Latest intel has the Knicks eyeing an elite defensive player as next trade target

The New York Knicks don't appear to be done improving their team and the latest intel suggests they're targeting an elite defensive player.
Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart
Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

With the NBA Draft in the rearview mirror, OG Anunoby re-signed, and the Mikal Bridges trade finally official, the New York Knicks roster is finally rounding into form. There’s just one problem, New York has quality depth at every position except center. Isaiah Hartenstein bolted for the OKC Thunder and Precious Achuiwa is an unrestricted free agent, creating a glaring need for a backup center. 

Now that they’ve revamped the deal for Bridges with the Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks have roughly $15 million in cap space to fill out the roster and add a quality big to relieve Mitchell Robinson. The rest of the league already swept up most of the good centers on the market in the early days of free agency, but the good news is this newfound cap space gives the Knicks more flexibility to facilitate another trade.

Latest intel indicates Knicks aim to replace Isaiah Hartenstein with former first-round pick. 

Earlier this week, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported that the Knicks made inquiries on Walker Kessler of the Utah Jazz as well as Nick Richards of the Charlotte Hornets. On Thursday, while discussing the Mikal Bridges acquisition and New York’s agenda moving forward, SNY’s Ian Begley all but confirmed the Knicks’ interest in the Utah big man.

He state that the Knicks are monitoring the trade market for backup centers and even suggested they have their eyes on the former SEC Defensive Player of the year and 2022 first-round draft pick.

Kessler would be a fine addition to a Knicks team that prioritizes defense and is in desperate need of frontcourt depth. He needs to improve as a screener and he isn’t the passing hub that Hartenstein proved to be, but his defensive instincts and shot-blocking skills make him a formidable backup center with starter potential.

As a rookie, he averaged 9.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while leading all rookies with 2.4 blocks per game and ranking fourth in the entire NBA. Last season his offensive numbers took a slight dip but he still ranked second in the league in blocks per game, trailing only rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama. 

The Knicks need someone who can rebound and protect the rim and Kessler fits the bill. He’s a hard worker on the boards and an excellent rim deterrent. If he can improve in the pick-and-roll as a screener and passing outlet in the short roll, Kessler will find himself playing meaningful minutes in The Big Apple.