Kyle O’Quinn has surfaced in multiple trade rumors, but his future should be with his hometown franchise: The New York Knicks.
Kyle O’Quinn has been a consistent two-way performer for the New York Knicks this season. However, with a logjam at center and a desire to prioritize the development of second-year center Willy Hernangomez, O’Quinn’s name has been frequently raised as a player the Knicks should and will look to move.
While the basis for this is sound, it would represent a short-sighted and lazy decision on the part of the Knicks’ braintrust.
Good Fit With Kristaps Porzingis
The New York Knicks’ priority in team-building needs to be acquiring and keeping players who are a good fit next to their franchise cornerstone. Of the numerous centers on the roster, O’Quinn is the only one who has proven to be a net positive with the Latvian.
In 713 minutes together since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Knicks have a net rating of +2.3 with an offensive rating of 109.7 and defensive rating of 107.4. Porzingis’ pairings with Enes Kanter, Willy Hernangomez, and Joakim Noah have been less fruitful.
The Knicks’ net rating with these duos are all negative.
Logically, it makes sense that O’Quinn would be an excellent partner for Porzingis. Unlike the others, he’s comfortable operating from the high post. His passing ability from this spot and ability to hit 20-foot jump shots opens up space for Porzingis to work in the post or drive to the rim.
The spacing is more clunky with the others.
Defensively, O’Quinn is strong enough to check big-body centers, thus saving Porzingis the wear-and-tear. Furthermore, O’Quinn himself is an excellent rim protector. His block percentage of 51.0 ranks in the top 20 in the NBA.
This allows Porzingis to stick to his man as O’Quinn deals with any dribble penetration.
Age Shouldn’t Really Be A Factor
As a rebuilding team, the New York Knicks should focus on adding more young talent to their current core. Supplementing that core with in-prime, experienced veterans is also key in building a competitive team.
The Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis seem to see eye-to-eye on that. While rebuilding, they should still look to compete. O’Quinn is in his sixth year in the league and, at age 27, is just entering his prime.
He’s been durable, improved his game steadily throughout his career, and has taken another step forward this season.
Committing to O’Quinn for another three seasons at his age shouldn’t concern the Knicks in terms of age-related regression.
Contract Concerns Are Overblown
One of the major concerns many have expressed with O’Quinn is his likely free agent status this summer. He has a player option worth $4 million for next season, which he seems almost certain to opt out of to test the market.
The reality is that the market for big men is extremely cold right now for multiple reasons. The league, as a whole, has devalued traditional big men as the game becomes more perimeter-oriented.
This also makes it extremely difficult and unlikely to get value in the trade market for O’Quinn.
Sure, the Knicks could certainly move him for a second-round pick—maybe even two. Those second-round picks are unlikely to be of great value, however, as the teams who would be interested in him are playoff teams looking to bolster their depth.
Additionally, for once, the Knicks have a sufficient amount of second-round draft picks. Adding more to the mix wouldn’t add a ton of value.
The lack of available cap space per team—due to the cap failing to rise in line with expectations—also means his free agent market will likely be tepid. With less available dollars for free agents, players like O’Quinn feel the squeeze.
Dewayne Dedmon, a comparable and quality center, received a very reasonable two years and $14.1 million from the Atlanta Hawks, with just $12.3 million guaranteed. A similar deal for O’Quinn would represent great value for the Knicks with the two-way skills he brings to the table.
That type of contract is also likely to be movable if a trade proves necessary.
O’Quinn Isn’t The One To Lose
Of course, there’s the issue of the number of centers on the New York Knicks’ roster and the dollars owed to them. JoakimNoah still has two years and $37,825,000 owed to him following this season.
Kanter has a player option for $18,622,513, and it’s possible that he could opt in to collect the big check. Hernangomez has shown real promise offensively at a young age, and his contract is extremely affordable.
Given these options, why should the Knicks pay to keep Kyle O’Quinn?
As mentioned previously, he’s the only one of this group that has proven to have a plus impact alongside Porzingis in big lineups. O’Quinn is one of the only players on the roster who contributes positively on both ends of the floor.
He’s also the only big man aside from Porzingis capable of operating effectively next to a stretch forward. This type of versatility is very valuable for a backup center who can also start in a pinch.
Even if the Knicks were to let O’Quinn walk, they wouldn’t have space to make a big splash in free agency. Retaining a productive two-way player would be a more prudent use of the Knicks’ limited resources this summer.
General manager Scott Perry was brought in to make difficult choices. Parting ways with Carmelo Anthony was one, and in doing so, he added to an already crowded frontcourt.
He shouldn’t compound an issue he contributed to by losing the most versatile center the New York Knicks have.