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Knicks Trading For Andre Drummond Feels Like a Step Backwards

Liam McKeone
Andre Drummond lays it in against the Knicks
Andre Drummond lays it in against the Knicks / Jason Miller/Getty Images
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Andre Drummond's quasi-exile from basketball will come to an end one way or the other over the next 24 hours. Over a month ago, reports leaked that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be holding Drummond out of future contests and using that time instead to see if they can find a trade partner for the big man. That has proven to be extremely difficult for one primary reason: Drummond has a $28 million expiring contract that has to be matched in any potential transaction. Most players with anywhere near that salary number are far too valuable to give up in exchange for Drummond.

Cleveland's transparent desire to get rid of Drummond plays against them in that regard as well; any suitor with the motivation to cobble the salary together to make a trade knows the Cavs are probably just going to buy him out if they can't find a trade, so waiting until then is a low-risk move. Unless, of course, a certain team wants Drummond so badly they're willing to get flexible with the trade machine and go the distance to make sure nobody else can get Drummond. A team like the New York Knicks.

The Knicks have been linked to Drummond on and off over the last two years. They've been quiet on that front over the last few weeks until last night, when The Ringer's Kevin O'Conner reported New York has emerged as a "serious potential destination" in Drummond trade talks.

In one regard, the Knicks make perfect sense as a landing spot because they have one substantial advantage that other teams do not: cap space. New York currently has $15 million in open cap space that can be used to absorb Drummond's sizable salary. That means they'd only need to send the equivalent of $13.7 million back to Cleveland to trade for Drummond, which is far easier than cobbling together five different contracts to get up to $28 million. In theory, all the Knicks would have to do is trade Nerlens Noel, Austin Rivers, and Frank Ntilikina to make the deal work money-wise. The Cavs would want some kind of draft compensation as well, so let's say the Knicks throw in the Clippers' 2021 second-round pick they own.

Noel and Rivers are fine players but aren't part of the big picture and Ntilikina is a wash of a former first-round pick at this point. Any possible trade would not be something straight out of the bad Knicks days, where they gave up first-round picks for marginal players in a desperate attempt to make a playoff push. This front office (so far, anyway) has proven to be smarter than any previous iteration over the last decade. They aren't going to overpay for Drummond just for the privilege of out-bidding other teams.

But should the Knicks pony up assets now (as minimal as they may be), it means they like Drummond enough to get ahead of his upcoming free agency. It points to a strong likelihood that the Knicks would sign Drummond to an extension after trading for him. It isn't a certainty, but while none of the three players they'd give up in this hypothetical are a part of the long-term core, Noel and Rivers are both important cogs in the franchise's current surprising playoff push. Giving them up to rent Drummond for two months then letting him walk doesn't line up. Based on that, it's reasonable to assume the Knicks are interested in acquiring Drummond and then paying him to stick around for a few years.

That feels like a step backwards for an organization finally taking a step forward after many years of incompetency and blown lottery picks. Drummond is an all-time great rebounder. That's the only thing he does truly well. As laid out in a previous article about Drummond's value to the Los Angeles Lakers, Drummond is almost mind-blowingly terrible in the pick-and-roll and tops out as an average rim protector. Anyone who has watched the big man play in the last 18 months would note he also has a terrible case of tunnel vision and will go rogue to post up and brick a hook shot at least four or five times a game.

Now, Drummond has also never played for a coach like Tom Thibodeau. I'm sure Thibs can get him in line and focus on playing winning basketball to some extent. Drummond wouldn't necessarily be bad for the Knicks. But he just doesn't fit. New York already has their big man of the future in Mitchell Robinson. They aren't going to pay Drummond to have him come off the bench. Taking minutes from a young, exciting center and giving them to a player who might add two or three wins down the stretch is the kind of short-sighted move the Knicks were notorious for during the 2010s.

Drummond is a fine player and the Knicks have a legitimate shot at the postseason for the first time since Carmelo Anthony suited up in the Garden. New York isn't going to overpay for Drummond in either the trade or the subsequent contract negotiations. At best, though, it's a lateral move. At worst, it's detrimental to the team's momentum that has been years in the making.

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