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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Mikal Bridges traded to Knicks: Ex-Villanova star acquired for five first-round picks in blockbuster with Nets

SportsMikal Bridges traded to Knicks: Ex-Villanova star acquired for five first-round picks in blockbuster with Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are trading star forward Mikal Bridges to the New York Knicks for a monster trade package, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Knicks will send the Nets unprotected first-round picks in 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031 along with a protected 2025 first-round pick from the Bucks, an unprotected 2028 first-round swap and a 2025 second-round pick, according to Wojnarowski. Bojan Bogdanovic will also be in the deal as matching salary.

As a secondary deal attached to this one, according to Wojnarowski, the Nets have also agreed to a trade with the Houston Rockets that will bring the Nets back their first-round pick in 2026 in exchange for a 2027 first-round swap originally belonging to the Phoenix Suns. The Rockets also acquired the right to swap whichever first-round pick they have in 2025, which would either be their own or Oklahoma City’s, with Phoenix’s, which had belonged to the Nets. In exchange for that, Houston relinquished its right to swap that pick with Brooklyn’s in 2025, allowing the Nets to retain control over their picks for the next two years. According to Wojnarowski, the Rockets are attempting to use those Suns picks to trade for Kevin Durant, though Phoenix has thus far resisted. 

Bridges completes New York’s group of former Villanova stars. The Knicks already employed Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart from Villanova’s two championship teams late last decade. Now, they add Bridges, a star defender and shooter who has improved significantly as a shot-creator of late, to the equation. With Julius Randle still on the team and the potential for New York to re-sign OG Anunoby as well, the Knicks now figure to be one of the favorites for the 2025 championship. SNY’s Ian Begley reported that Anunoby remains “a priority” for the team.

Begley also reported that the deal came together quickly after Bridges informed the Nets that he wanted to be a Knick and was prepared to use that leverage to prevent other teams from trading for him. Bridges had been a rumored Knicks target for years because of that Villanova connection, and now he is joining his former teammates.

“This is crazy lol,” Bridges tweeted late Tuesday after the news broke.

The Knicks have created some payroll issues by making this trade now. Because they took back more money than they sent out, they are now hard-capped at the first apron, which is projected to come in at $178.7 million. That will make it harder for them to re-sign Anunoby and Hartenstein, but there is the potential that the Knicks save money elsewhere to help them do so. Mitchell Robinson, for instance, has been in trade rumors lately, and if the Knicks could find someone to take his salary, they could then redirect that money towards their free agents. However, according to Begley, it is looking “increasingly unlikely” that the Knicks are able to re-sign Hartenstein because they are limited to a roughly $72.5 million offer because of his Early Bird Rights. Other teams can offer him far more and he is expected to be a top target on the center market.

The Nets, meanwhile, kick off one of the most asset-rich rebuilds in NBA history. After spending the past several years without control over their own picks, they now have a two-year tank window thanks to the picks they just got back from Houston. They also control New York’s drafts for the foreseeable future and also still have picks coming from the Suns. Their overall war chest is augmented by selections from Dallas and Philadelphia as well, giving the Nets an incredibly deep portfolio. Now, only the Thunder can rival the Nets in terms of picks from other teams.

But the story of the night here is that the Knicks have not only brought together all of Villanova’s old stars, but have set themselves up to become the primary competitor to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. Injuries prevented New York from challenging Boston in the playoffs, but the Knicks and Celtics are now set to be the two Eastern Conference favorites next season.

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