Knicks Trade Rumors: Hawks are questionable suitor for Frank Ntilikina

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Hawks reportedly rebuffed the New York Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina trade talks. What kind of deal could have happened?

The New York Knicks will soon embark on sweeping roster changes, with most of their roster set for, or able to, hit free agency in July. That does not rule out trades, which this front office has not shied from.

The Kristaps Porzingis transaction stole the headlines in late January, but another player was shopped. Per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, Frank Ntilikina was discussed with the Atlanta Hawks, but the talks did not advance.

Atlanta, of course, has rising point guard Trae Young. Ntilikina is listed at the same position, but has played off the ball in both NBA seasons.

This follows the previous report of the Knicks potentially shopping the Frenchman for a first-round pick at June’s draft. His future seems bleak in New York City, and there are just 10 games to prove the brass otherwise if he returns Friday from a groin injury.

Hypothetically, a deal with the Hawks is possible. They have future first-round picks from the Dallas Mavericks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the Mavs’ selection (protected 1-5) could convey in May’s lottery, but the Cavs’ pick (protected 1-10) won’t convey in 2019 and probably not in 2020.

The next best first-rounder from Atlanta is Oklahoma City’s protected 2022 pick from 1-14. Who knows where the Russell WestbrookPaul George duo will sit in three years, and there is only one year of protections, before this becomes two second-round picks.

So if the Knicks were to revive talks with the Hawks, they either take the risk on Oklahoma City’s pick down the road, acquire a heavily protected first-rounder of Atlanta’s or eye multiple second-round picks. None of that holds much appeal if the Knicks are keen on a first-round pick. The market might not develop, either, and force something like the 2019 second-rounder from Charlotte and the Hawks’ own 2020 second-rounder.

An alternative is a player-for-player swap. There are few options that make sense on the other side of this equation, but if the Knicks had interest in Omari Spellman, maybe something there, although he’s only a rookie.

Otherwise, with how Ntilikina has struggled in his sophomore season, at 5.9 points and under 40 percent shooting, let’s cap his first-round pick value at No. 24 overall, if the Knicks want capital that conveys this June. If so, the Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks all sit in the range — top teams that can afford moving picks.

The Spurs, perhaps, are most appealing. Via the Kawhi Leonard trade, their acquired first-round pick from the Toronto Raptors will convey near the end of Round 1. San Antonio still has their own selection.

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So, while the Hawks have their own first-round picks, unless they are heavily protected in a deal for Ntilikina, the New York Knicks might fare better looking elsewhere, especially if they want a pick now, not later. Maybe they reconvene on draft night, but there are 28 other teams to work with.