Kevin Knox could be key to Knicks-Collin Sexton trade

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As the Cavaliers decide whether to trade homegrown combo guard Collin Sexton before having to make a decision on a rookie contract extension, it is worth noting Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman was high on Kevin Knox in the lead-up to the 2018 draft, according to an NBA source.

The Cavaliers went on to select Sexton at No. 8, leaving the Knicks with Knox at No. 9. After a decent rookie year, Knox has underwhelmed the past two seasons and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau took the 6-foot-9 combo forward out of the rotation in late January because of his low-energy defense.

“Cleveland liked Kevin in the draft,’’ the source said. “Whether there’s still that feeling since they’ve watched him in the pros is not clear. But they definitely liked him then.’’

Knox is on the block but his trade value likely dipped from a year ago after Thibodeau’s handling of him. Knox appeared in 42 of the 72 contests but many of his appearances from February on came in garbage time. Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne, who coached Knox at Kentucky, didn’t have the magic wand on the Tampa native who is son of former NFL wide receiver, Kevin Knox Sr.

Knicks chief strategist Brock Aller was a front office executive when the Cavaliers drafted Sexton and is still close to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Altman, a New York native. That relationship could help foster a Sexton deal.

So can the fact rookie power forward Obi Toppin, another trade candidate, and Sexton, both have the same Creative Artists Agency agent in Austin Brown. Knicks president Leon Rose ran CAA before joining the Knicks.

The feeling around the league is both Sexton and Toppin wouldn’t mind changing places. Sexton is in an awkward backcourt tandem with young playmaker Darius Garland, who is a replacement on the U.S. Olympic team during exhibitions.

Toppin, after averaging just 11 minutes in his rookie year, is stuck behind Julius Randle at power forward. Toppin is a Brooklyn native but also identifies with Ohio, where he starred at Dayton and was named the 2020 National Player of the Year. Toppin still holds his basketball camp in Ohio.

The Knicks are desperate for a starting point guard and are willing to deal two of their draft picks (Nos. 19, 21, 32, 58). One league decision-maker feels dealing Toppin, the 19th pick and the 32nd pick is too much a package for Sexton since he will go into the final year of his rookie contract. Sexton could demand a five-year, $168 million max extension while Toppin goes into the second year of his four-year rookie deal. 

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