What can NY do to seriously contend? Are Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin available?

Jan 4, 2023;  Chicago, Illinois, USA;  Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) reacts after scoring in the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at United Center.

Jan 4, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) reacts after scoring in the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at United Center. / Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

SNY’s Ian Begley will be responding to and breaking down answers to Knicks questions from readers. Here’s the latest…

Is there anything the Knicks could do this season to REALLY contend? Trade or otherwise? — @sportsnut916

At the risk of ending up on @OldTakesExposed, I’ll say that there is nothing the Knicks can do this year to contend for an NBA title. I’ll also say that there is nothing they can do to contend for an Eastern Conference title this year.

That may be disappointing or embarrassing to some Knick fans. Some fans may see the current state of the team as another shortcoming to add to the looong list of franchise shortcomings over the past two decades.

For what it’s worth, I don’t see it that way. As an objective observer, I think it’s OK that the Knicks have no path to contention this season.

I say that because of the trajectory of the Leon Rose was.

In Rose’s first full season, the Tom Thibodeau-Coached Knicks surprised the NBA, finishing 10 games over .500 and in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

They failed to maintain that standard in 2021-22, backsliding to an 11th place finish in the conference.

As previously noted, last offseason — culminating in the Jalen Brunson signing — was a make-or-break period for Rose and his group.

The Brunson signing had to yield a tangible improvement. If it didn’t, James Dolan would take a hard look at Rose, Thibodeau and the entire organization.

So far, the Brunson signing has paid strong dividends. The Knicks look competent. It seems like they are on pace to take a tangible step forward this season.

If they continue on that path, I think the current regime will remain in place. I don’t think Rose and Co. will feel mounting pressure to make a big trade at the deadline.

So they won’t have to put all their chips in on a big-name player like Zach LaVine (more on that below).

Even if they traded for LaVine, would that lead them on the path to title contention? Reasonable people can disagree on that.

What other move is out there that would put the Knicks in title contention? Trading for LeBron James? Anthony Davis? Trae Young? Trades of that magnitude usually happen in the offseason.

That’s why I don’t think there is a move that can vault the Knicks into contention this season. And, objectively, I think it’s OK that they aren’t one big trade away from contention.

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) drives to the basket as New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) defends during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden.

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) drives to the basket as New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) defends during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. / John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Realistic trade targets for the Knicks? — @DarkSteve590

Let’s start with LaVine. The first domino to fall here will be the Chicago Bulls seriously considering trading LaVine. They may already be doing so. But I haven’t heard – or read any credible reports – that they are open to moving him.

The Knicks, as previously noted, will have the draft capital to put together a strong package for LaVine. And the club, under Rose, was monitoring LaVine’s situation in Chicago dating back to the 2020 offseason.

But the sense I get now is that any trade for LaVine will be framed in the same way that the Donovan Mitchell talks were framed: Do we have enough left on the roster to contend? Just as there were in the Mitchell talks, I’m sure there will be varied opinions internally from the Knicks on potential LaVine trades. But I can confidently say that there will be people involved in the process who are unsure if acquiring LaVine puts the Knicks into the upper echelon of the East.

We talked about other trade targets in our video mailbag, including Justin Holiday, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley in Utah and others. Would any of these players – or others who may be available – improve the Knicks’ current rotation if you factor in what you’d have to give up to get them?

QUICK HITTERS

Ian, all things being equal – do you think in the pursuit of a major trade the FO would rather include more ready young players and hold on to picks, or use their picks and hold on to young players? — @CAPTAINPEARLNYK

picks. But you have to factor in the extensions for Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. Both are extension-eligible this summer. The Knicks had taken calls on Quickley earlier in the season, as SNY reported. In talking to teams over the past few days, the sense I get is the Knicks are not actively seeking offers on Quickley. They are not looking to gauge the market for him. Now, no Knick is untouchable in trades. So I don’t think the Knicks would hang up the phone if another team made a significant offer for Quickley or any other player. But I don’t think the Knicks are as open to having trade conversations about Quickley at this point as they were earlier in the season. That’s based on what teams in touch with them of late have said.

Why is Cam Reddish a DNP and not being utilized off the bench? He can provide offense and allow the starters to rest instead of rushing them back in the game. This reeks of stubbornness — @hopefulmetsfan

Games like the overtime loss against the Mavericks in Dallas last month make me scratch my head on this one. I can’t figure it out. Strange process all around with Reddish and the Knicks.

When everyone is healthy, is it possible Fournier has earned himself a role back in the rotation? @Prod_WWB

Don’t see that happening. I’d assume Evan Fournier is out of the rotation once everyone returns.

Hey Ian, do the Knicks have any plans to bring over Rokas Jokubaitis, or do they see him as more than an asset to be used in a trade? — @Kivi015

I think they wanted him to play last summer in Summer League before he got hurt. So I assume they’ll want him to play this summer in Las Vegas.

Hi Ian. Who is more likely to get traded by the deadline or on draft night, Ayton or Embiid? Who would the Knicks target? — @TheBronxPulse

I think Deandre Ayton is more likely in season. With Joel Embiid, it depends on how the Sixers do this season. If they fall short of expectations, I’m sure every team in the league – Knicks included – will be monitoring the situation with respect to Embiid, James Harden and the Sixers. If I had to pick between Ayton and Embiid as a Knicks target, I’d take Embiid.

Who gets dropped from the rotation now that RJ and Obi are ready to go? — @2lowtech

I think it will be based on performance. Isaiah Hartenstein struggled in his minutes against Milwaukee on Monday. If lineups don’t perform well while he’s out there, I assume Thibodeau would consider going to Jericho Sims.

Ian… any rumblings of any kind of trade? How serious is the Obi Toppin talks? — @KNICKSFAN4REAL

I haven’t heard anything specific about talks on Toppin. I’m sure teams aware of the Quickley-Toppin dynamic with regard to their future extensions are keeping an eye on Toppin ahead of the deadline. The Knicks have to operate at some point on the assumption that they are either comfortable extending both players or not. If they aren’t comfortable extending both players, I assume they will look to move one of them.

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