By John Schmeelk
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The Suns are shopping point guard Eric Bledsoe, and numerous reports say the Suns and Knicks have touched base about whether they could work out a mutually beneficial trade. Knicks general manger Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills were doing their due diligence, but early indications are that nothing is going to happen because the Suns are asking for Frank Ntilikina and/or Willy Hernangomez.
Sometimes trades don’t happen for sound logical reasons, and this is one of them. Even though it’s difficult to look at trades this way, the Knicks are in a place where the age and contract terms of players involved in any potential trade are far more important than the skill level of the players who could be moving back and forth.
Bledsoe is a better player than Hernangomez and will likely always be. If Ntilikina becomes as good as Eric Bledsoe, the Knicks would sign up for that right now. It would still be foolish for New York to trade either for Bledsoe. Age isn’t the problem. Bledsoe will turn 28 in December. He is also on a reasonable contract with an average annual salary of $14.75 million.
The problem is that he only has two years left on his deal. Ntilikina is under contract for five more years, with the Knicks having a huge advantage of retaining him after his rookie year, while Hernangomez has three years remaining on his contract on similarly favorable terms. Those years matter.
The Knicks are stuck where they are the next two seasons. They won’t have cap space next summer, and they don’t have the roster flexibility to make any sort of additions to become a serious playoff contender. Adding Bledsoe the next two years would only bring their win totals into the low or mid 30s and hurt their eventual draft position. The trade would actually hurt the long-term future of the franchise. Bledsoe could then leave in the summer of 2019 and the Knicks could get nothing in return.
For the pleasure of hurting their future, the Knicks would have to give up a talented young player on a rookie contract. The trade just doesn’t make sense. Both the Knicks and Suns are in full rebuilding mode and are seeking the same types of players (on rookie contracts), making the chances of them sealing a deal very unlikely.
If the Knicks brass is that enamored with Bledsoe, they can acquire him as a free agent in the 2019. Having him on the team for the next two seasons just doesn’t make any sense given the current state of the Knicks.
This year is going to be ugly, and Knicks fans are going to have to deal with it. They will be rewarded with an excellent draft pick in June that can get them where they need to go. They’ve lost for a long time, and one or two more years are worth sacrificing if it means an improved chance of becoming a true contender. Trading for Bledsoe would do the exact opposite.
• Kristaps Porzingis will have the type of game he had against the Celtics sometimes. His shooting was poor, but there should be just as much blame placed on the Knicks’ dysfunctional offense. He was forced to play in isolation situations where he still struggles against physical defenders like the Celtics have. The Knicks did little to free him up off the ball with screens or find him easy shots.
• Tim Hardaway Jr. has had as bad of a start as you can imagine, but his shooting should eventually come around. A bigger worry for Knicks fans should be his continuing struggles on defense, his lack of rebounding and his awful passing. He needs to develop his all-around game to make the Knicks not regret giving him his four-year, $71 million contract.
• The Knicks need Ntilikina desperately. Yes, they need to develop him, but they might need his skill even more. Point guards Ramon Sessions and Jarret Jack are doing their best, but they don’t have the playmaking ability to get easy shots for their teammates (or defend). Perhaps once he gets used to the NBA game, Ntilikina can help in that department and make everyone else on the team better. The rookie, who has been battling an ankle injury, is expected to play Friday against the Nets, coach Jeff Hornacek said.
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