Grading the Mikal Bridges trade: Knicks, Nets, Rockets all win?

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Maybe you were worried the New York Knicks didn’t have enough players from Villanova after their success this season with Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo. Well, worry no further.

The Knicks are acquiring Mikal Bridges and a second-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Bojan Bogdanović, five first-round picks and a second-round pick, league sources confirmed Tuesday evening. The Nets are also making a trade with the Houston Rockets, exchanging first-round picks owed to them by Phoenix from the Kevin Durant trade in order to acquire their own picks back from the James Harden trade.

ESPN reported the details of the trade being four unprotected first-round picks from the Knicks, a protected first-round pick from the Bucks and a future second-round pick, along with Bogdanovic. There are a lot of picks being thrown around. There are a lot of things to infer from this. So let’s bust out the red ink and throw some grades on this trade.

Knicks acquire Mikal Bridges and a second-round pick

Last season, the Knicks finished as the East’s No. 2 seed, made it to the second round of the playoffs and then fell apart against Indiana after injuries to several key players, including OG Anunoby.

The Knicks acquired Anunoby halfway through the season and took off after making that move. It helped catapult them toward the top of the East, even with Anunoby missing 27 regular-season games after the trade with an elbow injury, then suffering a hamstring injury in the Indiana series. That makes the acquisition of Bridges, who has not missed a single game in his six-year NBA career, even more important. (Technically, Bridges missed one game in the 2022-23 season when he was traded from Phoenix to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant deal, but the NBA doesn’t count this as a missed game. In fact, he played 83 games that season due to the schedules of the two squads for which he played.)

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We can start off by talking about how the 27-year-old Bridges is one of the better two-way players in the NBA. His defense has been stellar most years, although it took a dip as he was asked to create more offense in Brooklyn. He went from a decent safety valve on offense with stellar defense in Phoenix to a 21-point per game scorer with solid defense in Brooklyn. Putting him on the Knicks will allow him to devote far more energy on the defensive end of the floor, and pairing him with Anunoby could allow New York to seriously clamp opposing scorers. The Knicks still have to re-sign Anunoby in free agency, but that’s been expected to happen since he was moved to New York at the end of December.

This is a lot of draft capital to give up for Bridges; what is essentially five first-round picks and a second-round pick is a Rudy Gobert-level package. But adding Bridges to the mix with Hart, DiVincenzo and Brunson boosts a team that already boasts some of the best chemistry in the league. It might cost the Knicks big man Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency, but it was already going to be tough to keep him unless he took a discount. We’ll see if Julius Randle is still in the Knicks’ long-term plans after this move, but they have a loaded rotation to battle for supremacy in the East.

Grade: A

Nets acquire Bojan Bogdanović, six first-round picks, their own 2025 pick swap from Houston and a second-round pick

There are so many picks flying around these two trades with the Nets, so let’s break down everything they seem to be acquiring in addition to bringing back Bogdanović, who played in Brooklyn from 2014-2017. These are the picks the Nets get in this trade:

  • Four unprotected first-round picks from the Knicks in 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031;
  • A 2025 top-four protected first-round pick from Milwaukee via New York;
  • A 2025 first-round pick swap they owed to Houston from Harden trade;
  • A 2026 first-round pick they owed to Houston from the Harden trade;
  • A 2028 unprotected pick swap with the Knicks’ first-rounder;
  • A 2025 second-round pick from New York.

That’s more picks than Rudy Gobert would set on a single play in Quin Snyder’s offense! (That joke is for a very niche audience but I’m hoping the editors don’t remove it.)

This is a surprising move by the Nets, considering they reportedly turned down Jalen Green and upwards of four first-round picks from Houston at the trade deadline. Between these two trades, they have acquired a wild number of picks to restock their cupboard and can now benefit from struggling on the court once again. (Houston has the third pick in this draft because of a pick owed to them by the Nets from the Harden deal.)

The Nets are banking on the idea that the Knicks will be bad again, hopefully (for Brooklyn) by 2029 at the latest. That remains to be seen, as the Knicks have put together an incredible squad and could continue to have more and more success in the Brunson era. It’s important for the Nets to own their own picks again as they go into next year’s draft class, which is loaded with top prospects that could end up being franchise-changers. Brooklyn is lucky the third overall pick it conveyed to Houston this season is in a down draft year.

Brooklyn has now essentially acquired nine first-round picks, along with Cameron Johnson, from the 2023 Durant trade. We’ll see what else the Nets can do to rebuild this roster over the next couple seasons in a favorable market.

Grade: A

Rockets acquire 2025 Suns pick swap, a 2027 first, a 2029 first and a pick swap from Brooklyn 

Let’s catch up on what the Rockets are acquiring here from the Nets as they shuffle around some first-round picks in preparation for an aggressive summer of trade possibilities. This is what they get from the Brooklyn trade:

  • 2025 first-round pick swap from Phoenix owed to Brooklyn from the Kevin Durant trade;
  • 2027 first-round pick from Phoenix owed to Brooklyn in the Durant trade;
  • 2029 first-round pick from either Phoenix or Dallas, depending on which one is more favorable;
  • 2029 first-round pick swap for less favorable of the Phoenix or Dallas picks.

Under new coach Ime Udoka, the Rockets surprised many last season to finish 41-41. Young players like 21-year-old Alperen Şengün and 22-year-old Jalen Green grew up tremendously, as did 21-year-old Jabari Smith Jr. in his role. We also saw some good things from 2023 first-round picks Amen Thompson (21) and Cam Whitmore (19), as well as 2022 first-rounder Tari Eason (23). Veterans Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks and Jeff Green proved to be useful mentors for this young cast of players. The Rockets don’t want to miss the playoffs anymore, and now they’re armed with some impressive draft picks and other assets to be major players in the trade market.

Maybe Houston could try to convince the Phoenix Suns their three-star core is going nowhere and offer their picks back for Durant or Devin Booker at some point in the next season or two. Phoenix wants to win now, but that situation could get ugly quickly after last season’s first-round sweep at the hands of Minnesota. Regardless of who the Rockets target in the trade market, they have one of the more impressive treasure chests of trade assets to tempt a team with a disgruntled star looking to win elsewhere.

This trade might be the first win-win-win we’ve seen in a while, but that depends on what the Nets and Rockets do with all this pick shuffling.

Grade: A-

(Top photo: Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images)





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