While a strong and vocal contingent of New York Knicks fans would love to swing for the fences with a major superstar trade, even the slightest upgrade to key rotation pieces could lead to more wins come playoff time. Trading RJ Barrett across the bridge to the Brooklyn Nets for Mikal Bridges would be an impactful upgrade to the starting five.
I don’t want to be coy with you. What is considered an upgrade is subjective.
At the mere suggestion of trading Barrett for anything less than a top-five superstar, I know that people are reading with boiling blood. They have mashed the caps lock button and are slamming the keyboard to spew vitriol in my direction.
Let me spritz them with gasoline: this is a move that maximizes Julius Randle and more closely aligns with the window of Jalen Brunson’s prime.
Mikal Bridges would fit better next to Knicks’ Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle
Whether the Knicks are winning or losing, one thing remains pretty clear about this team. Two is company and three’s a crowd. Building an offense around two ball-dominant penetrators can work. Creating a balanced attack around three gets wonky.
It makes more sense right now to bet on the actualized versions of Brunson and Randle rather than a still somewhat speculative Barrett. That’s where the Mikal Bridges deal comes in.
Offensively, the Knicks would add a player who can impact the offense without needing the ball in his hands. Bridges shot nearly 39% on catch-and-shoot threes this season.
For comparison, Barrett shot just 32%. That would be an upgraded weapon alongside Brunson and Randle’s ability to draw defenses when they put pressure on the rim.
Bridges would also be an improvement on the defensive end, which is critical because the Knicks cannot afford to take a step back defensively just to make offensive improvements. The nearly two stocks per game across his career would be a nice addition to the Knicks’ starting unit.
Turning RJ Barrett into Mikal Bridges could pay huge dividends on both ends of the floor
I understand the complications here, though. The Knicks trading with the Nets is like Kendall and Shiv doing each other a favor. It seems highly unlikely.
However, this move makes a ton of sense for both teams. Perhaps a framework like the one below could benefit both teams.
At the risk of sounding reductive, both teams (and fanbases) overvalue their own players in this deal. The framework above seems fair though. The Knicks add Bridges and get about nine million dollars in cap relief to help facilitate an Immanuel Quickley extension.
The Nets are headed for a rebuild whether they want to acknowledge it or not. They were just 12-19 (including the playoffs) after the Kevin Durant trade. Adding two players who are 25 or younger would be a nice value for the 27-year-old Bridges, especially when one of those young players is Barrett who still has faint hopes of star potential. The Nets would also add Obi Toppin who could be given the larger offensive role he hasn’t gotten with the Knicks.
While the two protected picks is not near their rumored asking price at the trade deadline, it is fair value when coupled with players of Barrett and Toppin’s potential.
The initial sting of losing Barrett for less than a superstar might sting, but this deal would benefit both franchises. The real question is if the Knicks and Nets could let their rivalry rest long enough to make it happen.