Knicks forward Obi Toppin may be peeking over his shoulder as subject of ongoing trade rumors (Credit: Bill Moore)

The NBA free-agency period officially begins tomorrow at 6 p.m. Teams can begin to negotiate with free-agents, but are subject to the Free Agency Moratorium period from July 1–6. During that time, teams cannot sign free agents or make trades. Players will be allowed to officially sign contracts as of 12:01 p.m. Eastern standard time on July 6.

This is one of the more clandestine, anxiety-ridden, and consequential stages of the NBA calendar. Some teams attempt to circumvent the rules and are penalized. Last July, the Knicks signed then free-agent Jalen Brunson, prying him away from the Dallas Mavericks. But in December, the NBA, after concluding its investigation into the contact between the point guard and the Knicks, determined the latter had violated tampering rules by having discussions with Brunson before the permissible date and announced they were rescinding the Knicks’ 2025 second-round pick as the penalty.

The Knicks are certainly more discerning now. Their desperation to acquire Brunson was palpable and proved to be one of the best decisions in the franchise’s history, because he was the catalyst in transforming them from a 37-45 No. 11 seed two seasons ago to 45-37 and the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference this past season. 

To level up and become a certified championship contender, the Knicks must obtain another player with capabilities as equally effective as Brunson’s.

While a plethora of Knicks fans are vociferously urging team president Leon Rose to trade All-NBA forward Julius Randle, spurred by his two sub-par playoff appearances (2021 and this past season), the Knicks need to add to the tandem of Randle and Brunson. Moving Randle for a player of similar production while essentially maintaining the same roster as last season will not fundamentally improve the team.

The Knicks did not have a pick in last Thursday’s draft, held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but six of their own first-rounders over the next four drafts are as valuable and appealing assets for procuring a high-impact player via a trade. However, the Knicks have just a little over $23 million in salary cap space entering the summer free-agency phase and thus have little flexibility to sign leading available players. Their needs are an athletic two-way wing and efficient perimeter shooting.

Rumors still abound that they have their eyes on the Minnesota Timberwolves 6-11 power forward Karl-Anthony Towns, a 27-year-old three-time All-Star from Piscataway, N.J., as well as the Toronto Raptors’ 25-year-old, 6-7 forward O.G. Anunoby. 

Names that have been mentioned for the Knicks to package for Towns or Anunoby are a  combination of Randle, forward Obi Toppin, and guard Immanuel Quickley. In the coming days, there will be more clarity and definitive actions by a franchise that last won a title 50 years ago.

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