Knicks' search for backup center gets more complicated after latest trade report

Typical Danny Ainge!
New York Knicks, Utah Jazz, Walker Kessler
New York Knicks, Utah Jazz, Walker Kessler / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

Two years ago, the New York Knicks were in talks with the Jazz to trade for Donovan Mitchell. New York didn't want to pay Dange Ainge's price, so Cleveland swooped in. The Knicks are interested in another Jazz player this offseason, but his price tag could keep them away (again).

After losing Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency, HoopsHype's Michael Scotto reported that New York has expressed interest in Utah's Walker Kessler and Charlotte's Nick Richards. SNY's Ian Begley confirmed that the Knicks reached out to the Jazz about Kessler, but he added that teams who have contacted Utah said Ainge and Co. want at least a first-round pick in exchange for the 22-year-old.

On Tuesday, Begley reported that he was told some teams offered the Jazz two first-round picks for Kessler and were rejected. The qualify of those picks is unknown.

Walker Kessler's price tag could turn Knicks away from trade

Kessler was the No. 22 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. In his first two seasons in the league, he averaged 8.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game on 69% shooting from the field. Having him come off the bench behind Robinson would significantly boost the second unit's defense.

The issue is that Ainge is notorious for asking for the world in trade talks. It doesn't matter who the player is. Mitchell and Kessler are on separate levels, yet the Jazz's price is still high.

After the Mikal Bridges trade, the Knicks have a 2025 top-13 protected pick (via the Pistons), a 2025 top-10 protected pick (via the Wizards), their own picks in 2026, 2030, and 2032, and the least favorable of their own pick and the Nets' pick in 2028. Based on Begley's report, New York couldn't get by with offering its two protected 2025 first-round picks. Washington and Detroit are expected to be back at the bottom of the East in 2024-25.

Kessler is one of the top young backup bigs in the league, so the Knicks weren't going to get by with fleecing the Jazz. However, they shouldn't overpay him either.

The backup center market has shrunk rapidly since the start of free agency. HoopsHype's Michael Scotto also reported that New York is interested in Davis Bertans, who the Hornets recently waived. He wouldn't check off the backup big box if the Knicks signed him.

Leon Rose has successfully turned New York into a true contender, so don't panic yet. There's plenty of offseason left.

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