NBA Trade Rumors: Knicks’ Interest in Karl-Anthony Towns Comes with Complications

NBA Trade Rumors: Knicks’ Interest in Karl-Anthony Towns Comes with Complications article feature image

The New York Knicks made a huge trade over the holiday weekend in adding OG Anunoby, but they may not be done as there continue to be questions about Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota.

Here are the basics, a TL;DR for you:

  • The Knicks continue to be interested in making trades to go for it this season
  • The Wolves have the best record in the Western Conference but there's still a lot of questions about Towns
  • New York may not have enough to draw the Wolves' interest
  • The agent politics are a huge factor in this conversation
  • New York could legitimately be a title contender with Towns

Following the news of the Anunoby trade, Stefan Bondy of Sny.TV reported that the Knicks still feel they're in position to make another trade:

To acquire Anunoby, the Knicks sent out RJ Barrett, Quickley and a valuable 2024 second-round pick that belongs to the Detroit Pistons. Some fans/media (myself included) suggested after the trade that the Knicks no longer had the trade capital to swing a big deal.

Some in the organization disagree with that idea. They feel like they have enough left to land a top player.

New York has eight tradable first-round picks, including four of its own. The four picks from other teams are protected. Some have significant protections.

As far as players, Evan Fournier (expiring $18 million deal), Randle, Quentin GrimesDonte DiVincenzoMitchell RobinsonJericho Sims and Isaiah Hartenstein are all trade-eligible. Josh Hart and Miles McBride cannot be traded prior to the 2024 deadline.

Reasonable people can disagree over the value of New York’s assets, but there are people in the organization who feel like they have enough to bring in another significant player.

And that leads us to Karl-Anthony Towns. Shams Charania reported that the Knicks will "always have interest in Karl-Anthony Towns."

Shams says the Knicks will always have interest in Karl-Anthony Towns 👀

(Via @RunItBackFDTV / h/t @BasketballOnX)

— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) January 2, 2024

Charania notes there's been no real interest there from Minnesota. So let's look at that side.

On the surface, things are great in Minny. The Wolves are 24-9 at the top of the Western Conference with the No.1 defense. They're 4-3 in their last seven games with the 24th-ranked offense, but every team is going to have ups and downs. The overall résumé for the Wolves is great.

In league circles outside of Minnesota, though, the rumor mill continues to churn. It has been suggested by multiple executives that there continues to be internal tension with Towns' lack of poise in certain game situations. Anthony Edwards has become the clear on-court leader of the team, with Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gobert along with Mike Conley providing the veteran voices they need. Where does that leave Towns?

Towns has been exceptionally efficient with a lower-usage role this season, shooting 50% from the field, 40% from 3-point range and 89% from the line, just on the cusp of a 50-40-90 season. It's not a matter of his on-court performance but whether Towns fits short and long-term with the identity of the team.

The problem, of course, is plotting a trade course.

For starters, Wolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly is a notoriously patient evaluator. He's never acted with urgency to resolve situations that have long-term upside. Like most executives, trades have to not only carry the right amount of objective value in return but also fit the needs of the organization.

The Knicks' ability to deal all those draft picks certainly resets some of the cupboard the Wolves gave up for Rudy Gobert two years ago. But for a team looking to compete now, those picks don't have as much value, especially given that few, if any, of them will become top-15 picks.

The Wolves are largely uninterested in Julius Randle, who would have to be at the centerpiece of any Knicks offer for Towns. With that being the case, league insiders have suggested the Knicks will have to canvass for a third team to take on Randle in exchange for players the Wolves would want to add, and that further complicates a trade.

Notably, the Knicks have no intention of including the injured Mitchell Robinson, even if he were healthy. Robinson is out another 6-8 weeks before being re-evaluated, with speculation that he could miss the rest of the season. Multiple sources said the Knicks have indicated they want to start Towns next to Robinson, similar to how the Wolves have had what come considered surprising success with Towns next to Gobert.

Why the interest in Towns? Towns is represented by CAA, and pretty much every major star with CAA ties will wind up on the Knicks' list. The ties between CAA and the Knicks go back decades and are not limited to former CAA agent Leon Rose's position as head of the team's basketball operations. The Knicks' original plan was to target reigning MVP and Sixers star Joel Embiid in the event that the Harden trade sent the team sideways, but Philly's surge has all but ruled out that possibility for the time being.

One potential hiccup is Towns' former coach Tom Thibodeau at the helm in New York.

"Does Thibs want to coach Towns again? That's something I'm really curious about after how things went with the Jimmy debacle in Minnesota," one personnel executive commented this week.

And of course, there's always going to be the Knicks' eye on Donovan Mitchell. The Knicks were linked to Mitchell heavily before the Cavaliers traded for him from the Jazz and even after, there's continued to be consistent reporting that the Knicks will be Mitchell's preferred location. Action Network reported previously that the Nets are among the teams with equal interest in Mitchell.

Back to Towns, the biggest questions are:

  • Even if the team sometimes is frustrated with Towns, are they better with him than with a combination of other assets?
  • Will the Wolves decide to trade Towns mid-season, given their success?
  • If they do decide to field serious talks for Towns, will the Knicks be able to even generate enough interest?
  • Can the Knicks move Randle to a third team for the types of players that "fit" the Wolves?

A trade of Towns should not be considered likely, given Connelly's approach and the team's success. A trade to the Knicks should be considered less likely. But the Knicks have every reason to remain as engaged as possible. In many ways, a Towns team "completes" the Knicks in a way Mitchell does not.

A Towns trade could result in a potential starting/closing lineup of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo/Josh Hart/Quentin Grimes, Anunoby, Towns, and, when he returns, Mitchell Robinson. That provides perimeter defense, toughness, shooting, pick-and-roll dynamicism, rim protection, and playmaking. That's a lineup that could wreck an eastern contender or two's season when the playoffs arrive.

The Knicks have been a team constantly star-chasing for two decades. This front office has done a much better job of building something sustainable and is in a position to capitalize on a better opportunity now. But whether it's Towns, Mitchell, or another star, there are still a lot of questions the Knicks will have to answer if they want to leap into serious contender status in a top-heavy Eastern Conference.

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