The New York Knicks knew they had too many centers before the season and did nothing. That’s proving to be a big mistake.
The New York Knicks have a surplus of centers and their incredibly confusing decision to not trade one of them before the regular season is coming back to bite them in the rear.
Going into training camp, the Knicks had four centers: Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn, Joakim Noah and Willy Hernangomez. Head coach Jeff Hornacek had a plethora of centers to assess and when it came down to who would start, Hornacek opted to go with Kanter. While Kanter has hit the boards at will, averaging 10.3 rebounds per game and continues to serve as a vocal leader and finish in the paint, his production doesn’t hide the Knicks’ logjam at center.
Hornacek has been rather stubborn with his rotation, especially with his big men. Kanter has started and O’Quinn has been the first big off the bench while Noah and Hernangomez barely play. With O’Quinn potentially hitting free agency this offseason—if he chooses to opt-out of his contract—management is now reportedly exploring possible trades for the Queens native, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
While the idea of trading O’Quinn makes sense from the standpoint of not running the risk of losing him for nothing, the Knicks would’ve been better off attempting to execute a deal far earlier. They could’ve got back more for O’Quinn based on teams trading for a full year of his services instead of just the second half of the season.
The other option the Knicks had, and the one that would’ve garnered the biggest return, was trading Hernangomez. Outside of his defensive play, Hernangomez put together an impressive rookie season. Executing in the low-post and hitting the boards (7.0 rebounds per game in 18.4 minutes a night), the center made a solid case for being the team’s starting center in his sophomore season. This season has been a much different story for the Spaniard.
Averaging just 10.6 minutes per game and appearing in just two of the Knicks’ last 14 games, Hernangomez is in Hornacek’s doghouse. In fact, in the two games that he did make an appearance, the Knicks were being blown out by the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets.
If the Knicks decided to trade Hernangomez right after they acquired Kanter, they could’ve gotten back a reasonable haul. Requesting a young, two-way point guard and/or some draft picks for the center wouldn’t have been ludicrous.
The interesting wrinkle now in the equation is how management is looking to open up playing time for Hernangomez, as Berman notes, which is puzzling.
Hornacek and the Knicks have made it clear that the reason the second-year center is essentially out of the rotation is his defense. After barely playing any minutes over the last month and the majority of the season for that matter, why would the Knicks suddenly want to play him?
The Knicks have dropped four consecutive games and 12 of their next 15 games are on the road, where they’ve won just two games. Chances are the Knicks will be on the outside looking in at the playoffs soon and will be sellers as the Feb. 8 trade deadline nears.
If and when Mills and Perry get serious about moving one of their bigs, they will find that it’s going to be difficult to get something of value in return based on the way they’ve handled the situation they put themselves in.
The duo has showcased patience in trade negotiations by waiting for the right Anthony trade to present itself and not trading their youth for a quick fix at point guard in Eric Bledsoe. But not trading from one of their bevy of bigs when their value was at its peak is proving to be an immense mistake.