Knicks Trade Rumors: Defensive-Minded Options As Deadline Nears

Nov 27, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Nuggets defeated the Suns 118-114. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 27, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Nuggets defeated the Suns 118-114. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If the New York Knicks are going to turn the season around, the key will be defense. Which trade options should the Knicks consider before the deadline?


The New York Knicks are approaching the 2017 NBA trade deadline with as much to gain as any team in the NBA. The postseason remains within reach, but New York’s current roster has created doubt amongst those who once believed this could be a playoff team.

If the Knicks are going to salvage a once promising season, team president Phil Jackson may need to execute a trade to solidify the defense.

New York is No. 25 in the NBA with an average of 109.4 points allowed per game. It’s also No. 23 in the Association with 108.7 points allowed per 100 possessions and No. 24 in free throw attempts allowed per game.

The defense has made minor improvements over the course of the season, but in the face of adversity, it’s seemed to regress.

The promising news for New York is that there are a number of high-quality trade options who project to be available at or before the deadline. Thus, if the goal is to return to winning form in 2016-17, help will be available.

The question is: who are the best available trade options for a New York Knicks team that desperately needs to solidify its defense?

Feb 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) makes a point during the second half against the Milwaukee Bucks at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 121-117. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 3, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) makes a point during the second half against the Milwaukee Bucks at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 121-117. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets

Position: Guard/Forward
Age: 29 (5/10/1987)
Experience: 9th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .455/.348/.730
2016-17 Season Averages: 30.8 PPG, 15.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.5 3PM

New York Knicks fans are well aware of the defensive strengths of perimeter standout Wilson Chandler. He has the size, strength, and length to defend both wing positions, as well as power forwards in small-ball sets.

If the Knicks were to trade for Chandler, they could create a frontcourt of he at the 3, Carmelo Anthony at the 4, and Kristaps Porzingis at the 5.

Thankfully, the Nuggets are open to moving Chandler.

Standing at 6’8″ and 225 pounds with a long wingspan and a muscular frame, Chandler has the physical tools for elite defense. He’s defended at a high level for a vast majority of his career and projects to be even better on a team that lightens his workload as a scorer.

With the Knicks, Chandler would be able to play off the ball and focus more of his energy to defending the two wing positions and the 4.

Chandler played for the Knicks from 2007 to 2011 and thus understands the burden of playing in New York. He was on pace to help the Knicks make the playoffs in 2010-11 before he was dealt to the Denver Nuggets as a part of the infamous Carmelo Anthony trade.

Coupled with a team-friendly $12.4 million per season coming his way between 2017-18 and 2018-19, Chandler could be a game-changing addition.

Feb 3, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka (7) celebrates after scoring during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 3, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka (7) celebrates after scoring during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Serge Ibaka, Orlando Magic

Position: Power Forward
Age: 27 (9/18/1989)
Experience: 8th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .485/.387/.843
2016-17 Season Averages: 30.7 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.7 ORPG, 1.1 APG, 1.6 BPG, 1.5 3PM

Unrealistic? Perhaps, but the New York Knicks need defense, the Orlando Magic need offense, and neither side knows whether or not either Derrick Rose or Serge Ibaka will be willing to re-sign for a reasonable price in 2017.

If the Magic determine that a combination of Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic makes more sense, then dealing Ibaka for Rose and Lance Thomas could be ideal for both teams.

Ibaka being available undoubtedly improves the odds of such a trade occurring.

Acquiring Ibaka is a long-shot, but it would be the ultimate deal for the Knicks. Ibaka could play the 4 or the 5, thus anchoring the defense by protecting the rim and alleviating pressure from Kristaps Porzingis by defending stronger players in the post.

There may be a hurdle in the form of Ibaka and Porzingis’ rebounding woes, but it would be nearly impossible for teams to successfully drive the lane.

Ibaka could help on offense, as well, with a smooth midrange jump shot and range beyond the 3-point line. If given a fair number of touches on the offensive end of the floor, Ibaka would be able to provide a significant boost to New York’s defense.

If the Knicks are going to turn this season around, then the fastest way to do so would be to acquire Ibaka via a high-profile trade.

Jan 24, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) and head coach Tom Thibodeau against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Timberwolves defeated the Suns 112-111. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 24, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) and head coach Tom Thibodeau against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Timberwolves defeated the Suns 112-111. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

Position: Point Guard
Age: 26 (10/21/1990)
Experience: 6th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .389/.294/.868
2016-17 Season Averages: 31.9 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 8.3 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.8 SPG

The New York Knicks need a point guard who can facilitate the offense and defend at a high level. There aren’t many who fit the bill, but Ricky Rubio undoubtedly qualifies as one of the select few who provide elite proficiency in both regards.

If the Knicks can put together a package that Tom Thibodeau would agree to—and Derrick Rose could be a good starting point—then this trade could be mutually beneficial.

Fortunately, Rubio is available.

Rubio is a terrible shooter who struggles to convert from beyond the arc and is below the league average at the rim. That’s a terrifying reality that could prevent the Knicks from making a move to acquire the 26-year-old.

What Rubio brings to the table, however, is a combination of elite defense for his position and value that borders on the same as a facilitator.

Rubio has a career average of 8.3 assists per game in six NBA seasons, but that isn’t the full story. He’s one of the most gifted passers in the NBA and has the court vision to help plays develop before defenses can recognize them.

If the Knicks are looking for a player who can keep slashers out of the paint and create a better flow on offense, then Rubio is the perfect point guard to target.

Nov 30, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Hawks 109-107. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 30, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Hawks 109-107. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thabo Sefolosha, Atlanta Hawks

Position: Guard/Forward
Age: 32 (5/2/1984)
Experience: 11th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .457/.329/.772
2016-17 Season Averages: 25.8 MPG, 7.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.6 3PM

The Atlanta Hawks may be reluctant to trade Thabo Sefolosha without a significant return. If the Hawks prove willing to trade Sefolosha, however, he’d be the perfect player to help stabilize the New York Knicks’ erratic defense.

The Knicks need a player who can contain No. 1 perimeter scoring options and alleviate pressure from the offensive stars, and the available Sefolosha fits the bill.

Sefolosha is in his 11th NBA season, which is a testament to how valued he is around the NBA. He’s been to the playoffs on seven different occasions, starting 69 games during the postseason and playing in one NBA Finals and three different Conference Finals.

Sefolosha’s defensive proficiency is unquestioned—a strength that was validated by his performances in the playoffs.

For the Knicks, adding Sefolosha to the mix would be a great way to solidify the perimeter with a wing who can play lockdown defense against players at multiple positions. He has the size, length, lateral quickness, and physicality that New York has been lacking.

It may not be easy to trade for Sefolosha, but if Phil Jackson and Mike Budenholzer can come to terms, it would be wise to execute a deal.

Feb 10, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) reacts after making a three point basket against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns won 115-97. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 10, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) reacts after making a three point basket against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns won 115-97. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns

Position: Small Forward
Age: 31 (5/5/1985)
Experience: 6th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .416/.333/.787
2016-17 Season Averages: 28.7 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.6 ORPG, 1.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 3PM

It’s been rumored for quite some time that the New York Knicks are interested in Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker. Tucker was one of Jeff Hornacek’s best defensive players when the current Knicks coach held the same position in Phoenix, and has built upon that reputation in 2016-17.

Tucker is a rugged defender who plays a physical brand of basketball and provides a trait that New York has been missing: reliable energy.

Tucker stands at 6’6″ and 245 pounds, but he has a long wingspan and the strength to defend multiple positions. He can pick up shooting guards, small forwards, and power forwards, and defends all three positions at a high level.

Most importantly, he has a rare defensive edge to him that includes intriguing tenacity and overwhelming physicality that New York has been missing.

Hornacek and Tucker formed a close bond during their time together with the Suns. Thus, it stands to reason that the Knicks could acquire Tucker and provide him with a minimal learning curve due to his familiarity with the coach.

If New York is going to turn the season around, then it’s players like Tucker who will be needed to overcome what’s been an atrocious start to the season.

The New York Knicks don’t have the longest list of options, but these one of these five players could be the answer.

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