Why the Knicks should trade into the 2023 NBA Draft

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Knicks president Leon Rose
Knicks president Leon Rose / Treated Image by SNY

As it stands, the Knicks head towards draft season without a pick, in what’s expected to be a standout class of young talent. If things don’t change, it’ll be the first year since 2016 New York doesn’t select anybody at the draft.

That would be a mistake. Unless a team is all the way into contention, which the Knicks are not, consistently drafting rookies into your system is essentially a must.

The draft provides a pool of new players, all cost-controlled potential upgrades brimming with potential. Teams that make the long-term investment into their development are rewarded, and enough tries eventually gifts you a surprise game-changer.

New York has specific reasons not to skip this year’s. They’ve largely hit on late-round prospects and have financial and roster-building incentives to secure a pick.

From now until the eventual goal of a championship, the Knicks are going to be living without cap room. Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle combine for the lion’s share of their space, and with Mitchell Robinson extended and new contracts heading Immanuel Quickley’s and Josh Hart’s ways, there’s no wiggle room to sign impactful free agents.

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New York can trade some of those guys, but likely for a big star contract in return. Beyond trades, the Knicks can only improve the team via the draft.

That shouldn’t be ignored for a year when the opportunity to participate in one of the most promising classes is there for the taking. Especially since the Knicks have been so successful in this realm.

Three members of New York’s starting five were drafted by the team, with their Sixth Man of the Year runner-up and bench running mate also included. This year’s success was in large part due to the draft-and-develop strategy the Knicks have employed for the length of the Leon Rose era.

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Why not capitalize on that in such a promising crop of players? New York managed to grow three starter-quality players taken in the late first and beyond, and would be giving up the chance at another one this summer for no apparent reason.

The Knicks don’t need to trade all the way into the lottery, just get in the game somewhere. They could even solve two problems at once doing so.

Despite the largely successful season, there are some pain points in the roster that need correcting. Obi Toppin’s going on year three of doing nothing but backing up Randle, and Evan Fournier’s expiring contract is an $18 million hole in New York’s payroll.

Toppin should return a first-round pick, freeing him from the constraints of the rotation and the Knicks of having to extend him beyond his rookie deal. Fournier’s contract expiring helps his value, and New York can take on a longer deal in exchange for securing a pick as well.

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The Knicks can also normalize their draft capital, since they have an overstock of picks likely converting in 2024 and 2025 but none this year. Trading a future protected pick for a current one is a harmless way to make this happen.

Some will argue against it, citing no room in the rotation for a rookie. There likely isn’t at face, but injuries plague every team, guys have bad seasons, and for all the times in between New York has a great platform in Westchester for a prospect to develop.

The Knicks are in no position to rest on their laurels, and they won’t be taking the offseason lightly in pursuing big swings to take this roster to the next level. But they should equally pursue those crucial moves on the margins that got them here in the first place.

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