Once upon a time, the New York Knicks surrendered three first-round draft picks to build a front-court around Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph. The plan was derided around the league, as teams were already beginning to trend smaller, but Isiah Thomas insisted that zigging while the rest of the league zagged was a wise idea. It wasn’t. That combination never made the playoffs. This was 13 years ago.
You would think that the Knicks would have learned their lesson in that time, but alas, this summer’s spending spree ended with the Knicks guaranteeing four separate power forwards nearly $80 million combined. Already in place were promising young center Mitchell Robinson, a former lottery pick in Kevin Knox best-suited to be playing power forward, and incoming No. 2 pick R.J. Barrett, who has had to slide all the way down the positional spectrum to shooting guard to accommodate his team’s deluge of big men. Amazingly, though, the Knicks don’t feel as though they have enough of them.
The Knicks recently inquired about Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond, according to Shams Charania of Stadium. Talks reportedly didn’t go far. The Pistons are apparently asking for one or two first-round picks along with expiring contracts as matching salary, but the price is hardly relevant from the Knicks’ perspective. The process that led to asking in the first place is. The Knicks looked at their broken roster, and if only for a second, thought the solution would be more size.
Size is the one thing that the Knicks have an abundance of. Putting aside their fleet of power forwards, Robinson has been arguably New York’s player this season. He is shooting 73 percent from the field and averaging nearly two blocks per game since David Fizdale was fired. He is one of the most athletically gifted big men in the league, is under contract for less than $4 million total over the next two years, and he in no way, shape or form fits with Drummond.
The Knicks could theoretically acquire Drummond and keep Robinson as a backup, but Drummond plays 34 minutes per game. That hardly gives Robinson much of a chance to shine. Neither has made a 3-pointer this year, and both take most of their shots near the rim, so playing them together wouldn’t work.
Considering their reported disinterest in giving away picks, there is only one realistic structure for a Drummond trade involving the Knicks: expiring salaries, which New York has a plethora of, and Robinson. No team in their right mind would give up a 21-year-old with over two years of team control at essentially a minimum salary for a similar player who is five years older making a near-max salary, especially one with a player-option at the end of the season, but then, who has ever accused the Knicks of being in their right mind?
All reports have indicated that Knicks owner James Dolan needs to see progress in order to bring team president Steve Mills back next season. While the initial returns under Mike Miller playing against lottery teams were promising, the Knicks have now lost five games in a row playing against playoff-caliber competition. Progress is likely to remain elusive with the Knicks set to play against five championship contenders in their next seven games. Given the already flawed nature of this roster, it is probably going to have to be manufactured.
Which is the crux of where this rumor likely comes from: desperation. Adding Drummond makes almost no sense in the context of this roster and the organization’s apparent long-term plans, but if Mills needs to win a few extra games to save his job, swapping Robinson for Drummond is a theoretical way to go about it. Whether Dolan allows Mills to mortgage the future of a franchise he may not work for in a few months is unclear, but Ian Begley of SNY reported that the Knicks are interested in adding a starter-level player.
Mills won’t go down without a fight. It’s not as if this would be the first move he’s ever made out of self-preservation. In the summer of 2017, he used the brief window following Phil Jackson’s departure but before David Griffin’s interview to replace him to sign Tim Hardaway Jr. to a much-maligned $72 million contract. That deal, and the apparent power it proved Mills still possessed within the organization, led to Griffin losing interest in the Knicks job, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic.
There is no good reason for the Knicks to trade for Drummond, but rarely are Knicks moves made for a good reason. Any trade for Drummond would be made for the benefit of the man running the Knicks rather than the Knicks themselves. At least adding Drummond would help the Knicks avoid the embarrassment of failing to sign a star free agent this summer. His new contract would take away the cap space they’d do it with in the first place.