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Knicks seem out of the running on intriguing trade candidate | Sporting News



Knicks seem out of the running on intriguing trade candidate | Sporting News

The New York Knicks have a hole at backup center following the free agency departure of Isaiah Hartenstein.

The Knicks still have tools to work with, like the $5.2 million taxpayer mid-level exception, but the pool of worthwhile free agents is dwindling.

It also appears that if they opt to trade for a backup center, one intriguing candidate is off the table.

The Knicks are reportedly interested in Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler. The third-year big man is one of the NBA’s elite rim protectors and an efficient finisher around the rim. Kessler was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2022-23, but his numbers stagnated last season.

Though Kessler would be an excellent fit with Tom Thibodeau’s defense, the price to land him might be too much.

According to SNY’s Ian Begley, the Jazz have reportedly turned down trade offers involving two first-round picks for Kessler. As Begley noted, it’s unclear the exact value of those picks — what team was offering them, how many years out they were, or any protections on the picks. But it still gives a baseline for what a trade for Kessler might take.

That price seemingly takes the Knicks out of contention. Following the Mikal Bridges trade, the Knicks are extremely limited in what they can offer teams in first-round picks. The Knicks cannot trade any of their own first-round picks for the next seven years. They do a own a top-10-protected 2025 pick from the Washington Wizards and a top-13-protected 2025 pick from the Detroit Pistons. They Knicks can also offer pick swaps in 2026 and 2030 (they gave the Nets a pick swap in 2028).

Given that the Wizards and Pistons picks seem unlikely to convey this year, it’s hard to imagine that the Knicks would have the assets to beat other teams.

New York could attempt to sweeten the deal by including reserve guard Miles McBride, but the Knicks previously were not interested in trading McBride. The 23-year-old is a valuable defender and shooter on a very team-friendly contract (3 years, $13 million).

The Knicks could also wait until the season gets underway and some of this year’s draft picks, like Pacome Dadiet or Tyler Kolek, become trade-eligible. If Kessler does not greatly improve as the season begins, perhaps the price for a trade would go down.

For now, however, it seems the Knicks will have to turn their attention elsewhere to fill out their center depth.

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