There are clearly other factors for the New York Knicks to consider, but rumored trade target Zach LaVine would bring Madison Square Garden back to life.
The New York Knicks will be linked to big names in losing situations until kingdom come. The examples are countless and the results are generally lackluster, which makes the optimism displayed by this fanbase every time a new player is mentioned all the more inspiring.
For those unfamiliar, the latest name to be entered into the frenzy is Chicago Bulls standout and Slam Dunk Contest champion Zach LaVine.
LaVine is widely regarded as one of the most entertaining 25-and-under players in the NBA today. He’s a walking highlight reel who can astound with his finishing ability above the rim and inspire awe with his scoring numbers on any given evening.
According to Ian Begley of SNY, LaVine is also a player whom Leon Rose and the Knicks have placed firmly in their crosshairs.
…it’s worth noting that both the Knicks and the Nets are among the teams who have been monitoring LaVine’s situation in Chicago. Per SNY sources, both teams have done background work on LaVine to be prepared for the possibility that Chicago ends up listening to trade offers on the 25-year-old guard.
In other words: Nothing is even close to imminent, but if the Bulls decide to listen to offers for LaVine, the Knicks will be prepared to make one.
There are no shortage of ways to interpret this news. One could just as quickly jump to the conclusion that the Knicks believe LaVine could be the savior of the organization as they could determine that Rose is simply doing his due diligence.
Regardless of where you land in the discussion, one thing is undoubtedly clear: LaVine would bring excitement to Madison Square Garden.
The value you place on excitement is clearly subjective, but it’s worth acknowledging that as a potential truth.
LaVine is in the midst of a season during which he’s averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, steals, and three-point field goals made per game. He’s doing so while shooting efficiently across the board and elevating his production on a per 36 basis.
Those statistics play out as 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 3.1 three-point field goals made on a slash line of .450/.380/.802.
As such, it’s easy to view the 25-year-old standout as a player with genuine superstar potential. There are certainly flaws to acknowledge, including his shortcomings on the defensive end of the floor, but offense has been at a premium in New York for quite some time.
This isn’t to say that LaVine can reach the same level as a former MVP and All-NBA mainstay, but instead that he can fill their role within the construct of the team.
Chicago in 2010-11 and New York in 2012-13 prioritized defense in an attempt to simplify the game for their superstar scorers—neither of whom were great defenders. It’s not dissimilar from the approach that Larry Brown took with Allen Iverson and the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers.
LaVine has proven to be able to score efficiently, which suggests he could at least help New York reach the Playoffs with a similar approach.
That’s admittedly a leap of faith given the fact that LaVine has yet to play a game in the postseason. Thibodeau is a proven commodity on the winning front, however, and LaVine’s talent is unquestioned throughout the NBA.
Together, along with a defensive-minded approach from a franchise that was long known for locking opponents down, they could make New York relevant again.
Even if the Knicks are unable to win with LaVine in the No. 1 scoring slot, he’d at least make Madison Square Garden an attraction again. Fans would come to life as they watched LaVine throw down incredible dunks and erupt as a scorer.
In a COVID-shortened 2018-19 season alone, LaVine had six 40-point games and 19 outings with at least 30 points.
This would be comparable to when New York signed Amar’e Stoudemire and reminded stars around the NBA of what a lively Madison Square Garden sounded like. Fans came to life during Stoudemire and the Knicks’ resurgence, and stars inevitably arrived via trades and free agency.
Even if LaVine can’t make the Knicks winners again, he has the talent level to be a No. 2 and the excitement factor to bring Madison Square Garden back to life.
The New York Knicks will need to do more than just trade for Zach LaVine to win a championship, and may not even be able to pull that off.
Acquiring LaVine, however, would give New York a chance to show the rest of the NBA how intoxicating Madison Square Garden can be.