There is a big reason Charlotte Hornets isn’t budging on moving Point Guard Kemba Walker and other valuable assets like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Dwight Howard to a new team in exchange for draft picks and younger players on cheaper contracts.
Despite lying 10th in the Eastern Conference standings and five games behind Philadelphia Sixers, who occupy the last playoff spot, Hornets are confident of making a serious push to make the postseason.
With 23 wins and 30 losses, Charlotte has largely underperformed this season and is staring at a second straight season without playoff games. Just ahead of them Detroit Pistons have doubled down on its playoff push by making the blockbuster deal to get Blake Griffin to the Motor City.
Like the Hornets, New York Knicks have harbored similar playoff aspirations since performing above pre season expectations which pegged them as one of the franchises to rank near the bottom of the standings at the end of the regular season.
With Jarrett Jack proving a capable Point Guard and mentor to Frank Ntilinkina and impressive production from Tim Hardaway Jnr. , Enes Kanter, Michael Beasely, Kyle O’Quinn and Courtney Lee, Knicks fan had hopes of making it beyond the regular season for the first time in six seasons. However, any chance of that happening depended heavily on Kristaps Porzingis who was entrusted with the team’s leadership following the exit of Carmelo Anthony.
On a personal level, the Unicorn did his best racking up 22.7 points and 7.1 rebounds earning All Star honors in the process. But his excellent season turned for the worse as he injured his knee tearing his Anterior Cruciate Ligament after landing awkwardly following a dunk. The Latvia international’s season is done and he is expected to miss time till January 2019 which complicates Knicks future.
You really have to feel for Lebron James at this moment because aside being tasked with pulling his struggling Cleveland Cavaliers side out of a terrible run, he has to deal with an injury ravaged roster for the All Star Game. His picks for the highly anticipated exhibition game, John Wall, Kevin Love and DeMarcus Cousins have been ruled out of the game due to varied but lengthy injuries.
Missing out on its sole representative in Los Angeles for the game is the least of New York’s concerns as management has to switch off any attempts to lure players to facilitate a postseason push. Rather it has to concentrate its efforts on getting the best returns on selling off its best performers available. Without Porzingis, New York is bound to lose a lot of games for the remaining months which is a good thing since the Knicks stand a good chance of landing another exciting prospect in the NBA Draft. Landing a lottery pick is far from enough to get the Knicks back to relevance the way Boston Celtics have.
Getting more picks or young impact players on longer contracts is the way forward for the team. To land such players and picks, New York is primed for a series of big sales. For starters, Kanter’s production-14.1 points and 10.6 rebounds are needed on a contending team’s bench like Washington Wizards. Kanter is very likely to activate his $18 million player option in his contract next season; something a rebuilding side like New York is looking to avoid. However, his salary and production makes him a far better option than Ian Mahinmi who is averaging 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds on a $16 million salary.
Next on the list is veteran sharp shooter Courtney Lee who is having his best season; as a highly rated three point shooting and top defensive wing, the former Orlando Magic man’s 13.3 points and $12 million salary is desired by a host of teams which should include LeBron’s Cavaliers. Despite playing 14 minutes per game this season, Kyle O’Quinn has made up for it with his healthy production and strong defense to make him valuable to defending NBA Champions Golden State Warriors. O’Quinn holds a $4 million player option for next season which he plans to decline and renegotiate a new bumper deal.
Having a veteran player on a long and big deal is contrary to team plans and compromises future salary cap space for Porzingis. Almost on the brink of fizzling out of the league, Beasely has delivered on his “I am a walking bucket” statement averaging 12.4 points and 5.1 rebounds on a $1.5 million veteran’s salary. There was talk of landing a pick from San Antonio Spurs in exchange for his service earlier in the season. Moving ther aforementioned players for future building blocks is prudent while allowing youngsters on its roster like Willy Hernangomez and Ntilikina to grow their game. In effect, the Knicks have little option than bottom out this campaign for a brighter one.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter