Mere days ago, Willy Hernangomez was rumored to be more available on the trade block than fellow center Kyle O’Quinn, but with one of the most precious left knees in all of New York suffering a torn ACL on Tuesday evening versus the Bucks, the Knicks future changed in an instant — and likely their priorities, too.
Although New York looked to be a longshot to squeeze into the 2018 playoffs, they already possessed a bonafide star in Kristaps Porzingis, so longer rebuilding plans were never a part of the equation. With a realistic recovery timeline of around one year, though, the need to appease New York’s unicorn and boisterous fans alike with a greater win-now mentality have gone by the wayside.
For instance, the idea of attaching a first round pick to Joakim Noah’s contract makes little to no sense anymore — despite the friction between the disgruntled player and Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. With Porzingis unavailable for the rest of this season and likely a good chunk of the following campaign, New Yorks’ 2018 and 2019 first round picks are suddenly much more valuable. Furthermore, who cares about dead weight on a roster if a team isn’t heading to the next two postseasons?
Honestly, for the ownership group in New York, it should be all about the 2019-20 season and beyond. Porzingis is expected to be back healthy and ready to play a whole season at that time while Enes Kanter and Lance Thomas (partial guarantee in final year of his contract) will/can be off the books and Noah and Courtney Lee will be expiring contracts.
As for how this whole situation applies to the New Orleans Pelicans, it’s simple. O’Quinn, who is likely to opt out of his player option for next season, currently has value around the league. Although dealing Hernangomez is expected to net a nicer return, the Knicks have time to further cultivate his value or better gauge his place among their core. With O’Quinn, the Knicks are looking at a 27-year-old who should get a significant pay raise this summer. Their focus shouldn’t be on bringing him back, but looking at the next crop of talent to develop — something more synonymous with Porzingis’ timeline.
The Pelicans could offer a package involving Alexis Ajinca and a future second round pick, or possibly two as Kevin surmised over a week ago.
I LOVE Kyle O’Quinn. I believe he is the best third big man the Pelicans could reasonably get. He does everything you want — defends, rebounds, sets screens, has decent range on his jumper, plays well in the post and most importantly — he’s one of the best passing bigs in the league. Check his assist percentage numbers over the years — he’s consistently creative with the basketball. His salary is just under Ajinca’s this season providing a very playable big man and some slight breathing room at the hard cap for potential buyout candidates and 10-day contracts. He has a player option next season, which I’d think he’d decline, but stranger things have happened. 2 seconds and some cash could get this done.
Ajinca can become another expiring for New York next season, but they would also derive benefit from landing a future asset or two. If other interested playoff teams for O’Quinn’ services are offering only second round picks, New Orleans proposal would be among the stronger ones.
The Pelicans could use some good fortune for a change, and Anthony Davis a break from logging so many minutes at the five since DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season. Yeah, Kyle O’Quinn could solve a lot of problems around here.