With both Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson preparing to hit free agency, the Knicks will need to prioritize acquiring a big man for the upcoming season. In fact, the team has several needs, at the 1, 3, and 5 spots.
However, the point guard market will be flush with talent, and acquiring a small forward could involve retaining Reggie Bullock or targeting options like Duncan Robinson or Kelly Oubre. The center position is a bit more conspicuous, as the better options involve trades and the free-agent market is slim-pickings.
Ideally, the Knicks can acquire a solid scoring center to complement Mitchell Robinson or even compete with him for starting minutes. While most are optimistic that Robinson can have a bounce back 2021-22 season, he has yet to take that big developmental leap we’ve expected. It is entirely possible that the injection of a top point guard will help him reach his potential, serving him lobs and finding him down low in the paint. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at a few options that could fit the bill to compete with Robinson or offer a reserve piece.
Three centers to consider this offseason to replace Nerlens Noel/Taj Gibson:
1.) Trade for Myles Turner
One of the more intriguing trade options at center is Myles Turner out of Indiana. The Knicks were connected to Indiana a few weeks ago regarding Turner, and with the presence of Domantes Sabonis, he could be on the trade block.
Turner averaged 12.6 points last season, including 6.5 total rebounds and career-high 3.4 blocks. Aside from offering double-digit points per game, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the NBA and was even offering value as a three-point shooter, hitting 33% over 4.4 attempts per game. The Knicks would likely have him refrain from shooting three-pointers, focusing on his abilities in the paint, and playing strong defensive basketball.
With Turner comes a four-year, $80 million deal he signed with the Pacers two seasons ago and is set to earn $17.5 million this upcoming year. He has two years remaining on his contract, so the Knicks would have to absorb that lofty price tag, which would undoubtedly put him in the conversation to be the starter. With Robinson in the final year of his rookie deal, the Knicks are looking to realize his potential, but having a strong front court with two above-average centers would play right into Tom Thibodeau’s style of hard-nosed ball.
2.) Sign shot-blocker Hassan Whiteside
If New York wants to settle for a cheaper option, Hassan Whiteside could be an alternative. The 7’0” center and nine-year NBA veteran averaged 8.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.3 shots blocked this past season with Sacramento. However, he is only two years removed from a 2.9 block rate per game with Portland. There’s no doubt he has a bit of value left to offer at 32 years old, and he would be a much cheaper option compared to Turner.
Whiteside signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal last season, and considering his production over 36 games, the Knicks could probably snag him at an even cheap price-point.
3.) DeMarcus Cousins
Another offensive center is DeMarcus Cousins, who spent time with Houston and Los Angeles last season, averaging 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and shot 42.6% from the field. He also posted a 35% clip from range over 3.3 attempts per game. His block rate was a dismal 0.6, indicating little defensive prowess. He signed a one-year, $335K deal with the Clippers after being released by Houston.
At 31 years old, there might be some value left to extract, but the Knicks likely don’t want to go down this route given his troubled past and inability to stick with any given team. A more suitable option would likely be Jarrett Allen of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs have the opportunity to match any offer sheet an alternative team submits, so the Knicks might be unwilling to play that game.
Do any of these options interest you or have alternative suggestions? Comment below!
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