Bojan Bogdanovic is coming to the New York Knicks. Alec Burks is coming (back), too. After acquiring OG Anunoby in late December and immediately shooting up the standings — the Knicks went 14-2 in January with the league’s best defense, after going 6-8 in December with the league’s worst defense — they acquired the two veterans from the Detroit Pistons in a win-now move hours before Thursday’s trade deadline.
In return, New York is sending 23-year-old wing Quentin Grimes and two second-round picks to the Pistons, along with wing Evan Fournier and guards Malachi Flynn and Ryan Arcidiacono. (Detroit will receive the least favorable of the Indiana Pacers’ and Phoenix Suns’ second-round picks in 2028, and it will receive the least favorable of the Pacers’ and the Washington Wizards’ second-round picks in 2029, according to The Athletic’s Fred Katz.)
While the Knicks are adding reinforcements to their roster for the rest of this regular season and beyond, Detroit is clearly focused on the future. Let’s grade the trade:
From New York’s perspective, the only negative thing I can say is that this wasn’t how things were supposed to go with Grimes. A year and a half ago, after a strong showing in summer league,for Donovan Mitchell. He was a starter for most of last season and the beginning of this one, but, as the front office acquired other wings — Josh Hart this time last year, Donte DiVincenzo last offseason, then Anunoby — his touches and standing on the team both diminished. Grimes virtually vanished offensively early this season, and, when he voiced misgivings about his role, he was moved to the second unit. He made 12-, 11- and 14-minute appearances in three consecutive games leading up to the Anunoby trade and only hit the 25-minute mark in one game after Dec. 11. When Grimes shot 3-for-6 from behind the 3-point line in 15 minutes in a win in Phoenix on Dec. 15, Suns superstar Kevin Durant’s particular frustration called attention to his lack of development.
“Shooters, get up into ’em and make ’em dribble,” Durant said postgame. “Like — what’s his name? — Quentin Grimes, he can’t get six 3s up. He doesn’t dribble at all. He doesn’t have any free throws on the season. He doesn’t have any assists, it feels like. But he’s getting 3s up? That’s the stuff we can’t have.”
Grimes’ usage rate was 14.9% as a rookie, 14.2% in Year 2 and 14.9% again this season. His free throw rate (a ratio of foul shots to field goal attempts) this season is 8.1%, which is significantly lower than what a 40-year-old Jason Kidd (11.7%), a 34-year-old Jose Calderon (10.5%) and a 37-year-old Pablo Prigioni (16.1%) managed in their respective final seasons in New York. If Grimes has the potential to be more than a 3-and-D guy, then the Knicks failed to help him realize it. If he doesn’t, then they overvalued him until recently.
That said, if your starting point for evaluating this trade is that Grimes is a somewhat disgruntled role player with limited upside, no path to an increased role and no chance of remaining on this roster past 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, then this is an A+ trade for the Knicks. Bogdanovic, 34, has made more than 41% of his 3s in his last two seasons, and he’s shot 27-for-48 (46.6%) on pull-up 3s in 28 games this season. He can still create offense in pick-and-roll and isolation situations, too, and his post-up game is useful against teams that switch. His presence will diversify an offense that has been a bit short of shot creation (on the second unit, anyway) since New York swapped Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett for Anunoby. I might not call Bogdanovic a plus defender at this stage of his career, but he’s a tough one and will execute Tom Thibodeau’s game plan.
With Julius Randle rehabbing a dislocated shoulder and Anunoby dealing with bone spurs in his elbow, Bogdanovic can slide right into the Knicks’ starting lineup. Thibodeau could choose to start Bogdanovic when they’re at full strength, too, or he could make him the sixth man, balance out the rotation and play that card if they find themselves in need of spacing during a playoff series.
Burks, 32, was in New York from 2020 to 2022 and played 130 regular-season games for Thibodeau, so adjusting to his new situation should not be challenging. Oddly, his 2023-24 season turned around at the same time that the Knicks’ did. On the morning of Dec. 30, the day that New York made the Anunoby trade, Burks had played in 24 games and averaged 9.3 points in 18.3 minutes, with .326-.328-.877 shooting splits and a 50.1% true shooting percentage, and Detroit had been outscored by 17.8 points per 100 possessions in his minutes. In 19 games since, Burks averaged 16.7 points in 24.3 minutes, with .455-.469-.928 shooting splits and a 65.3% true shooting percentage, and the Pistons were outscored by just 2.7 points per 100 possessions in his minutes.
The stats from the six weeks probably aren’t sustainable, but all the Knicks need him to be is solid. He’s not the defender that Grimes is, but, at 6-foot-5 with a 6-10 wingspan, he’s a bit taller and longer. In certain lineups, he’ll function as mostly a 3-and-D guy, with the ability to drive closeouts and run pick-and-rolls on the second side when needed. Burks has started lots of games at point guard for Thibodeau, though, and I’ll bet the plan is to make him Jalen Brunson’s backup. This trade is not great news for third-year guard Miles McBride, who has been raising hell on defense (and making some 3s!) in this role lately, but, because Burks can play on and off the ball, it doesn’t necessarily mean McBride will be all the way out of the rotation.
New York is sending a simple message here: This season is serious. The front office believes in the team it has assembled, and it doesn’t want to lose the momentum it generated in January. By getting Bogdanovic and Burks — and by moving Grimes, sacrificing two second-round picks and potentially marginalizing McBride, — the Knicks are prioritizing the present moment in the way that legitimately good teams should. They are only one game back of the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, and they’re building on a foundation that already seems pretty sturdy.
The best part, though, is that New York still hasn’t mortgaged its future. And while SNY’s Ian Begley reported that uncertainty and concern about Anunoby’s injury informed how the team approached the deadline, this doesn’t feel like a panic move. The Knicks had 11 second-rounders at their disposal this morning, and they didn’t trade any firsts in either this deal or the one that got them Anunoby. Bogdanovic’s $19 million 2024-25 salary could be a useful trade chip down the road, and, because they are $2.5 million under the luxury tax, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, they have two roster spots with which to add players on the buyout market in the near term. Even though the front office gave up a formerly prized player on a rookie contract, when you factor in how playoff success could make New York a more attractive destination, one could argue that this move has increased its odds of landing another star soon.
If I’m going to go back over the Knicks’ whole Grimes saga, it’s only fair that I bring up opportunity cost here. From the moment that Detroit traded for Bogdanovic in September 2022, there was speculation about when it would flip him. When the Pistons signed him to a two-year $39.1 million extension the following month, analysts noted that it would actually make him more tradable to certain teams because they knew he’d be on a favorable contract and there was no risk of losing him in free agency. His name appeared in trade rumors leading up to last season’s trade deadline, but Detroit ended up keeping him through the deadline, through the draft and through the offseason. It’s safe to say that at none of those points, the Pistons envisioned themselves trading him for a package that did not include a single first-round pick.
Through this lens, it’s easy to say that the front office waited too long to trade Bogdanovic and that this is emblematic of a haphazard approach to rebuilding and broader organizational errors: Detroit mistakenly anticipated taking a step forward last season, didn’t fully pivot from the plan when Cade Cunningham got hurt and again mistakenly anticipated taking a step forward this season.
How you feel about this return, though, is largely predicated on how you feel about Grimes. The counterpoint to “Detroit could have at least acquired a protected first last year” is “Detroit could not have acquired Grimes last year.” The whole league is looking for wings who can defend multiple positions and make enough 3s to keep the defense honest; the Pistons just acquired one who is on their timeline and has shown flashes of being able to do more.
It is difficult not to be at least a bit disappointed with how Grimes’ game stagnated with the Knicks, and it is unreasonable to place all of the blame for that on the team. It is possible, though, that he can do more than he has shown lately, and that Detroit is an ideal place for him to do it. I don’t know what the odds are that Grimes will ever have an above-average usage rate, but I think he’s precisely the type of player the Pistons should have targeted. Development isn’t linear, and several players from Grimes’ draft class — Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Kuminga, Jalen Johnson — are good, recent examples of this.
Even if Grimes doesn’t become much of a playmaker, simply acquiring a young wing who can hold lineups together would be something of a win for the Pistons — think Indiana nabbing Aaron Nesmith from the Boston Celtics in the Malcolm Brogdon trade in the summer of 2022. (The Pacers also got a protected first in that deal, but you get the idea.)
With the news that Detroit is waiving guard Killian Hayes — I’ll save you the backstory on this one, but yikes — taking a flier on Flynn makes sense. Fournier has a $19 million team option next season, which means the Pistons could eventually flip him in another deal, and, given that they need shooting, they can put him in the rotation and give him a chance to prove he can still play. Ultimately, though, this move will likely be judged by what kind of player Grimes becomes. Worst-case scenario, they traded one of their best players for a once-glorified role player who, as Durant said, doesn’t dribble at all, doesn’t get to the free throw line and doesn’t get any assists. In the best-case scenario, they bought low on a winning player and added some second-rounders and other stuff in the process.