Buried beneath the Kyrie Irving saga that took over the Knicks‘ news cycle Monday was another report from The Athletic‘s Shams Charania about a point guard New York could try to acquire. The Indian Pacers are “seriously discussing” Malcolm Brogdon trades, Charania writesand the Knicks are interested, sources told him.
When Brogdon plays, he’s a formidable starting point guard, the type the Knicks are after, considering whenever anyone who fits that description becomes available, New York pops up in the discussion. The problem is he often doesn’t play. Brogdon was hurt for most of the last season, playing only 36 games. He’s topped 56 games only once since his rookie season in 2016-17. He has three years and about $68 million remaining on his contract after signing an extension in October.
Despite his injury history, it might take a legitimate first-round pick to pry him away from Indiana. If the Knicks want Brogdon badly enough (and to be clear, there’s no indication they do; we’re just talking front-office theory right now), it could take the 11th pick to get something done.
Even if Brogdon’s injury history scares off some teams, the 29-year-old is under contract for long enough that the Pacers don’t have to deal him now. They could hold onto him, wait until he has a healthy season, which will likely happen at some point, and potentially flip him for a first-rounder then.
Brogdon has efficient campaigns on his résumé. He’s been a 20-point scorer over the past two seasons. His salary isn’t as gaudy once you start rattling off what other point guards make. He’s due for $22.6 million in 2022-23, which will make him the NBA‘s 16th-highest-paid point guard. The Pacers have time to play the waiting game, which means if you want him today, then you have to give up something of value.
Indiana will likely reference other role-playing guards who have commanded considerable hauls in return, too. For example, the Derrick White trade netted the Spurs A first-round pick and a first-round swap back in February, and Brogdon is higher in the NBA guard hierarchy than White.
It’s possible a trade goes down at the NBA Draft on Thursday when the Knicks have the 11th and 42nd picks. Maybe New York gets in on a deal, or maybe Brogdon is involved in one elsewhere.
Here are some other thoughts leading into the draft:
At least eight candidates for the No. 11 pick have conducted in-person workouts with the Knicks. Based on players the team announced, public information, social media updates and sources, the list includes the G League Ignite’s Dyson Daniels, LSU’s Tari Eason, Ohio State’s Malaki Branham, Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji and Kentucky’s TyTy Washington. The G League Ignite’s MarJon Beauchamp as well as Duke’s AJ Griffin and Mark Williams came for solo workouts.
Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis said he did not work out for the Knicks, though he interviewed with them at the combine in May. The Knicks also interviewed Iowa’s Keegan Murray at the combine.
Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, who could go as high as fourth Thursday night, said he worked out only for the Pistonswho have the fifth pick, and Magic, who have the first. He did not work out for the Kingswho are slotted fourth but could trade the pick.
“There are situations where I can go to New York,” Ivey told reporters Monday on a Zoom news conference.
Perfect timing. Why not stir up some drama?
Alone vs. the group
Players don’t choose who they go up against during pre-draft workouts that teams host, but they do have a say in the format. Certain players will work out only by themselves, hoping to crush the one-on-zero drills and impress during interviews.
A projected high pick might go with the latter strategy. After all, he’s less likely to look bad if there’s no one there to outperform him.
TyTy Washington, however, went in the other direction. Washington projects to go somewhere in the teens Thursday night. The Knicks, meanwhile, brought him in June 6 for a workout that included two other possibilities for them at No. 11; Branham and Daniels were there, too.
“Basketball is never one-on-zero,” Washington said. “It’s like you can go out there and be the best one-on-zero player, but how can you play with other people when someone’s defending you? If I have an opportunity to work out against people like myself, whatever is best for me.”
Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe remains such a mystery that even the quality of his predraft workouts is inconclusive. Rumors have circulated about Sharpe’s inconsistent workouts. But on Monday, The Athletic‘s Seth Davis published a story that allowed scouts to give their unfiltered thoughts on many of the top soon-to-be draftees, including Sharpe.
“If you watched his pro day, you’d think he was top three,” the scout said. “He didn’t miss, and he took some tough shots. I love his size, I love his athleticism.”
Sharpe went to Kentucky last season but redshirted for his freshman year and then entered the draft. There was a time when people considered him a top-five pick. It’s still possible, but it sounds like his draft range has widened, enough so that we can speculate on if he’ll be around when the Knicks pick at No. 11.
The argument to take him high, even if he hasn’t played in a competitive setting since high school, hinges in part on his pre-collegiate reputation. Sharpe was the No. 1-ranked recruit in the 2022 high school class before he reclassified to 2021 so he could go to Kentucky with the plan to sit for the season.
“Somebody will pick him up high because he was the No. 1 player in his class,” the scout told Davis. “You can look at the history of those guys, and very few of them have failed.”
That’s common logic, and it’s hardly controversial to say that someone great at basketball at every level he’s played is more likely to be great at basketball once he gets to the NBA. But let’s look at the history.
Here is the No. 1 high school player, according to the well-respected recruiting site Rivals.com, from each graduating class dating back 15 years.
Top-Ranked High School Recruits
Only two of those players, John Wall and Andrew Wigginshave made All-Star teams (though some of the younger guys, like Cade Cunningham and RJ Barrett, could get there). Six of the players on this list are already out of the league. Six did not make it through their rookie contracts with the teams that drafted them, and that does not include Josh Selby, who was a second-round pick and lasted in the league only a couple of seasons. Five had NBA careers that spanned six years or shorter.
Someone will take Sharpe with a lottery pick, maybe a high one. He could go sixth to the Pacers or seventh to the Trail Blazers, or to whomever Portland trades its pick to if it ends up making a deal. At some point, the reward will outweigh the risk, and the reward is massive. But a front office will have to be confident in its high-school scouting process to make a pick like him. Top-ranked high school recruits are no guarantee.
There are three NBA defenders Dyson Daniels likes to watch most: Lonzo Ball, Mikal Bridges and Alex Caruso. Daniels knows what he is: a long, versatile, still-growing, possible point guard but also a possible secondary creator on offense.
For all the talk of Daniels rising up draft boards after impressive performances in workouts and at the combine, there is still a chance he’ll be around at No. 11. If there weren’t, he wouldn’t have wasted his time coming to Westchester for a workout. And let’s be real, he’s head coach Tom Thibodeau’s type.
Thibodeau falls for the dirty-work prospects. He pushed for the Knicks to draft Quentin Grimes at No. 25 last season and was a factor in the Miles McBride pick in the second round, as well. I’m speculating, but for a coach who shatters as many vocal cords as he does because of defense, I have to imagine Daniels would be attractive.
“That’s my most NBA-ready skill: to be able to step on the floor and guard the best player,” Daniels said. “Obviously (in) New York, you have a very defensive-oriented team, and coach Thibs is a great coach. If that’s my role on this team if I get selected, I’m going to play that role for sure.”
The Ball comparison is a shrewd one. Daniels has similar size, can defend guards and wings, is a clever decision-maker and appears, at least for now, more comfortable as a spot-up shooter than as one who hoists off the dribble. Ball has turned himself into one of the world’s feistiest perimeter defenders. If he’d stayed healthy this past season, he would have had a strong NBA All-Defensive First Team case.
Don’t underestimate Daniels’ ability to guard various positions, too. The main reason the Knicks started Alec Burks at point guard so much in 2021-22 was that it allowed them to switch more on screens, something they didn’t feel as comfortable doing with their smaller guards, which includes Immanuel Quickley and, of course, Kemba Walker, who began the season as the first-stringer. Daniels, though, is bigger than Burks — and even if he doesn’t develop into a full-time floor general, he’s still closer to one than is Burks.
Whatever team Daniels is on won’t have to force-feed size to its perimeter like the Knicks did last season. The upgrades could start on a draft night.
Niche but important
This fun fact will make the salary cap geeks swoon. Barrett’s 2022-23 salary is almost exactly in line with the projected league average, which means the Knicks front office is waiting to learn if it will lose a significant amount of cap room in the summer of 2023.
Here’s how this works:
At some point soon, probably within the next week or so, the NBA will announce the “estimated average salary” for the 2022-23 season, which the league determines by calculating the actual average salary for 2021-22, then multiplying it by 1.045. As of now, the league anticipates a $10.8 million estimation.
But there’s a twist. Barrett makes $10.9 million in 2022-23, and that means the Knicks must be praying the estimated average salary comes in no higher than the league expects. If it is bigger than Barrett’s salary, then the Knicks lose about $5 million in 2023 cap room during a summer when they hope to be major players.
The cap science behind the whole ordeal is cumbersome.
If Barrett makes more than the estimated league average next season, and the Knicks don’t extend him this summer or fall, thus sending him into restricted free agency next offseason, his 2023 cap hold (a predetermined placeholder for a free agent that counts against the team’s cap sheet) would be 250 percent of his current salary. That is a shade above $27 million. But if the estimated average salary comes in a tad greater than predicted and Barrett falls below it — and as one league expert put it to me, estimated average salary bumping up $100,000 more than expected is “basically a crapshoot” — then Barrett’s cap hold ratchets up to $32 million, approximately a $5 million bite into the Knicks’ 2023 cap room.
Hold onto your fans. This is about to be a thrilling ride.
(Photo of Malcolm Brogdon and Kemba Walker: Vincent Carchietta / USA Today)