to grow in the near future being present, he could pan out to be that difference maker they’re in dire need of.
A change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for Russell and given the hole at point that’s present, the Knicks could be a perfect fit for him. In a potential deal for Russell, the Knicks could surrender their first rounder (8) as well as one or both of their two second round picks. Such a deal allows the Lakers to draft another player of their liking in the top 10 and provides the Knicks with an instant, yet youthful replacement at point guard.
Would the Lakers do it? Probably not, but inquiring is the key here. At the very least, Phil Jackson must kick the tires and see what it’d take.
At number eight, the Knicks are in a bad spot to draft a franchise altering point guard. As a result of the unfortunate hand they’ve been dealt, they should, at the very least, entertain the possibility of acquiring Russell.
Under rookie contract for two more years and possessing a strong and potentially lethal offensive skill set going forward, the Knicks would be wise to look at snatching the Laker point guard.
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