New York Knicks: Trade candidates and all, a quiet deadline is realistic

New York Knicks Steve Mills (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
New York Knicks Steve Mills (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks may have players to move, but it’s not unrealistic to foresee nothing happening at the trade deadline.

With the trade deadline ahead, the New York Knicks have a handful of players to move, most of which own expiring contracts. Lance Thomas, Mario Hezonja and Enes Kanter represent some of the candidates — veterans that have no future with the franchise.

However, with all the talk of who could go, it’s just as realistic to figure nothing happens on Feb. 7.

Seemingly half the roster exists as trade candidates, but all with something that impacts their value. Starting with Kanter’s $18.6 million that creates a difficult match to needing an asset attached for a Tim Hardaway Jr. or Courtney Lee move, there’s a hiccup down almost any avenue.

Perhaps the easiest player to trade, Trey Burke only makes $1.79 million in 2018-19, seamlessly fitting into another team’s salary cap. He was available for second-round picks.

The problem: Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay, the point guards ahead of Burke, suffered injuries within days of each other that have week-to-week timetables. Suddenly, the Knicks have no one else to act as the main distributor, unless they want to retry Allonzo Trier in this role.

Obviously, at 10-40, New York is not making the playoffs, but they still need bodies. Even though Mudiay and Ntilikina’s injuries don’t seem long term, with the trade deadline just seven days away, it may necessitate keeping Burke. That’s probably not what Knicks fans want to hear, but something resembling a team still must hit the court for 32 more games.

Hardaway and Lee, despite being on the trade block, have eight-figure contracts through 2019-20 (and beyond for Hardaway) that likely require draft picks attached to make something happen, without taking future salary back. Either player could help a contender now, but when there’s no pressure of a deadline in the offseason, maybe that’s when the Knicks’ chances increase.

On top of them, Hezonja and Thomas both have salaries at $6.5 million and beyond. For their limited on-court capabilities, it leaves them with questionable value for the money another team must pay them. If anything, they’re just salary filler if the Knicks acquire an expensive player and send someone like Kanter away, as well.

As for the Turkish center, each game he does not play seemingly increases his chances of not staying for the rest of the season. His salary is tough to equal, unless the Sacramento Kings send an expiring contract or the Chicago Bulls flip Jabari Parker.

Otherwise, Kanter should become a buyout candidate. It lets him join a contender’s bench and earn meaningful playing time, ending this season-long drama of unhappiness over a role that steadily reduced to nothing from October to January.

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While the New York Knicks could be active at the deadline, each potential trade candidate has a drawback, preventing an accomplished deal on Feb. 7. That may not become the case, but in the calm before the offseason storm, New York may act as quietly as the other NBA teams.