The New York Knicks will enter the 2018-19 NBA season hoping to take advantage of LeBron James departing to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Eastern Conference is wide open but teams are making their push to claim that open spot for the playoffs. Do I think the Cleveland Cavaliers will make it? No. What this does is open the window for the Knicks. While Kristaps Porzingis is labeled the leader, the season will fall on the shoulders of Enes Kanter and Trey Burke.
If the Knicks are to climb their way from the bottom of the conference, they will need to play inspired team ball. But what happens if they should continue to collapse? This is where Kanter and Burke will play a huge role in the Knicks’ future.
With both players set to become free agents in the summer of 2019, the Knicks could find themselves on the other end of a few phone calls. With Kanter, the Knicks will look to him to provide a steady force in the paint. The timetable for the return of Porzingis is still up in the air coming back from an ACL injury suffered in February, and that means that Kanter will have a great opportunity to showcase his skills on a level he’s never done in the NBA.
During his stint with the Utah Jazz, Kanter averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game while shooting .501 percent from the floor. The issue that he had in Utah was minutes. As a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kanter was teamed with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant but never materialized than more than an afterthought thanks to Steven Adams. In his three seasons with the Thunder, Kanter averaged 14.2 points and 8.0 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per game while shooting .562 percent from the floor.
Now, in New York, Kanter had the chance for growth. Playing for a team in search of his toughness and touch around the basket, he seemed to be the perfect complement to the finesse style of Porzingis. However, then-head coach Jeff Hornacek never quite gave Enes Kanter the chance he needed. While he did finish the 2017-18 season with averages of 14.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and shot .592 percent while playing 25.8 minutes per game, Kanter wants more.
On the other side of the coin for the New York Knicks is Trey Burke. While Burke’s career and Kanter’s has never crossed paths before, they both had a redemption year for the Knicks. Burke started his career on a high note with the Utah Jazz then became the backup for John Wall in Washington before heading to the G-League and torching them for 25 points per game.
With the Knicks struggling at the PG position last season, calling Burke up was their best idea. In 2017-18, Burke averaged 12.8 points and 4.7 assists per game in 36 games for the Knicks. With the team still loaded at the PG position with Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay, new coach David Fizdale would be wise to start Burke at the point. But will he?
What the Knicks need is a playmaker at the lead spot who can get Kanter and Porzingis the ball in their sweet spots. Burke, not known in his early years as a floor general, was second only to Jarrett Jack in assists. If given a full season, there’s no telling how valuable Burke could be.
Should The Knicks Trade Trey Burke and Enes Kanter?
If the team does struggle, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke could be moved for draft picks or serviceable players by the trade deadline.
What Fizdale has to come to terms with is production and money. Kanter will make $17.5 million this year and will be in the market for a max deal at the end of the season. The Knicks could find themselves in a bit of trouble if the rumors are true, then the Knicks will try for some big-name players this coming summer. Plus, they still have the free agent contract of Porzingis to worry about.
If the Knicks feel they can’t re-sign Kanter to a cheaper, team-friendly deal, then moving him is their only option. They will be foolish to watch him walk away for nothing. They might as well dangle him out there and see who bites. The Knicks could possibly end up with a first or high second round pick for him.
The same goes for Burke. If he is given quality minutes and produces at the same clip he did last season, then the Knicks should expect his agent to have his hands out. While most NBA teams are stacked at PG, a team like the Phoenix Suns could be a wise trade partner.
This is the season where the Knicks’ future for the next 5-10 years begins. If they win, then they could be a great attraction for free agents. If it all begins to fall apart by the All-Star break, then moves will have to be made and the rebuild will be extended a few more seasons.