The most compelling argument against a Knicks trade for Paul George

New York Knicks, Paul George. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks, Paul George. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports /

The rumor du jour on the New York Knicks trade front is that there have been exploratory conversations with the Los Angeles Clippers involving one-half of their two-headed wing monster, Paul George.

It doesn’t take long for me to talk myself into almost any Knicks star trade. Bradley Beal? Sure. Zach LaVine? Of course. Donovan Mitchell? In an instant.

The ease with which I decide it is time for the Knicks to cash in is rooted in my belief that RJ Barrett will not be one of the top two players on the team when it jumps to the next tier. Therefore, the greatest gift Barrett can give Knicks fans is being sacrificial trade fodder for a guy who elevates the team into contender territory.

However, I’m leery of trading Barrett for George, and rest assured it would take Barrett to make the trade happen. Leon Rose should be hesitant as well.

The Knicks should be guarded as they discuss a Paul George trade with Clippers

You see, teaming Paul George with Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle also doesn’t make the Knicks a championship contender. Moreover, George will quickly be less valuable in future star trades than RJ Barrett.

At the end of the 2022-2023 season, there was no doubt who the better player was. George more than doubles Barrett’s win shares (4.6 to 2.2, according to Basketball Reference), despite only playing in 56 games.

That last piece, though, is why George will not offer the Knicks any more trade value than Barrett. He is a decade older and comes with significant injury concerns. He has averaged just 53 games played over the last five seasons.

RJ Barrett would be a more valuable trade asset for Knicks than Paul George

If you’re a franchise rebuilding after trading an All-NBA level player, it is hard to sell George as the new cornerstone of the organization. Having a player like Barrett (plus a treasure chest of draft picks, undoubtedly) and the ability to sell fans on his age and untapped potential would be significantly more palatable.

The contract is also an important consideration here. Today, George has just one more guaranteed year at $45.6 million. The following year is a player option at $48.7 million. Conversely, Barrett has four more guaranteed years and never tops the $30 million mark.

The Knicks would improve the basketball product by swapping Barrett for George, but it would be a minimal improvement at the cost of one of their most important trade assets. That price tag should be viewed as prohibitive as the Knicks consider how to upgrade last year’s playoff team.