Marcus Morris
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

With the trade deadline less than a month away, the New York Knicks must make the painful decision to become sellers.

Danny Small

The New York Knicks can’t play both ends against the middle when it comes to the trade deadline. Recent reports suggest that the Knicks are going to keep Marcus Morris Sr. and add players who can help them win now and in the future.

If this is truly the plan for the front office, it’s misguided. There are understandable reasons for wanting to win in the short-term, but the value of trading away veterans for picks outweighs any of those reasons.

Sneaking into the playoffs?

To make a long story short, there is no “winning now” for the Knicks. Even after axing David Fizdale and handing over the reins to interim head coach Mike Miller, the Knicks are still one of the worst teams in the NBA.

Part of the rationale for keeping Morris and acquiring “short-term help” is presumably to challenge for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. That isn’t happening. Of their 10 wins this season, only three have come against current playoff teams. Furthermore, whichever team winds up in that coveted eighth spot will have the honor of losing to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in four games.

Culture building

Playoffs aside, showing consistent improvement year over year can be valuable in the long run. The Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat are examples of teams that refused to tank for draft picks and were eventually rewarded with marquee free agents.

There’s no doubt that Morris is bringing an attitude to the locker room and could be a vital part of a culture-building process. However, he’s on a one-year deal and there’s absolutely no guarantee he re-signs with the Knicks in the offseason. Remember, he backed out of an agreement with the San Antonio Spurs at the last second to sign with New York.

If he truly wants to be in New York long-term, he’s free to sign with the Knicks again this summer. But for the rest of the 2019-20 season, it is in the team’s best interest to move Morris for draft capital.

Developing the youth

As great as Morris can be for mentoring the youth, playing is the best way to develop young talent. Unfortunately, Kevin Knox is having a brutal season after an up-and-down rookie year.

First things first, Knox is 20. The rush to label these young players busts is profoundly strange. Perhaps one of the reasons for Knox’s struggles lies in how he’s being utilized. The lanky forward is playing the vast majority of his minutes at the three because of the team’s glut at power forward.

By trading away guys like Morris and Bobby Portis, the Knicks would be able to free up minutes for Knox at the four. This won’t solve all of his problems, but it will give him an opportunity to finally start playing the bulk of his minutes at power forward for the first time in his career.

Moreover, trading away some of the vets will free up space for the Knicks to see what they have in Ignas Brazdeikis and Kenny Wooten. Brazdeikis has spent most of his rookie year playing for the Westchester Knicks but deserves a shot to showcase himself in the second half of the season.

Wooten, on the other hand, has spent his entire year with Westchester where he’s quickly making a name for himself.

Clear out some of the veterans in the frontcourt, sign Wooten to a 10-day deal, and let him electrify the Madison Square Garden crowd. He might not be the diamond in the rough many Knicks fans hope he can be, but there is only one way to find out.

Star watch

Morris, Portis, and veterans like them can be valuable additions to winning rosters, but the NBA is still a star-driven league. The Knicks are still in search of that alpha dog who can lead this team to the playoffs and beyond.

How can the Knicks acquire that franchise-changing star? The most likely avenue is through a trade because if history tells us anything, attracting stars through free agency is a losing strategy for the Knicks.

Stockpiling draft picks and young talent while lying in wait for the next disgruntled star to emerge is the only way forward. Whether it’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Bradley Beal, or someone else entirely is irrelevant right now. Making sure they have enough assets to make a significant play for that star is the point.

The Knicks already have a treasure chest of draft picks at their disposal following the Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez trades, but adding a few more to the mix couldn’t hurt.

Trading away veterans is going to be painful for the organization and fans alike. The Knicks will likely take a step back without someone like Morris to lead the team, but that step back is necessary in order to make a leap forward.

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