According to recent reports, the New York Knicks (21-45) are interested in acquiring Oklahoma City Thunder’s All-Star veteran guard Chris Paul this year: they want him to propel them into building a winning culture for years to come.
Chris Paul spearheaded an unlikely OKC playoff run before the NBA’s suspension on March 12, as a result of coronavirus.
According to SNY’s Ian Begley, unnamed members of the Knicks organisation believe the 10-time All-Star point guard could have a similar effect on them:
Begley said: “I think there are still people with the Knicks who feel that bringing Chris Paul onto this roster at this time would jumpstart the franchise’s effort to build a winning culture, give these young players winning habits.”
He also noted the fact that New York’s new team president Leon Rose is Paul’s former agent. Rose was appointed on March 2, sparking rumours they might target him:
Last year, Rose was said to be intrigued by the possibility of Paul being offered to the Knicks – back when he was in Houston. He was traded alongside picks from the Rockets in a blockbuster move that summer, in exchange for Russell Westbrook last June.
OKC’s unlikely resurgence this season, powered by Paul
Despite OKC losing their two stars in Westbrook and Paul George (Clippers), they have been defiant in responding to many pre-season suggestions from critics that their offseason moves meant they were now in full rebuild mode.
Paul’s presence, experience and undeniable ability has helped get the best from Dennis Schroder, who was a frontrunner in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award race this term. He’s also proven himself to be an invaluable mentor for 21-year-old guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to learn from, having been traded from LA as part of the PG deal.
The statistics speak for themselves:
Paul is averaging 17.7 points, 6.8 assists and 4.6 rebs per game, with a 90% FT, 36% from deep and 48.9% total from the field – his best scoring average since the 2009-10 season.
OKC (40-24) were occupying fifth place in the Western Conference before play was suspended. In contrast, the Knicks have improved slightly after a league-worst 17-65 record in 18-19. They had 21 wins and 16 games remaining before the pandemic.
Assessing the Knicks’ core and possible trade scenarios
RJ Barrett (19), Kevin Knox II (20), Frank Ntilikina (21), Mitchell Robinson (22) and Julius Randle (25) make up their core group at present, but the Knicks have not made the playoffs since 2013 and been left frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to attract stars in free agency – namely Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last summer.
Begley explored two CP3-to-NYK scenarios, both of which would require plenty of work:
1: Knicks trade Reggie Bullock and Frank Ntilikina for Paul
From an OKC perspective, they’re not getting enough back for what they are giving up. Although they made it clear that Paul was available for the right offer, Ntilikina remains a work in progress after three NBA seasons.
They missed out on the likes of Donovan Mitchell (pick 13) and Bam Adebayo (pick 14), and it’s fair to say the Frenchman was an underwhelming selection.
Bullock meanwhile, is a shooter that hasn’t exactly been granted the freedom to thrive in a stable environment since showing impressive improvement numbers during the latter stages of his time in Detroit. That was three years ago now and at 29, he wouldn’t be in a position to command much more than an effective bench role if traded to Oklahoma.
2: Reggie Bullock, Kevin Knox for Paul
See the aforementioned for Bullock, who would be a useful backup addition to a team that lacks shooters.
Knox is equally a work in progress. He showed promising signs during his rookie year: averaging 12.8 points, 4.5 rebs and a respectable 34.5% from deep as a small forward with potential to grow – but stats have declined drastically in 19-20, along with his minutes per game after they acquired multiple players in his position. Worth the risk?
OKC’s current small forwards and their 2019-20 stats
Abdel Nader (26): 6 pts, 1.9 rebs, 37.1% from three-point range in 15 minutes per game
Darius Bazley (19): 4.5 pts, 3.7 rebs, 38.3% from the field in 17 MPG
Terrance Ferguson (21): 4.2 pts, 1.5 rebs, 37.2% FG total – all down from the previous year, albeit on three less minutes per game (now at 23 MPG)