New York Knicks: Trading for Zach LaVine is a priority

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Between all the crazy things that have happened in the world during these past 12 months, having the New York Knicks as a near-lock for the 2021 NBA playoffs must come pretty close to the top of the list.

Tom Thibodeau’s team has been the most pleasant surprise of the season so far, as very few had them in their initial playoff picture predictions. After seven consecutive seasons of absolute wreckage, New York basketball is back where it belongs.

During the first of the two halves of the season, the defense has been the name of the game for the New York Knicks. Allowing just 105.1 points per game, they have the best defense in the league and the team chemistry is entirely culpable for this.

The squad is full of young and hungry guys with something to prove. Whereas they may lack the offensive capabilities of other teams, even the last bench warmers are rotating on defense like there’s no tomorrow.

The team is looking like it’s going places. Maybe not this year, but really soon. The way this team has been performing so far, it appears as the Knicks are one star-like step away from competing in the Eastern Conference.

With the 2021 NBA Trade Deadline coming in less than a week, could the New York Knicks a deal for Zach LaVine?

Let’s take a quick moment to appreciate Zach LaVine and the leap he’s taken to become an All-Star. He is now averaging 28.4 points per game which places him as the league’s seventh-best scorer while being very close to his first 50-40-90 club entry.

At this very moment, the New York Knicks are holding onto the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, after a couple of losses to some of the best teams in the East which, by the way, were decided in the final possessions of the respective games.

LaVine’s Chicago Bulls haven’t fallen that much behind and are currently 9th, just a single game behind the Knicks. However, it’s getting pretty clear to the public that the team isn’t going places anytime soon and LaVine has been pretty much their sole locomotive this season.

It is still unclear whether LaVine wishes to stick around in Chicago for the foreseeable future or try to force his way out of there via trade. He’s been in-and-out of trade rumors since the beginning of the season and this sure isn’t going to stop now.

Tom Thibodeau has previously worked with LaVine and the results were mixed. During the 2016-17 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, LaVine averaged what was at the time a career-high 18.9 points per game but couldn’t cope with Thibodeau’s defensive tactics.

LaVine is known for being a below-average defender and many are questioning whether he fits with this current Knicks team. The team’s defensive playbook is operating like a well-oiled machine and LaVine’s presence could endanger it. Is this scenario likely, though?

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A widely popular basketball opinion is that, if you take a bad defender and surround him with great ones, he is bound to improve upon his defense. When you add Thibodeau to the mix, the job gets even easier now that Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns aren’t around.

The Chicago Bulls have one of the worst defenses in the league, and while that is partially thanks to LaVine, none of his teammates seems to be offering him any help. On this year’s New York Knicks, you’d really struggle to find multiple players with no effort on defense.

The Knicks have been a major migraine to some of the league’s top teams so far this year. They’ve destroyed the Boston Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Utah Jazz and nearly beat the Brooklyn Nets, if it weren’t for the controversial officiating at the ending of the game.

Defensively, they’ve been on point, even against the best of ’em. However, they certainly lack the offensive creativity to take this team to the next level. Zach LaVine could be that exact spark that could pair up with Julius Randle to make the Knicks great again.

Even if the Knicks don’t manage to maintain this elite defensive hustle after adding LaVine, the team’s offense is bound to become incredibly efficient and fun to watch. Adding a highlight reel like LaVine to the world’s most exciting arena will certainly get the hearts pumping.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to one word. And that word is exchange. What will the Bulls want in return for Zach LaVine? Will a deal revolving around Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and future draft picks be enough to seal the deal? If so, then it isn’t much of a question whether the Knicks should do this or not.

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