Grade the Trade: Knicks land Giannis Antetokounmpo in blockbuster pitch

New York Knicks, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports /
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New York Knicks, RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Laying out a Knicks trade for Giannis Antetokounmpo

The first thing to keep in mind for a super trade is the money; especially after cap space dries up during the first few weeks of free agency, teams have to match salary in a deal. That rule is only more impactful for the Bucks, who are well into the luxury tax and can’t take back more than they are sending out.

That puts the onus on the Knicks to take back a little more money than they send out. There are a few different ways to build such a deal, but it seems like RJ Barrett would need to be the centerpiece. From there, the Knicks need to both get close to Antetokounmpo’s salary while including young players the Bucks will value. Here’s what one such construction could look like:

For the Bucks, they immediately get three young starters, which can either help them pivot into a soft rebuild or maintain a playoff team if they want to stay competitive for a couple of seasons. Barrett likely isn’t a future superstar, but he could make an All-Star team down the road, while Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes could be the long-term starting backcourt for the Bucks.

That’s before you factor in five first-round picks and a pick-swap, elevating this deal into the range of the package the Phoenix Suns sent out for Kevin Durant or that the Cleveland Cavaliers sent for Donovan Mitchell. The Knicks would send their own 2026, 2028 and 2030 firsts, plus the Dallas 2024 and the Milwaukee 2025 they hold.

That’s a beast of a package, and while it doesn’t boast that one true diamond asset, the upside on the later picks is palpable, and there is a lot of talent heading to the Midwest. Let’s assume this deal works for the Bucks; does it work for the Knicks?