New York lands its target
Alec Burks was squarely on the Knicks’ radar for the past few weeks. Bojan Bogdanovic has been one of the players on their radar for the past year. New York has both players now after executing a big deal with Detroit on Thursday morning.
Coming into the deadline, the Knicks hoped to acquire a player who could help them off the bench and was under contract next season.
Entering the week, no team – including the Knicks – was sure if Bogdanovic would be available.
The decision-making process in Detroit wasn’t straightforward. Some members of the organization wanted to keep Bogdanovic and try to win games. Others wanted to move off of veterans like Burks and Bogdanovic and acquire younger players/draft capital.
In the end, the latter group won out.
Detroit was listening to offers from several teams on Bogdanovic leading up to the deadline. The Sixers were aggressive in their pursuit. But Detroit wanted Tobias Harris. It’s unclear how far talks progressed.
The Sixers also had an interest in Burks. Talks between Philadelphia and Detroit included Marcus Morris Sr. and draft compensation. When the Sixers opted to send Morris and three second-round picks to Indiana for Buddy Hield, it seemed like the Knicks had a clear path to both Burks and Bogdanovic.
New York was aggressive in its pursuit of Bogdanovic, whose partially guaranteed 2024-25 contract can be useful in an offseason trade. Ultimately, the Knicks and Pistons landed on a package that included two future second-round picks, Quentin Grimes, Evan Fournier and Ryan Arcidiacono.
The banged-up Knicks will need Burks and Bogdanovic to suit up as soon as possible.
One of the Knick injuries factored into their approach at the deadline. As SNY reported earlier Thursday, the uncertainty around OG Anunoby’s elbow injury was part of the club’s thinking at the deadline.
The Knicks later on Thursday announced that Anunoby had surgery to remove a loose bone fragment from the elbow. The team said he’d be re-evaluated in three weeks. A league source said that Anunoby is expected to be doing on-court activities in three weeks.
According to people familiar with the matter, the player and team believe surgery is the best way to have Anunoby back for the regular-season stretch run and playoffs.
But the uncertainty around Anunoby’s injury and the length of his absence factored into the Knicks’ aggressive approach on Bogdanovic.
As noted above, there was some uncertainty earlier in the week as to Detroit’s plans for Burks. Some wanted to keep him for the rest of the season and try to win games. Others were OK with moving off of the veteran.
Amid that uncertainty, the Knicks looked at other trade options. They touched base with Minnesota on Shake Milton. They also checked in with Golden State on Andrew Wiggins. I don’t know how advanced those talks were if they were at all.
Obviously, it doesn’t matter at this point. The Knicks landed two players who can help them this season and, perhaps, in the 2024 offseason.
What about the buyout market? There isn’t much room in the rotation at the moment. So the Knicks presumably can’t offer regular playing time to any player on the buyout market. I’d assume any player on the buyout market wants the assurance of a rotation spot. So logic says the Knicks will have a tough time landing someone on the market.
The Knicks currently have two open roster spots. Taj Gibson’s 10-day contract expired on Thursday. If the Knicks decide not to bring him back, they’d have three open spots.
Given Isaiah Hartenstein’s Achilles injury (he missed the second half of Thursday's defeat to Dallas), maybe New York can convince a veteran big man to sign with them for the rest of the season. Bismack Biyombo is available.
New York can use its bi-annual exception to try and lure a free agent. So the club can offer more money and years than other suitors. New York is one of 11 teams with a full bi-annual. Only four of those teams (New York, New Orleans, Minnesota, Dallas) are currently in playoff position.
Another buyout market note: The Mavericks and Lakers are among the teams free agent guard Spencer Dinwiddie will consider in free agency, per league sources. (Dinwiddie was in the crowd at Madison Square Garden Thursday night hours after he was traded to Toronto.)
The Knicks’ moves at the deadline drew praise from all over the league. Magic Johnson publicly praised team president Leon Rose and executive vice president William Wesley while declaring the Knicks a threat to make the NBA Finals. ESPN’s Zach Lowe called New York the smartest team in the NBA.
One Western Conference executive in touch via text after Thursday’s trade said, ‘Knicks are really good.’ Another said, ‘Eight first-round picks.’
The Knicks acquired Anunoby, Burks and Bogdanovic without surrendering a first-round pick. New York, of course, surrendered significant assets to acquire each player (RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Grimes and Fournier’s expiring contract.) And the club’s defense may suffer with Anunoby out for several weeks. But they’re well-positioned to compete in the Eastern Conference this season. They’re also well-positioned for an offseason trade (eight first-round picks, Bogdanovic’s 2024-25 salary.)
Who’s available this offseason? As always, that depends on what happens in the postseason. It’s hard to know right which player will want out after an early exit. (For what it’s worth, Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns will make my list of ‘Stars the Knicks could pursue via trade’ until I know, definitively, that it can’t happen.) But that’s a conversation for another day. At the moment, the Knicks seem well-positioned* for a strong playoff run.
*This obviously depends on their health. New York is still optimistic that Mitchell Robinson can come back during the season. They believe Anunoby will be back for the stretch run. There have been positive steps in Julius Randle’s current rehab, as discussed on Honda SportsNite. But the health of those three players will be pivotal for New York in the playoffs.
Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for burning players out. There is some evidence to support that theory. There is evidence that pokes holes in the theory. Understandably, some Knicks fans hold on tight to the idea that their head coach is running the current Knicks into the ground. But if you listen to Josh Hart talk about Thibodeau, you may draw a different conclusion.
Before Thursday’s game, Hart was asked about Burks being familiar with the Knicks and Thibodeau:
"Yeah, he knows what to expect. Bojan — hoooo, that boy in for it. (Burks) knows what to expect, so hopefully on that (private jet) they on right now (flying to New York), he’s giving (Bogdanovic) a couple of tips and pointers. But I will say, Thibs got a little bad rap about this kinda (thing) — you know, the practice and all that. He is way better than I thought in the rumors and all what you hear. It’s way better, way more in tune, so (Bogdanovic will) be alright."
Hart was then asked if the Knicks get more time off in practice and on off-days under Thibodeau:
"Boy, what?! We’ve had some days off, boy. I ain’t lying. Never been around Tom Thibodeau, (and) get them days off like I did. So it’s been amazing. Like I said, man, he’s not foolish. He knows what it is. He knows guys have to play bigger minutes. And hey, maybe with (Burks and Bogdanovic), now a guy might not be playing big minutes and we might be practicing every day. We’ll see. I’ll let y’all know."