Are the New York Knicks gearing up for a major trade?

Julius Randle (30) Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Julius Randle (30) Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Knicks have had a rollercoaster season that saw them get off to a slow start before recently ripping off eight straight wins. That streak has drastically changed the team’s outlook, and they may look to build on that success by bolstering their roster in a big way. Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls are just 14-18 on the season thus far.

While they still have a shot to make the play-in tournament since the team has three multi-time all-stars, based on a recent report, there are some issues among the team’s two best players.

According to Shams Charania, Chicago Bulls stars Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have struggled to mesh on the court, and the team has tried unsuccessfully thus far to get them to co-exist. That’s led to frustration from other Bulls players, and it’s been directed at LaVine.

If the team doesn’t find a way to balance their top two players soon, then they could decide to hit the reset button in the hopes that they’ll be able to keep their top-four protected draft pick out of the hands of the Orlando Magic. That means that LaVine, DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic could all be available, and the Knicks have the assets needed to pull off a blockbuster deal.

The Knicks could be a likely landing spot for LaVine, if he becomes available.

Over the summer, the Knicks tried unsuccessfully to land Donovan Mitchell. That failure has haunted Knicks fans, even despite their hot streak. After all, Mitchell has looked like a legitimate superstar in Cleveland, and the Knicks don’t have one. Still, Julius Randle has been much better this season compared to last year, while free agent signee Jalen Brunson has more than lived up to expectations, and RJ Barrett has started to come on strong.

They also have a ton of expendable salary that could be useful for salary matching purposes and plenty of draft picks. If the Bulls decide to bottom out, then they may not mind taking back bad contracts so long as they can restock their depleted draft chest. Evan Fournier, Derrick Rose, and Cam Reddish, for LaVine, works financially and could serve as the basis of a trade.

Of course, there would have to be picks involved, and the Knicks have several firsts in next year’s draft, including their own, but only the Mavericks pick is likely to convey. In addition to that, they also have Milwaukee’s top-four protected pick in 2025, as well as their own.

As a part of the deal, the Knicks could agree to trade the most favorable draft pick in 2023 and 2025, ensuring their value to the Bulls. Additionally, they can throw in their 2024 first (which would be allowed under the Stepien rule since they’ll have at least one first-rounder in 2023) as well as pick swap rights in 2026 and 2027.

Would the Bulls actually trade LaVine?

Getting at least three firsts for LaVine would be huge for the Bulls, who mortgaged their future to acquire Vucevic and DeRozan. While LaVine is a terrific offensive player, his max contract pays him an average of $43 million a season, and there’s no way he’ll be worth that.

Getting out from under that contract while they still can could be considered a win, with the multiple assets being a big bonus. Meanwhile, the Knicks were already trying to trade Fournier, Rose, and Reddish. Therefore, trading all three for LaVine would be convenient, plus it would also give them plenty of offensive firepower with a starting lineup that includes Brunson, LaVine, Barrett, and Randle.

All of this is predicated on the Bulls wanting to keep their pick and be in a position to draft Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson. However, there’s always the chance that the Bulls decide to ride out the season and see where they stand this summer, but a lot rides on these next few weeks.

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Ultimately, the Knicks have the assets needed to trade for a star, and the Bulls’ issues mean that one could soon become available.