The Knicks came away from this year’s quiet trade deadline as winners.
The team acquired sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic and super-sub Alec Burks from the Detroit Pistons for a four-player compilation headlined by Quentin Grimes. That move along with the other in-season trade to acquire OG Anunoby from the Toronto Raptors for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley in a five-player deal have transformed the Knicks from a solid team to a legitimate playoff threat in the Eastern Conference.
For the past few years, there’s been talk of the Knicks landing a star like Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Donovan Mitchell. That never came to fruition. Instead, the Knicks bet on Brunson and Randle as its two featured stars, acquiring role players who best fit alongside them.
The two trades addressed two categories the Knicks have been inconsistent in, three-point shooting and defense.
First, the acquisition of Anunoby transformed New York’s defense overnight. The Knicks were ranked 19th in defensive efficiency last season and just 20th in 32 games before Anunoby donned the blue and orange. In Anunoby’s 14 games with the club, before going down with an elbow injury, the Knicks were number one in defensive efficiency, giving up just 104.1 points per 100 possessions.
The acquisitions of Burks, Bogdanovic and Anunoby bring three quality perimeter shooters to enhance New York’s spacing in the half-court around Brunson and Randle. Last season, the Knicks were 19th in three-point percentage during the regular season and ranked dead last in the category during the playoffs. The Miami Heat dared New York’s players to beat them with the outside shot in the second round last year and the Knicks failed.
Brunson has shown that he is an offensive dynamo with counters, shots and playmaking that can withstand almost any defensive strategy. The real question will be Randle. The Knicks' power forward has made three All-Star teams and two all-NBA teams and has been a consistent 20-point, 10-rebound presence over the past four seasons. However, the playoffs will be a test for him.
He shot 29.8 percent from the field in New York’s 2021 first-round loss in five games against the Atlanta Hawks. Randle was slightly better in New York’s playoff run last year dealing with an ankle injury that would eventually lead to offseason surgery, but he was still extremely inefficient.
Currently out with a dislocated shoulder, Randle’s performance in this year’s postseason should impact how his relationship with New York progresses. Remember, Randle has a player option for the 2025-26 season worth $32.4 million. New York owns all of its first-rounders and four potential first-rounders from other teams depending on how protections on the picks shake out. The playoffs will provide more information on whether the Knicks can rely on Randle as a second option or if they should look elsewhere.
The Knicks are fourth in the East with a 33-20 record after Saturday night's 125-111 loss to the Indiana Pacers. It’s the best winning percentage (62.3 percent) the club has had at 53 games in 11 years. With an extremely deep and talented roster, expectations will certainly be high in this year’s postseason, a first for the Leon Rose/Tom Thibodeau-era Knicks.
The youth movement is over
In this butterfly metamorphosis from a young team on the rise to a contender, the Knicks officially ended its “chrysalis' era with the trade to move off Grimes. Now, the Knicks have moved on from former first-round picks in Grimes, Obi Toppin, Barrett and Quickley.
Quickley and Grimes became attractive trade chips and easily surpassed expectations as the 25th pick in back-to-back drafts. The haul the Knicks received for both players showcases good draft decision-making late in the first round by the Knicks front office.
Though Toppin never fully lived up to the billing of a top-10 pick, his trade to the Pacers allowed the Knicks to have the flexibility to sign Josh Hart to a contract extension and sign Donte DiVincenzo with the full non-taxpayer midlevel exception. It will be a space in time that Knicks fans can fondly reminisce on as the Knicks elevated to a playoff team with each prospect making significant contributions.