Collin Sexton has reportedly emerged as one of the more surprising trade candidates of the offseason, and already, at least one major suitor is in heavy pursuit of the Cleveland Cavaliers guard. The New York Knicks have been the team most aggressively pursuing Sexton thus far, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, and that makes sense given their needs this offseason.
The Knicks earned a surprising No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to their fourth-ranked defense, but struggled in the playoffs largely because of their inability to score. Their offense ranked No. 22 in the regular season, and in the playoffs, it ranked 15th out of the 16 teams that made it. Their issues stemmed from two primary flaws: a lack of shooting and the absence of a shot-creating guard.
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Sexton isn't exactly a traditional point guard. He averaged only 4.4 assists per game last season, and that was his career high. But the Knicks get plenty of supplementary playmaking from Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. What they need is someone who can create a shot in half-court settings. That is Sexton. He averaged over 24 points per game last season on over 57 percent true shooting. To do so on a team with as little supporting talent as Cleveland says quite a bit about Sexton's upside. Only 16 other players have scored as much, as efficiently as Sexton did in their age-22 season.
Sexton is seemingly available in part because of his contractual status. With his third year in the books, he is eligible for a contract extension that would kick in after next season. That extension could pay him as much as $168 million over five years, but the Cavaliers have another young guard, Darius Garland, who they might prefer to pay. The No. 3 overall pick could easily be used on a perimeter player as well, and that would leave the Cavaliers with a logjam in the backcourt.
The Knicks would likely have to give Sexton a similar contract extension if they acquired him, but getting him early would give them a major advantage this offseason. While Sexton is going to be expensive down the line, his cap hit for the 2021-22 season is only around $6.3 million. The Knicks can create well over $50 million in cap space this offseason, and acquiring Sexton would hardly dent that flexibility. In fact, it would allow the Knicks to fill their biggest need without even touching their space, opening up some very interesting possibilities.
If the Knicks view Sexton as more of a shooting guard than a point guard, for instance, they could acquire him and then use their space to sign one of the many other veteran point guards that will be available this offseason. Chris Paul could be available. Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Spencer Dinwiddie, Lonzo Ball and Dennis Schroder all will be. The Knicks could, in theory, add Sexton and then handpick the perfect backcourt partner for him in free agency.
While Cleveland's price is unclear, the Knicks certainly have the assets to make an enticing offer while still retaining the assets they'd need to acquire a star down the line. They have all of their own first-round picks moving forward as well as two more from the Mavericks. They used the No. 8 overall pick on Obi Toppin last offseason, a forward who played collegiately in Ohio at Dayton. Cleveland was reportedly interested in Toppin before selecting Isaac Okoro at No. 5 overall. Toppin is blocked from a starting position in New York because he plays the same position as Randle. Cleveland, on paper, has the potential to be a better fit especially if it selects Evan Mobley No. 3 overall. That would give them a defensive anchor that could protect Toppin on that end of the floor.
It should also be noted that Sexton is represented by CAA. Knicks president Leon Rose is a former CAA agent. Now, he is looking for a lead guard to improve his offense, and Sexton appears to be a very viable candidate. The Knicks will have plenty of competition if they pursue him, but there's an obvious fit for both teams here if they are motivated to make a deal.