Thunder receives: Julius Randle, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, 2023 first-round pick (via Dallas)
Knicks receive: Chris Paul, Hamidou Diallo
Why it makes sense for the Thunder
The Thunder can acquire three former top-10 picks while not taking back any onerous contracts.
Knox is the most intriguing player in the deal despite a terribly inefficient first two seasons. Of the 259 players who appeared in at least 50 games this season, Knox ranked 255th in true shooting percentage. He shot 35.9% overall and 32.7% from behind the arc.
The good news is that Knox just turned 21, and he has the tools and size (6-foot-7) to improve. Knox was a former 5-star prospect coming out of high school, and he was the leading scorer on a Kentucky team that also featured Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo.
Ntilikina, like Knox, might benefit from a change of scenery and system. The third-year point guard might never grow into an above average offensive player, but Ntilikina already has elite defensive skills, and he’s only 22.
Randle needs to be included to make the money work. He’s New York’s highest-paid player, and is due $18.9 million next season. He’s owed $19.8 million in 2021-22, but only $4 million is guaranteed.
Randle averaged 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his first season with the Knicks, but his shooting percentage (46%) was down from his career average (49.3%). Randle was forced to be the primary option on a bad Knicks team, but he’s better suited as a complementary piece.
Randle, entering his age 26 season, most likely wouldn’t be a long-term investment for the Thunder. He could eventually be flipped for another asset.
Sam Presti might ask for a first-rounder to sweeten the deal, but the Knicks shouldn’t part with a valuable pick. New York’s 2023 first-round pick from Dallas might be a good compromise. It’s likely to fall in the mid to late 20s.
Why it makes sense for the Knicks
Paul has been rumored to the Knicks ever since Leon Rose, Paul’s former agent, was named team president in March.
Entering his age 35 season, Paul might not want to lead a rebuild, but there’s still the allure of New York and Madison Square Garden, and Paul’s relationship with Rose makes it a natural landing place.
The Knicks can easily absorb Paul’s contract given their clean cap sheet for the next several seasons, and Paul would provide immediate stability to a flailing franchise.
Much like Paul mentored Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley, he could do the same for young Knicks cornerstones R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson.
To soften the blow of losing young pieces like Knox and Ntilikina, the Knicks could ask for 22-year-old Hamidou Diallo. The athletic wing is still raw offensively, but Diallo is ready to help on defense. He’s a perfect fit for the Knicks having grown up in Queens.
I don’t want to trade a draft pick for Paul period, but I can’t say that this is an otherwise absurd trade idea. Mussatto is obviously closer to an actual trade idea than most.