Trading for a star can work, but the New York Knicks are wise to stick with the plan to develop homegrown talent and wait for free agency.
Acquiring a star is one of the quickest ways to propel a team forward. It’s tempting to wade into the trade waters to acquire a star. It’s one way to avoid dealing with the uncertainty of free agency. While some recent revelations may make waiting a tough pill to swallow, the New York Knicks are making the right move by staying patient.
The entire NBA community is looking ahead to the summer of 2019 when a flock of stars hit the open market. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Kemba Walker will all be free agents and they will all cash in. But there’s one name notably absent from the free agent list above: Kyrie Irving. On Thursday, the Knicks hopes of acquiring the New Jersey native were dashed — we think. Irving declared to the crowd in the Boston Garden that he plans to re-sign with the Celtics next season.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 4, 2018
So it looks like this is a done deal and Irving will be a Celtic for life, right? Most likely, but we’ve learned to never say never in the NBA. After all, LeBron James became a Laker and Kawhi Leonard requested a trade out of San Antonio, among a laundry list of other unbelievable moves in recent years. So we know that anything can happen, but it’s safe to pencil in Irving in Boston for the foreseeable future.
The Knicks would surely make a play for Irving if he ever does hit the open market, but it doesn’t look like they will ever get that chance. The tough thing is that the Knicks may have had a chance — however slim — to trade for Irving during the summer of 2017. When Irving requested a trade, there were reports that he would be receptive to playing in New York. But alas, the Knicks didn’t have the assets or desire to reach a deal. Now he is planning to re-sign with Boston before the Knicks ever had the chance to make their pitch.
That’s the risk associated with waiting for free agency. You may never get the chance to sign a player after having an opportunity to trade for him. Irving is the latest star who plans to re-sign with the team that traded for him, but the same scenario played out in Oklahoma City with Paul George. Even though teams don’t have a guarantee that they can extend the player, they make the trade to give themselves an opportunity to pitch that player on their team. This is exactly why the Raptors made the risky move to trade for Kawhi Leonard with one year left on his contract.
It’s a smart move for certain teams. But the Knicks are not one of those teams. The Thunder, Celtics, and Raptors are trying to take advantage of their windows of opportunity. The Knicks, on the other hand, are just starting to slide their own window open. They know this year will be a transition year although they believe their “championship window” will open sooner rather than later. until the Knicks are truly in a spot to contend for championships, trading for a star would go against the organization’s plan to develop young talent and hold on to draft picks.
Most recently, Jimmy Butler rumors surfaced that he would be willing to sign an extension with New York if they traded for him. You can’t fault anyone for considering it. Butler’s a top player in the league and the Knicks would instantly become a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. But Steve Mills and Scott Perry made it clear at the Knicks Town Hall event that the team would not be trading away assets or draft picks to acquire someone they can get in free agency down the road.
That means Butler was never truly in their sights. It also means that they could lose out on Butler in free agency, but that’s a risk that’s worth taking for New York. The young talent like Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina are too valuable to give up — in addition to multiple draft picks — at this stage in the Knicks rebuild.
The Knicks have the luxury of patience, especially with Kristaps Porzingis slowly working his way back from knee surgery. They’re showing a steadfast commitment to the plan, even when another tactic seems to be working for other teams. Trading for stars to snag them before they hit free agency has worked for certain teams, but the Knicks are wise to avoid following the crowd.