The New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors collaborated to make the first blockbuster trade of the 2023-24 trade season. The Raptors sent lockdown wing defender OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn to New York in exchange for RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and a 2024 second round pick (via Detroit).
Despite the move to acquire Anunoby, the Knicks are not legitimate contenders
To be considered a true contender in the Eastern Conference, a team has to match the firepower of the Bucks, Celtics and 76ers. Trading for Anunoby, although it's a step in the right direction, does not push the Knicks over the hump.
The pairing of Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle cannot compete with the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown or Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. They are great players, but together, they don’t create this unstoppable offensive force that teams will struggle to defend — especially in a seven game series.
Brunson is a dynamic scorer and can carry a team in a few playoff games, but he’s not the 1A star who can lead a team deep into the playoffs. When looking at the past few teams who won the championship, all had MVP-caliber players. Brunson just isn’t that — at least not yet.
Losing Quickley also hurts the Knicks' chances this season. When Brunson goes to the bench, they don’t have a microwave scorer like Quickley to carry the offensive load. Anunoby will help on offense, but he will likely slide into a starting spot with Barrett’s departure.
Despite that, the Knicks have the assets to earn contender status next season.
Luckily for New York, they didn’t have to give up a lot of draft capital to acquire Anunoby. The Knicks have one of the deepest collections of tradable draft picks within the next couple of years.
Although protections might decrease the value of these picks, the Knicks could potentially have four first-round picks in 2024 to trade. If they opt to keep their pick in 2024, they will have two first-round picks they can move in 2025.
Their ability to keep their picks in the trade with Toronto was crucial for their flexibility in the trade market going forward. New York hasn't been shy about their desire to add another star to the mix. Should stars become available closer to the trade deadline, they have the assets to complete a trade.
The Knicks also have Evan Fournier riding the bench. Although he isn’t a valuable contributor at this point in his career, his $18.8 million contract with a team option for next season gives New York a tradable contract to pair with their collection of picks.
The Anunoby trade is a step in the right direction.
The trade doesn’t push them over the edge, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Leon Rose and the front office seem determined to build a winning roster in New York. Anunoby is a great addition that will help build that winning culture.
In the short term, the trade makes sense for both teams. The Raptors end their state of limbo and commit to building around Scottie Barnes. The Knicks gained a developed player who can help them win within the next few seasons.
If New York is really committed to chasing a championship, it's unlikely this will be the last move they make. They still have holes in their roster they need to fill, either before the deadline or in the offseason.
The Knicks still need to look for a replacement for Mitchell Robinson after losing the big man to a season-ending injury earlier this season. They can also add to their offensive prowess, especially after losing Quickley.
Zach LaVine, Donovan Mitchell and Lauri Markkanen are just a few stars who are still swirling around trade rumors. However, the Knicks might be better off waiting until after the season to target a star-caliber player.