Add Raptors shooting guard Norman Powell to the list of persons of interest for the Knicks before Thursday’s trade deadline.
While the Raptors are shopping point guard Kyle Lowry, the Knicks have much more interest in Powell, who is expected to opt out to become an unrestricted free agent following the season.
In the same vein as Houston’s Victor Oladipo, the Knicks don’t wish to give up first-round picks for the 27-year-old Powell as a rental and would prefer assurances he would re-sign if they make a move.
However, league sources contend the Pacers are willing to overpay Powell in free agency and perhaps outbid the field.
Long an unsung role player, Powell has weaved a solid sixth season playing in the obscurity of Tampa, the pandemic home of the Raptors.
Powell has spent his entire career in Toronto, a franchise that rarely appears on national TV. Only recently has Powell emerged as a scoring stud.
He’s started 30 of Toronto’s 41 games, averaging a career-high 19.5 points per game — shooting 49.5 percent, including 43.4 percent from 3. ESPN reported as many as 12 teams are interested in Powell.
“He’s got upside to his game,” one NBA scout said. “Plus he has that chip on his shoulder. He plays better than his minutes show. He’s shown the ability to be a full-time starter.”
Another NBA executive said teams are leery about what his asking price will be.
“You’re going to have to pay him next year,” the executive said. “He’s really improved his shooting and [is] good in the half-court. Not a playmaker, but he’s a good defender and great person.”
Sounds like a Tom Thibodeau dream. But with RJ Barrett’s emergence and extended solid play from Alec Burks, who has proven he can play both guard spots, the Knicks aren’t as desperate for a backcourt rental.
The Knicks glide into Thursday’s trade deadline at 22-22. The organizational belief is the Knicks have wildly exceeded expectations and have enough to finish in the top 10 in the East to qualify for the play-in tournament — if not in the top six to lock in a playoff spot.
Knicks president Leon Rose knows this isn’t the season to contend for the title. Hence, the franchise is not as keen on giving up important draft picks for rentals, unless there’s long-term impact. Plus he likes the chemistry created now.
“I think they’re going to do their big stuff in the summer,” one NBA source said.
Pelicans playmaking point guard Lonzo Ball is on the Knicks’ radar as a restricted free agent. New Orleans GM David Griffin is measuring whether it’s best to deal him now or risk losing him for nothing in free agency.
The Knicks feel they would be in the hunt for signing Ball. In 2011, Knicks brass was panned at the trading deadline for giving up a host of assets in a sign-and-extend trade for Carmelo Anthony instead of waiting for his free agency.
Ironically, Rose, then Anthony’s agent, helped engineer that deal.
Meanwhile, one source said the Pacers have not put either point guard Malcolm Brodgon or big man Myles Turner on the market and aren’t options.
However, Orlando’s Evan Fournier, a Scott Perry draft pick, and Sacramento’s Nemanja Bjelica, a career 38.8 percent 3-point shooter, are also reportedly on the block and are of interest.
“It’s important for us to go step-by-step and not skip over things,’’ Thibodeau said over the weekend in the first sign the Knicks may stand pat. “The whole goal this year is to build a foundation and the right type of habits.”
Knicks brass already gave the win-now Thibodeau a Super Bowl Sunday present by dealing Dennis Smith Jr. for veteran Derrick Rose.
Rose is on the verge of a return as the Knicks are getting healthy. Point guard Elfrid Payton’s back from a hamstring strain and center Mitchell Robinson made a big impact in just his second game back Tuesday.
However, the Knicks aren’t sellers as expected and want to make a talent upgrade or at least make better use of the roster spot occupied by Austin Rivers, who has fallen out of favor with Thibodeau and has been away from the club since the All-Star break.
If Rivers is bought out, the Knicks will be active on the buyout market to fill the hole. Veteran sharpshooter JJ Redick, who has had an off year with the Pelicans, is a target as a shooter off the bench as he yearns to be back in the New York area.
However, the Nets may have interest, too. Redick, who has been out since March 4 with a hamstring injury, lives in Brooklyn with his family and was spotted in SoHo this week as he rehabs.