This past week, SNY’s Ian Begley reported that the Knicks talked internally about trading for Tobias Harris, a New York native playing for the division-rival Philadelphia 76ers. Harris is a 30-year-old veteran forward who flirted with All-Star caliber play before nestling into a contributor role on a perennial contender.
New York is expected to be active in trade talks, but Harris is a surprise name, given he doesn’t quite fit the profile of a usual Knicks target. The good news is he may not meet the asking price of a usual Knicks target.
Let’s dive into what a Harris trade might look like.
Harris is currently averaging 16.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 56.8 percent shooting on twos and 39.4 percent shooting on threes. He excelled as Philly’s finishing scorer when one of their stars leverages the defense, with the ability to shoot, drive, post up and create in the mid-range area. He’s also a strong defender and can play either forward spot, an archetype of player the Knicks are lacking in.
In short, Harris is a very good player -- one that would upgrade the Knicks' wing depth, to be sure. It’s unclear if Philadelphia has any interest in trading him given the fit, but if clearing cap room or his rotation spot is a priority, it’s not outlandish to consider.
How much of an upgrade would he be for the Knicks? Having a large wing defender is a big help, but may not be necessary if Cam Reddish were allowed to play. Quentin Grimes’ per-36 numbers challenge Harris’ (12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists on 60.9 percent shooting twos and 36.7 percent shooting threes) and his defense is arguably better.
Harris would have to be a full-time three with Julius Randle at the power forward spot, unless they plan on utilizing a new small lineup with Randle at center. That moves either RJ Barrett or Grimes to the bench, unless Harris is going to be a super-sub.
Becoming the Knicks’ sixth man would allow New York to maintain the chemistry of its starting lineup, provide a major boost to their shakier bench unit and propel Harris to control more of the offense in his minutes. It’s definitely an interesting proposition if head coach Tom Thibodeau can pull it off.
A lot of this would depend on the outgoing package, but it’s evident the fit isn’t clean, and the benefits aren’t overwhelming. The Knicks would then have to make this a value play by getting rid of unwanted goods.
Harris is due $39 million next season before his contract expires, hurting his trade market but perhaps providing an opportunity for the Knicks. They can match that huge salary with Evan Fournier, Derrick Rose and Reddish, three players they’ve cut from the healthy rotation and reportedly shopped.
If the 76ers were to accept a package around those three and some light draft compensation, the Knicks would be adding a very solid wing at no cost to their core. Again, Philly’s taste for something like this is unknown, and they could very easily demand more.
In that case, the Knicks will have some decisions to weigh. Perhaps they need to move Obi Toppin to make Harris their new backup four plus, as he wouldn’t find much playing time alongside him.
In any combination, this would clearly be a short-term, win-now upgrade for the Knicks, adding experience to a young roster. Harris could absolutely bring the savvy and grit to bump New York’s record a few wins, even win them a play-in or playoff game.
The question is at what cost and to what long-term end? If he supplants Grimes in the starting lineup, that’s a demotion to a prized prospect playing extremely good ball. Is a few wins worth a future pick or current prospect, when Harris can just walk out the door in a year and a half?
New York will have to consider these factors in making their play this trade season. Going after a steady upgrade over the franchise-altering blockbuster is a good idea, but will they execute, and do so effectively?