Grade the Trade: Knicks jettison All-Star for hated irritant in bold new pitch

Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks
Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks / Evan Yu/GettyImages
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Injuries have been the name of the game for many NBA teams, but few contenders have had to deal with the mountain of absences that the New York Knicks have weathered this season. Last season they were among the five healthiest teams in the NBA; this year they would rank near the bottom (although not all the way; pour one out for the Memphis Grizzlies).

Julius Randle has missed 27 games and counting, depriving the Knicks of their secondary offensive engine. Center Mitchell Robinson was having an excellent start to the season before going down and missing 50 games; he only just returned this week. OG Anunoby has appeared in just 17 games since the Knicks traded for him as he manages an elbow injury (they are 15-2 in those games).

Despite all of the injuries, however, the Knicks have continued to win games and show that they are a deeper, stronger, hungrier team than they were last season. Donte DiVincenzo is having a career year, Josh Hart is playing entire games and racking up triple doubles, and the team traded away Immanuel Quickley and hasn't missed a beat as Miles McBride has stepped up.

The New York Knicks are building a contender

The reality is that the Knicks are building a contender, and whether or not injuries and their playoff draw allow them to reach the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond this season, that's the quality they are reaching for. Any move they make this offseason will be one to help them win a title; not "short-sighted" but certainly aimed for an immediate impact.

As good as McBridge and DiVincenzo have been, the Knicks could benefit from another backcourt player, ideally one who can defend at an extremely high level and bring playoff experience to the mix. The more this player will fight for rebounds, continually work on defense and communicate verbally, the more head coach Tom Thibodeau will love him and grant him minutes.

Some Knicks fans may not like to hear it, but a player who fits that bill is former Boston Celtics and current Memphis Grizzlies guard Marcus Smart. After wallowing in the lost season the Grizzlies are having, it's possible that Memphis looks to move Smart for an offensive upgrade.

Could the Knicks build a trade for Smart that sends out a current All-Star in order to bring back his defensive fire and experience? Let's see what such a trade would look like and whether it would make sense for the Knicks to consider.