Kyle O’Quinn Could be Odd Man Out in Crowded Knicks Frontcourt

The Knicks finally dealt Carmelo Anthony on the eve of training camp after an entire summer’s worth of trade rumors. They agreed to deal Anthony to Oklahoma City for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and the Bulls’ 2018 second round pick.  

The deal was in line with the organization’s goals of getting younger and adding a pick in any deal for Carmelo.  Kanter and McDermott are 25 and the 2nd round pick should be at the very top of the 2nd round.  Not ideal, but an acceptable return given the circumstances and their limited trade partners.  

The Knicks are now younger and look fully committed to a long term rebuild centered around Kristaps Porzingis.  While taking a long term approach gives them time to assemble a competitive team there remains work to be done at present.  

Kanter was a necessary piece to make the deal work, but he adds to an already crowded frontcourt.  Porzingis is certain to play at least 33 minutes per game, his average last season.  That leaves 63 frontcourt minutes at the 4 and 5 to divvy up among Willy Hernangomez, Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn and Joakim Noah.

Noah will miss the first 13 games of the season through a suspension for using a banned substance.  That only provides a temporary reprieve though.  The fact is with only so many minutes available the Knicks must make a move to balance the roster.

On the surface it would seem O’Quinn is the odd man out

Noah’s bloated contract, injury history and declining performance make him untradeable at present.  

Kanter is a useful player off the bench.  Unfortunately his scoring ability and offensive rebounding are equalled only by his awful defense.  At $20.5 million this year and a player option for $18.6 million to follow, it’ll be very difficult to move him.  

Hernangomez has been touted as a key member of their young core by the Knicks front office.  He came on strong the 2nd half of last season as he received more minutes and finished with a flourish.  He’s likely to get at least 25 minutes per game this year, or at least he should.  His status as Porzingis’ best friend doesn’t hurt either.  Neither does the fact he’s making just $4 million over the next 3 years.

O’Quinn isn’t a part of the young core and his salary is very much in line with his level of play.  That makes him an ideal trade candidate to alleviate the logjam.    

O’Quinn’s an excellent offensive rebounder with range on his jumper out to 18 feet.  He’s also a defensive presence at the rim.  Though he has issues in his decision making and is a strictly ground bound athlete, he’s certainly a capable rotation big.

Also of consequence, O’Quinn is under contract this season for just $4.1 million.  He has a player option worth $4.3 million for next year, which it seems likely he’ll opt out of.  At 27 years old he’s entering his prime years.  For a team needing to bolster their frontcourt entering the season on the cheap he would be a viable option.

What would the Knicks want for him?

They could use an upgrade at small forward after Carmelo’s departure.  Currently their options are Doug McDermott, Michael Beasley, Lance Thomas and Mindaugas Kuzminskas.  Trading bigs for wings is very difficult now in the league as wings have become a high priority position.

Now fully immersed in a rebuild the Knicks could prefer to deal O’Quinn for a future draft pick.  It’s unlikely they could get a first round pick from anybody given the tepid market for bigs.  Still, a second round pick or two is nothing to sneeze at for a team without control of it’s own second round selection until 2021.  

For O’Quinn, a native New Yorker well liked in the locker room, leaving would be difficult.  However, it would be the best for him as he enters into a contract year.  Minutes in the Knicks frontcourt will be hard to come by which could be detrimental to his chances of cashing in.  He’ll be 28 at the end of the season and this may be his best opportunity to secure his financial future.   

The Knicks enter this season free of any real expectations, but they must be proactive in building for the future.  O’Quinn has been a solid value signing for the team, but in the aftermath of the Anthony trade he’s the most tradeable piece in a crowded frontcourt.  It would be mutually beneficial for the Knicks and O’Quinn to move him elsewhere with more minutes available before the start of the season.

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