The Knicks had a very busy week and yet made only one trade. Let’s begin with the news from Tuesday, when the team announced team president Steve Mills was leaving his position effective immediately. General manager Scott Perry was put in charge of overseeing basketball operations on an interim basis.
Perry worked the phones before the deadline with the biggest trade asset being Marcus Morris, the team’s leading scorer at 19.6 points per game and one of the top three-point shooters in the league this season (43.8%). Morris, 30, was signed to a one-year deal during the offseason and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He had expressed a desire to stay with the Knicks, but his trade value was too important to the future to not explore the market.
Two teams emerged as the front-runners for Morris: the Lakers and the Clippers. Both teams were reportedly in hot pursuit of the veteran forward and the Knicks negotiated with both up until an hour before Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline. The Knicks wanted to secure a future asset — either a first round pick or a young player — in exchange for Morris.
In the end, Perry accepted a deal with the Clippers that turned into a three-team trade that included the Washington Wizards. The Knicks sent Morris to the Clippers, who also received veteran guard Isaiah Thomas from Washington. The Knicks received in return the Clippers’ 2020 first round pick (right now it would be No. 27), a 2021 second round pick (from the Clippers via the Pistons), the draft rights to Wizards 2018 second round pick, Ukranian guard Issuf Sanon, and former St. John’s standout Mo Harkless.
The Wizards received forward Jerome Robinson in the deal.
There were reports that the Knicks were initially asking for sharpshooting guard Landry Shamet from the Clippers, but were told he was not on the table. Reports also said the Knicks were asking the Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, who was believed to be available.
The deal was a big get for the Clippers, who already have two stars in their starting lineup — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — and have the highest-scoring bench in the NBA led by Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. You add Morris to that mix and the Clippers got deeper, more experienced and tougher. Are they now the team to beat in the West?
For the Knicks, it landed them a second first round pick for this year’s draft for a player who could essentially walk at the end of the year. Overall now the Knicks have four first round picks in the next two drafts and seven over the next four years.
That’s a lot of draft capital that can be used in various ways to build the team. Now the question that awaits an answer in the wake of Mills leaving his position as team president: who will be in charge of using those picks to build the team?
Reports have suggested longtime agent Leon Rose, from CAA, will be that person to replace Mills. Rose has a client list that is among the most heralded in the sport over the last 20 years. From Allen Iverson to Carmelo Anthony to Devin Booker, Rose has represented some of the best players in the NBA and is considered one of the most connected agents in the business.
Can he use those connections to not only build a roster, but build a front office that can turn around the fortunes of the Knicks?
One of Rose’s biggest clients is Karl-Anthony Towns. He has talked publicly about a desire to team up with his friend, D’Angelo Russell, and as the trade deadline neared, Russell became a hot commodity on the market.
There were whispers that the Knicks tried to make a play for Russell and if they got him, that would have fueled speculation that Towns, a New Jersey native, might try to force his way out of Minnesota to go play for his favorite team, the Knicks. So the Timberwolves got aggressive and made a hefty play to land Russell from the Golden State Warriors.
The T-Wolves sent talented young forward Andrew Wiggins and a top-3 protected 2021 first round pick and a 2021 second round pick to Golden State for Russell and two other players, Jabob Evans and Omari Spellman. Minnesota officially moved on from the Wiggins-Towns duo that saw the two put up prolific stats but not much winning after Jimmy Butler was traded.
Now Minnesota has the guard-forward duo that many teams crave and both players are under contract for the next several years. Their star player, Towns, should be satisfied after what has been a frustrating season. Now can GM Gersson Rosas build a team around Russell and Towns that can compete in the wild, wild West?
For Golden State, this trade is one to revisit next season on the court, but off the court it was a terrific business move. Why? The team was about to be hit with a hefty luxury tax bill as a repeater, but the trade, along with another deal that sent Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks to the 76ers for second round picks, got them under the luxury tax threshold for this season.
Next year, they’ll have a young, athletic wing in Wiggins to play with their all-star backcourt of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, who are both out this season with injuries, and Draymond Green. Can Wiggins fit in? He’ll have the rest of this season to learn the system and for coach Steve Kerr to decide if he can fit.
The Miami Heat sent a clear message with their trade for veteran Andre Iguodala that they think there is opportunity this year in the East. The Milwaukee Bucks are far and away the best team, but after them, what team stands in the way of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals?
The Heat have been a great story this season, led by free agent signee Jimmy Butler, emerging all-star Bam Adebayo and some surprising young players — first round pick Tyler Herro and undrafted gems Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson — who have made an immediate impact.
With the addition of Iguodala, 36, who is a three-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, the Heat gain experience and yet another versatile three-and-D player. Does this give them another body to throw at the indomitable Giannis Antetokounmpo if and when the teams meet in a playoff series?
Miami also got Jae Crowder, a pesky, physical defender, and Solomon Hill, in the deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, who received former lottery pick Justise Winslow and troublesome Dion Waiters.
The Heat (34-17) are currently fourth in the East, two games behind the Celtics for third and three-and-a-half behind the red-hot Raptors for second. They’ll want to move up into second or third to avoid facing the Bucks before the conference finals.
Iguodala hasn’t played at all this season and was starting to show his age last season with the Warriors. Iguodala called the move to Miami “a perfect fit” for him and said the time he spent away from the game — the Grizzlies allowed him to stay away from the team while they considered trades — helped him refocus on his game and how he can continue to contribute.
Pat Riley said Iguodala is “still elite” and believes the time off will be good for his body, but isn’t long enough of a time for the veteran to lose his game.
And the Heat committed to him with a two year extension for $30 million, with a team option in the second year, so they’re all-in with him for at least another season.
Will the move pay off?