New York Knicks: Trading for Bradley Beal is not Carmelo Anthony 2.0

Following an offseason that began with unprecedented expectations, yet resulted in massive disappointment, should the New York Knicks check in on the availability of Wizards star Bradley Beal?

The New York Knicks are currently in need of a leader. The franchise anticipated before free agency that they would not attract the likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and therefore immediately targeted less expensive options.

A pattern emerged from the team’s eventual signings, and it became obvious the Knicks had intentionally targeted players who have previously displayed a “chip on their shoulder” mentality. The front office brought in former lottery picks, Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton, who had been abandoned by their former teams. The Knicks obsession with power forwards also landed them Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson, two hard-nosed bigs known as enforcers throughout the league.

While the Knicks front office may have fallen short in returning the struggling franchise to contention this summer, the current roster is capable of challenging for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference. The Knicks have both impressive depth at each position, as well as veteran specialists capable of contributing both on the court and in the locker room. The Knicks have established a promising blend of veteran experience and exciting young potential, yet they still lack an undisputed leader.

For the Wizards, Bradley Beal has long been the Robin to his team’s Batman. John Wall has been the face of Washington hoops since the team dealt Agent Zero to Orlando. Beal flashed all-star potential early in his career, yet Wall’s ball-dominant tendencies hindered his backcourt mate’s development.

An opportunity presented itself this season in the rupturing of Wall’s Achilles. Wall’s absence allowed Beal to assume the role of primary shot-creator, and the former Florida product thrived as the centerpiece of the Wizard’s offense.

There is no doubt that an increase in Beal’s usage this season factored into his elevated play, yet Wall’s absence was not the sole reason behind his breakout campaign.

Wall’s injury challenged Beal to become more than just a shooter, yet with over fifty-five million dollars guaranteed over the next two seasons, the Wizards swingman was still forced to find inner motivation to expand his game despite monetary comfort. Beal both demonstrated a newfound aggressiveness in attacking the rim, as well as an improved passing ability.

Beal had a choice to make entering last season. He could either continue to play the hesitant form of basketball Wizards fans had frustratingly become accustomed to, or he could be the all-star caliber player he had teased of early on. Beal chose the latter, a decision that embodies what the Knicks are attempting to establish. The Knicks are bringing in individuals who both hate to lose, and are willing to venture outside of their comfort zone to get better. Beal has exemplified these qualities to the highest degree, and would, therefore, make for an ideal leader.

The Trade

Knicks Trade – Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Alonzo Trier, Taj Gibson, 2020 First Round Pick

Wizards Trade – Bradley Beal

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 17: Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards celebrates as Kevin Knox of The New York Knicks looks on after his team win the NBA London game 2019 between Washington Wizards and New York Knicks at The O2 Arena on January 17, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Why?

Can’t the Knicks just wait until free agency and sign a superstar free agent without sacrificing the young pieces that cost us years of miserable tanking?

If there is one message to take from the summer in which Brooklyn eclipsed the lights of the world’s most famous arena, it is that there is a striking discrepancy in the assumed attraction of the Garden between fans and players. The Knicks must accept that simply being in New York doesn’t get you KD. After striking out the summer’s free agent stars, the franchise can no longer plan on free agency to be their largest influx of talent.

Wouldn’t give up promising young talent, such as Knox and Trier, for a player with only two remaining seasons of team control and no indication of interest in playing for the Knicks long term sound exactly like the type of ill-advised acquisition that has the suffering franchise where it is today?

Knicks fans are well aware of the consequences that come with sacrificing promising assets for a single star. The Carmelo Anthony trade will forever live as a question mark in Knicks history. What if the team had waited for Anthony in July?  It was clear New York was Melo’s focus, and the Knicks could have held onto the assets they parted with to acquire him via trade. While it may appear trading for Beal would be a similar test of patience, a potential transaction is much safer than the team’s last superstar acquisition.

The most significant of many important distinctions between the Knicks trade for Anthony and a potential deal for Beal is the standing of the team at the time of the deal. The Knicks of 2011 had legitimate title aspirations, yet lacked the foresight imperative in creating an eventual contender. The current Knicks are neither among the league’s elite, nor the association’s bottom feeders, and therefore are in need of direction.

When?

For the Knicks to trade for Beal they will likely need to include at least one of their recent free-agent signings to balance the salary being absorbed on each side. For the Knicks to deal any of their recent additions they must wait until December 15th. At this point, Beal’s availability is contingent on both the Wizards being unable to find a trade partner for him this summer, as well as a refusal on Beal’s behalf to sign a contract extension. These circumstances could make a potential trade mutually beneficial.

How?

The Wizards are clearly in need of a reset, and a full youth movement likely means parting with Beal to acquire high celling assets. While there are likely many interested suitors in Beal’s services, the Knicks could realistically compile one of the most attractive trade packages due to their abundance of untapped potential.

With a lack of depth at the wing, Washington could benefit from adding young swingmen such as Knox and Trier. Knox likely has the highest potential of collection of incoming players due his size and athleticism. Trier proved to be a gifted isolation scorer following a surprising rookie campaign. While the French Prince may not be the heir apparent to John Wall, Ntilikina would be a worthy flier as a former lottery pick yet to find his groove offensively. Gibson’s inclusion in the deal would simply be for salary purposes. While Beal’s arrival in New York likely decreases the lottery odds of any first-round selection dealt by the Knicks, the pick should remain extremely attractive to a Wizards squad with limited young prospects.

For the Knicks, a trade for Beal represents the franchise’s best chance at securing a return to the postseason, yet the move does not scream instant gratification. In their current form the Knicks are neither capable of fully competing, or embracing an all-out tank similar to last season. Therefore the team’s midseason approach will be dependent on their early season record.

If all goes right for New York, both in the continued development of their homegrown talent, as well as sustained production from their newly acquired vets, it is reasonable to assume the Knicks could remain within the playoff picture by December.

While it is undoubtedly difficult to watch young draft selections traded before reaching their ultimate potential, the Knicks should be willing to give up on Knox, Trier, and Ntilikina. While each of the three current Knicks were recent lottery selections, they do not represent the most talented youngsters on the roster. The Knicks essentially sacrificed their core in order to acquire Anthony, but the Knicks could trade for Beal and retain Mitchell Robinson and RJ Barrett, the team’s two most promising players.

Next: Knicks roundtable: Was league-high cap space used properly?

The Knicks have chosen to abandon their status as the league’s resident punching dummy and therefore can no longer chalk up their losses as eventually beneficial. The team watched the Nets snatch their top targets due to Brooklyn’s perceived stability as a result of their winning environment. With Beal at the helm, the Knicks can re-establish themselves as a respectable organization, plus the city could probably use home games in late April.

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