Quiet trade deadline for Knicks, Nets; so what's next for both?

ByESPNNewYork.com NBA beat writers ESPN logo
Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Knicks and Nets didn't make any trades before the deadline Thursday, and it's shaping up to be a playoff-less season in New York.

Both teams have head coaching vacancies and will enter the draft without a first-round pick. Fun times for New York basketball! There are about as many questions facing both teams as there are skyscrapers in the city, but Knicks beat writer Ian Begley, Nets beat writer Mike Mazzeo and New York NBA writer Ohm Youngmisuk answer five questions about the Knicks and Nets. What did the two teams miss out on at the trade deadline?

Ian Begley: The Knicks spoke to Minnesota about trading for Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin before Thursday's trade deadline; they also hoped to land Atlanta's Jeff Teague. Any of these guards would have been an upgrade, but the Knicks were ultimately unable -- or unwilling -- to part with the assets necessary to make a deal. Frustration among fans is understandable here, but the franchise deserves credit for deciding against including its 2018 first-round pick to make a trade.

Mike Mazzeo: The Nets made the biggest splash of the day, hiring a young and hungry general manager from a winning organization and a winning culture. Maybe they didn't turn Thaddeus Young or Brook Lopez into future assets at a time when their values might never be higher, but Marks will have ample time to properly evaluate his two frontcourt pillars -- along with the rest of the roster -- and determine exactly how he wants to rebuild Brooklyn. No need to panic. Now, let's just hope there's no interference from ownership. Time to be patient, not impulsive.

Ohm Youngmisuk: There was talent, and in some cases draft picks, that could have been acquired for the right price. Of course, neither the Knicks nor Nets have attractive assets to make a deal. The Knicks couldn't upgrade at point guard or unload some unsavory contracts. The Nets might've been able to trade Thaddeus Young, but with no GM in place until late, Brooklyn was better off standing pat and letting new GM Sean Marks assess and make moves later.

What's the most pressing issue going into the second half of the season?

Begley: The health of Carmelo Anthony's left knee. If Anthony can stay on the court, the Knicks have a shot at making a playoff run. If not, the Knicks can all but forget about the postseason. Anthony missed five of the previous 15 games due to soreness in his surgically repaired knee but he hopes to play in all of the Knicks' final 27 games. Worth noting: They are 0-7 when Anthony sits due to injury.

Mazzeo: Making sure young players like Chris McCullough (though on a minutes restriction following his return from a torn ACL), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (when he returns from his ankle injury), Bojan Bogdanovic and Markel Brown get plenty of playing time so Marks & Co. can figure out what they have. Also, determining how they want to proceed with their coaching search. How much influence will Marks have?

Youngmisuk: Those are all important personnel issues, but neither team owns a first-round pick. So I believe finding the right coach is the most pressing issue for both teams. Knicks team president Phil Jackson will give friend and former assistant Kurt Rambis an honest chance to prove himself as the interim coach. After that, it's all about developing Kristaps Porzingis and seeing if you can get him some valuable postseason experience. For the Nets, it is all about who they can lure to coach the team. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov likes doing things big, so we likely are going to hear plenty of Tom Thibodeau and John Calipari mentions in the next few months. Speaking of coaches . . .

Which coaching job is more attractive?

Begley: The Knicks, thanks to Kristaps Porzingis. Coaching a player with Porzingis' potential would appeal to any coach looking for a job. But the gap between the Knicks and the Nets isn't as wide here as it might have been earlier in the week. Things changed Thursday when Brooklyn hired Marks as its next GM. The opportunity to work under an executive groomed by the San Antonio Spurs will be a draw for prospective coaches.

Mazzeo: The Knicks have a potential superstar in the making in Porzingis, so that gives them the obvious edge -- even if you have to run the triangle or whatever under Phil. Plus, the Nets, at least in the Prokhorov-Billy King era, had a tendency to change coaches frequently; Avery Johnson's 176-game run proved to be a record. In Gregg Popovich's 19-year tenure coaching in San Antonio, Brooklyn/New Jersey has had 11 different coaches. Time to find some stability here. Or the next Tim Duncan. Either way.

Youngmisuk: The Knicks. You have Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony (unless he decides this summer he wants to be somewhere else). However, Phil prefers the triangle, which could eliminate some top coaching candidates. And you do have to wonder how long Phil is for the job. The Nets have an owner with deep pockets and a beautiful new practice facility. But the future looks extremely bleak, with no control of a first-round pick until 2019. At least the Knicks have a unicorn. So how do the Nets get their own unicorn?

What are the team's biggest needs in free agency?

Mazzeo: Sign Kevin Durant and Mike Conley! Hey, Prokhorov did say the Nets were only one or two players away from championship contention, right? More to the point, however: an impact point guard and help on the wings. But if Brooklyn strikes out on the big names, maybe Marks will be able to find a couple of international diamonds in the rough over the summer.

Begley: Same here -- the Knicks' top priority this summer will probably be searching for an upgrade at point guard. Jose Calderon, 34, is a strong shooter and distributor but struggles to defend the NBA's quicker lead guards. Top guards expected to be available this summer include Conley, Sacramento's Rajon Rondo and the Lakers'Jordan Clarkson (restricted). The Knicks are projected to have at least $18 million in cap space.

Youngmisuk: Unanimous opinions here: a point guard! Both can use a really talented one, and a source close to Conley says he can see the point guard joining the Knicks or Nets in free agency for the right price. Both teams can use a difference-making star player. Melo needs more help to go with Porzingis. The Nets need a legit star who can make the team relevant. With little assets, the Nets will have a hard time attracting any elite free agents, but at least they got a GM and hopefully a sound plan. That plan must materialize in time for free agency.

What trade might the Knicks or Nets do in the offseason?

Begley: Most Knicks trade talk this offseason will surround Carmelo Anthony. The 31-year-old has a no-trade clause, of course, and he has given no indication that he wants out of New York. But if the Knicks struggle in their final 27 games, some believe he'll waive that clause and look to pursue a title elsewhere. It's worth noting that several teams will have the requisite cap space to absorb Anthony's salary in a trade, thanks to the rising cap.

Mazzeo: Maybe Brook or Thad could be dealt in exchange for a starting point guard or future assets? The Nets won't have that many players under contract. It seems at least on the surface that their best path will be free agency with about $40 million in cap space. But it also depends on what kind of direction Marks elects to take.

Youngmisuk: Both teams could try to be active on draft night to acquire some youth. With the Knicks, the most marketable piece they could move would be Melo, if he is not satisfied with the Knicks' moves this summer and decided he wanted to join a contender. Porzingis should be untouchable. Marks could always decide he wants to blow things up and deal Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez. If Marks can deal Young for a first-round pick, he might have to consider it. The Nets will have to wait and see what their new coach wants.