Why is Immanuel Quickley suddenly expendable for the Knicks?

Why is Immanuel Quickley suddenly expendable for the Knicks?

Never forget the mission.

The New York Knicks they want to trade for a star. Sign none. Not increasing your chances of drafting one. They want to trade for one and then another.

Be sure to evaluate the reception in this context.

That’s why the Knicks traded the No. 19 pick for a future first-rounder on NBA Draft night in 2021. It’s why they traded the No. 11 pick for three future first-rounders the following summer. That’s why they’ve signed veterans in hopes of being competitive enough to make a headliner’s roster.

The Knicks’ leadership is a 1990s teenage angst band; they just want someone to want them. That’s why they’ve held onto all their picks and why they’ve held onto their young players so tightly they wouldn’t even turn them over. Donovan Mitchell. Losing too many of them along with too many draft picks would mean not having enough to trade for second star, and to paraphrase something a CEO told me, the price of one star is two stars.

During his few public appearances with the team’s television network, Knicks president Leon Rose has talked about the organization’s long-term flexibility while alluding to that plan. Star packages consist of young talent and plenty of options. The Knicks have both, which must mean they’re in good shape.

But what happens when a team has flexibility within Plan A but chooses not to form Plans B and C?

Well, then you might see reports like this one The Athletic‘s Shams Charania wrote on Friday: Knicks ‘showed willingness to discuss’ promising guard, Immanuel Quickleyin offices

Quickley hasn’t shot well through the Knicks’ first 18 games. His efficiency has plummeted since his rookie season, but he has improved greatly as a defender. He is one of the team’s best helpers and is very handy in guarding dribblers. He pushes the pace and he is a loose ball demon. Quickley has been on an unexpected streak since bursting onto the scene in 2020-21: from a flashy offensive player who didn’t give the Knicks much if he wasn’t scoring, to a plague of doing the little things offensively of which it is too inconsistent.

Still, the Knicks keep getting better when he plays. And yet it rests cleanly on the commercial block.

After years of the front office hurting their young guys, why is Quickley suddenly expendable? How did this happen?

It’s hard to reflect on the Knicks’ philosophies without going back to the big picture.

The Knicks waited long enough in their search for a star that the young players they hoped could be the core of a major deal are about to lose what makes them most attractive: their cheapness.

Whatever the Knicks’ specific reasons for hearing offers to Quickley, remember how past moves have fit into Plan A. The Knicks turned the 19th pick in 2021 into a future first-rounder because, at the time, they believed the hopes and the dreams that draft picks represent would be more enticing in a trade for a star than the certainty of an actual human, which is what they would have had if they had drafted No. 19. According to league sources, the Knicks have targeted for a future first-round pick on a return for Quickley, who is eligible for an extension this coming summer.

And so, everything starts to make sense.

A hypothetical Quickley trade might not be for a draft pick. Maybe the Knicks deal him for something that helps them today. Maybe they include it in a bigger package. Or maybe they end up putting up with him so long that he retires in a few years with New York on his chest. Who knows how this ends?

Organizations talk trades with other teams all the time. They are not worth evaluating until they are official. But based on where Quickley is on his contract and based on what the Knicks are telling other teams they’d like to return for him, this is as good a time as any to check on that long-term plan and as the 23-year-old . -The old guard fits in.

Extension eligibility is an important milestone for young players. Quickley is cheap this season and next, but once he earns his market value (or can at least threaten an organization to pay him), anyone considering wanting him in a trade will think twice way The same concept also surrounds Obi Toppinwhich is eligible for extension in the summer of 2023.

If the Knicks find themselves on a star in July or August, any team they talk to may prefer an extra pick over the role player who’s about to get paid. A similar conversation surrounded Utah Jazz i RJ Barrett this past offseason, though Utah ended up making a move for Barrett anyway.

The current front office has valued his talent in past trade negotiations, even if it hasn’t shown faith in clearing the roster so its younger members can play plenty. The Knicks saw the team move with a different energy around Toppin last season and decided to re-sign him Mitchell Robinsonadd Isaiah Hartensteinsign again Jericho Sims and hold on Julius Randle, blocking Toppin’s path once again. They held on Evan Fournier i Derrick Rose and now they are overloaded with guards, enough to do so Cam reddish the weekend just to get Quentin Grimes return to rotation. Trading a rotation player without bringing one back (while also flipping a guard for a draft pick) would make the situation worse. That’s how Rose ends up on the commercial block, according to Charania’s report.

But the Quickley case, more than Rose’s, is what inspires rumination on the Knicks’ swing-for-the-fences ideology.

Rose is 34 years old and plays 13 minutes per game. His contract expires after this season. Meanwhile, Quickley should be part of the future. However, holding onto him could mean locking himself into a mid-list.

The Knicks’ cap sheet isn’t as flexible.

In 2024-25, which would be the first season of a Quickley or Toppin extension, salaries of just Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Robinson, Barrett and Grimes add up to $97 million. Let’s say the Knicks hypothetically re-signed Quickley and Toppin for about the mid-level exception each. That would put them in the ballpark of $120 million to pay less than half the roster.

The cap is projected to be around $140 million this season, but it’s not like the team has $20 million in room. It should fill seven to eight more spots on the roster. He’d have to settle on Reddish (a free agent after this season), Hartenstein (a free agent in 2024), and Sims (who the Knicks would almost certainly return in this scenario, as he has a cheap non-guarantee through 2024 -). 25 season).

All of that would be for a group that, so far, appears to be a Play-In Tournament hopeful. Meanwhile, the five players still under contract make up the current starting lineup, which has been an unnatural combination. It’s not like the Knicks could just as easily trade someone from that quintet instead of Quickley in hopes of clearing long-term money off their books. All of these guys are either too good to deal with losses or too expensive to get as lucrative a return as Quickley hypothetically could.

The Knicks saw the modern insanity of the stars they demand before they hit free agency and figured the best way to take advantage of the new rule was to settle down for business. Be competitive enough to boast a desirable basketball situation in a big market and let the big name pick you, just like the Brooklyn Nets made with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant i James Harden or the LA Clippers made with Paul George i Kawhi Leonard or the Los Angeles Lakers made with Anthony Davisetc.

But all of those examples occurred in situations where teams were malleable enough to do more than trade for someone. The Nets had the ability to sign Irving and Durant, and then used excess players and picks to deal Harden. The Clippers traded for George but signed Leonard. The Lakers traded for Davis, but only after he signed lebron james.

The reality is that the Knicks’ supposed flexibility only extends to the first star trade. If acquiring Mitchell would have left the cupboard too bare to trade for a second star, then the next available star who is as good or better than Mitchell, and thus costs as much or more than Mitchell, will leave the front office dedicated to the same. conversation

How could we trade all these great things for this great player if we’re short on getting him a co-star?

It seems the cycle could go on forever.

The Knicks gave themselves little room to deviate from Plan A. And now they’re talking about Quickley.

They won’t close, which would increase your chances of drawing a star. An organization might get lucky with the 15th pick, but there’s a reason for picks like Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo they are the ones we marvel at; they are not the norm. Meanwhile, they’ve padded their roster with enough long-term money that it would require some serious cap gymnastics (and attaching first-round picks to some of the biggest contracts on their books) to sign one.

Gymnastics is not easy when you are not as flexible as you say.

(Top Quickley photo: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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