Grade the Trade: Knicks reunite Thibs with star, get Brunson help in new pitch

The New York Knicks lost a war of attrition in the NBA Playoffs. Can they make an offseason trade to reunite Thibodeau with a former star?
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
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Do the Knicks make this trade?

The New York Knicks deserve a lot of credit for building a roster that is balanced, that magicked an MVP-candidate out of a backup point guard in Jalen Brunson, and executing move after move to get them to a point where they were a No. 2 seed, a game away from the Eastern Conference Finals and have extra draft capital to further upgrade the team.

Now is the most difficult level of the game: adding another superstar player. For as good as the Knicks have been at developing talent, they don't have another player on the roster who has the upside to be a Top-20 player. Perhaps Immanuel Quickley could get there if absolutely everything breaks right for him, but that would never happen with Brunson playing the same position, so he was rightfully moved to Toronto in the OG Anunoby deal.

The Knicks will need to make a trade to add such a player, and Jimmy Butler fits the bill - at least when healthy. Butler is a fearless shot-creator, a savvy playmaker and a gritty defender and rebounder. One of the biggest unknowns in adding a star to an established group is the culture fit, and Butler's history under Tom Thibodeau all but assures a seamless transition as the epitome of what Thibs and the Knicks have built in New York.

That injury question, and the accompanying contract question, are what should give the Knicks some pause. At this point in his career, Butler's playing time needs to be managed during the regular season to ensure he is ready for the playoffs, and even then an injury could crop up at the wrong time and keep him out, as it did this year for the Miami Heat. Can the Knicks push in the chips for someone who could be on the shelf when they need him? They went through that to the ultimate degree this postseason, and Thibodeau's style of basketball isn't the most gentle.

Making this deal would mean giving up on McBride, but otherwise the cost is fairly manageable and still gives them a strong rotation around Brunson and Butler. This deal assumes the Knicks re-sign both Isaiah Hartenstein and Precious Achiuwa and use the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception on a backup point guard. That scenario would give the Knicks top-end talent, ideal rotation players and an overall roster that, if healthy, would clearly be a title contender.

The New York Knicks are ready to win right now, and Jimmy Butler is someone who can help them push for a title next season. If the Knicks want to maximize the next three seasons, it's hard to see another star likely to come available who the Knicks could be confident in winning the bidding for. If they want to take a longer-term view, Butler is likely not the guy to target. He maximizes the top-end outcomes while lowering the floor and shortening the window. That's a gamble many teams would shy away from, but many others would take a chance on.

Which way would the Knicks lean? Given his track record and history with Thibs, it's likely to throw the dice and see if they can win the franchise's first title in over 50 years.

Grade: B+

9 Players the New York Knicks gave up on way too soon. 9 Players the New York Knicks gave up on way too soon. dark. Next