With the trade deadline approaching some teams need to decide whether to sell players or add players. Today I’ll look at two organizations that appear to be at some sort of crossroads and try to determine how they should approach the trade deadline.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are in an interesting situation. They are loaded with draft picks over the next three years and long to be consistently relevant in terms of being a team that gets out of the first round of the playoffs. The last time they won a playoff series was 2013 beating the Boston Celtics. Their fan base would love to see them be successful in the playoffs as they have been waiting a long time to see them relevant. The last time they were in the playoffs was two seasons age when they lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.
Over the next three years the Knicks have their own first round draft picks and four protected first round picks. Three of them are in this years draft, the other in two years. Next years projected salary cap is about where the Knicks are in salaries for next year. Locked in for next year is their entire starting five as well as Derrick Rose, Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley among others.
Knicks Path Forward is Obvious
The Knicks presently are a middle of the road team. They have the assets both in salary and draft picks to try to pry an available star away from a team that is selling. They have some young talent in Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett and Miles McBride but overall not enough to be a top team in the East. The obvious decision is to buy. They should wait until the opportunity presents itself, a star wanting out, and move in dealing both picks and salary. They had a chance in acquiring Donovan Mitchell but pulled back because they thought they were the only team involved. After losing Mitchell it looks like the next star available may be LaVine.
pulled back perhaps Zach LaVine.
The Bulls as presently constructed aren’t much more than a play-in team. They also have several players that other teams would love to have, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso. They do not have much in draft picks. Their 23 pick is owed to Orlando slightly protected (first four picks) and their 25 pick goes to the Spurs protected through the tenth pick. They are thirteen million below next years salary cap with DeRozan signed and LaVine signed long term.
The Bulls are an interesting team in that they seem to give good teams tough games. They have beaten Boston twice, Milwaukee twice and Brooklyn once. At the same time they have lost to San Antonio, Orlando, Oklahoma City and Houston. If they got into the playoffs it would be highly doubtful they would get out of the first round.
Bulls Path Forward is Obvious
It is fairly obvious the Bulls should sell now and try to recoup some draft picks. Players like DeRozan and LaVine could bring a nice haul. The Bulls need to be careful on when they sell. They do not want to give Orlando a high pick in a good draft. If the season ended today they would be tenth and in a play-in game. If they traded both DeRozan and LaVine today it would be difficult to finish in the bottom four but they would fall considerably. The fan base may want see the team in the play-in game giving them a taste of the playoffs.
The best course may be to keep those players until the season ends and then look to trade them for draft picks and whatever players they could get. This would buy time with the fan base if they make the playoffs and allow them to start their rebuild next year when they have their own first round pick in the draft.