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 as well as a protected 2025 first-round pick from the Bucks, a 2028 unprotected first-round trade and a second-round pick from 2025, according to Wojnarowski. . Bojan Bogdanovic will also be part of the deal as a salary match.

As a secondary deal attached to this one, according to Wojnarowski, the Nets also agreed to a trade with the Houston Rockets that will return the Nets to their 2026 first-round pick in exchange for a swap of the 2027 first-rounder originally owned by the Phoenix Suns. The Rockets also acquired the right to swap their 2025 first-round pick, which would be either theirs or Oklahoma City’s, with Phoenix’s, which was owned by the Nets. In exchange for that, Houston gave up its right to swap that pick with Brooklyn’s 2025 pick, allowing the Nets to retain control of 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 so far resisted.

Bridges rounds out 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 at the end of the last decade. Now they add Bridges, a star defender and shooter who has improved significantly as a shot creator as of late, to the equation. With Julius Randle still on the team and the possibility of New York re-signing OG Anunoby, the Knicks are now among the favorites for the 2025 championship. Ian Begley of SNY reported that Anunoby remains “a priority” for the team.

Begley also said the deal came together quickly after Bridges informed the Nets he wanted to be a Knick and was willing to use that advantage to keep other teams from drafting him. Bridges was a Knicks target for years because of that Villanova connection, and now he’s joining his former teammates.

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

The Knicks created payroll problems by making this trade now. Because they took back more money than they sent, they are now capped at the first apron, which is expected to be $178.7 million. This will make it more difficult for them to re-sign Anunoby and Hartenstein, but it’s possible the Knicks could save money elsewhere to help them do so. Mitchell Robinson, for example, has been the subject of trade rumors as of late, and if the Knicks could find someone to take his salary, then they could redirect that money to their free agents. However, according to Begley, it appears “increasingly unlikely” that the Knicks will be able to re-sign Hartenstein as they are limited to an offer of around $72.5 million due to his early booking rights. Other teams can offer him much more and he should be a top target in the central market.

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

But the story of the night is that the Knicks not only collected all of Villanova’s former stars, but also prepared to become the Boston Celtics’ main competitor in the Eastern Conference. Injuries have prevented New York from challenging Boston in the playoffs, but the Knicks and Celtics are now expected to be the two favorites in the Eastern Conference next season.

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