• Loading stock data...
Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Join us this September for Tuned In Request to Attend

Why the Knicks Traded for a 36-Year-Old Finnish Coach in the Draft

  • Petteri Koponen never played in the NBA and is now a coach for the Spurs.
  • Koponen is a retired Finnish point guard who was a strong three-point shooter in Europe.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Move over, Mikal Bridges. 

The Knicks made their first trade with the Nets since 1983 this week. On Thursday, they made an even rarer deal.

As part of their trade with the Mavericks to acquire Ariel Hukporti—the 58th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft—the Knicks also received cash and the draft rights to Petteri Koponen.

Never heard of Koponen? He was the No. 30 pick in the 2007 draft, the same draft as Kevin Durant. He never came over from Europe, bouncing around in a successful career in Finland and elsewhere. He retired two years ago and just took a job coaching with the Spurs’ Summer League team.

“I’m honored,” Koponen wrote, “but I’m still going to honor my commitment” to the Spurs, he joked. “Of course, a financially ridiculous offer could change things. + I got the new hip! I’m ready!” His bio on X says that his nickname is “The General of Susijengi.”

Sometimes, to make an NBA trade work financially, teams have to include in their lowest asset as a throw-in, whether it be a player stashed overseas or the draft rights to someone who will never play in the NBA. In the Knicks’ case, it was the latter. In return, they sent the Mavericks the rights to Melvin Ajinça, who was taken 51st overall Thursday. 

Dallas has held Koponen’s rights for more than a decade. While he would technically be a 36-year-old rookie, he is a veteran of draft-day trades. 

The pick Koponen was selected with originally belonged to the Mavericks. Dallas traded it in 2004 in a deal that involved former Duke star Christian Laettner. In ’05, the Warriors traded it to the Nuggets, who then sent it to the Sixers the following year in the trade that brought Allen Iverson to Denver. Philadelphia kept it and used it on Koponen, who, transactionally, rubbed elbows with two of the biggest basketball stars of the ’90s. 

Shortly after Philadelphia selected Koponen, he was traded on draft night to the Trail Blazers for Derrick Byars, who was taken 42nd overall. Four years later, Koponen’s rights were traded to Dallas for the 57th overall pick in the 2011 draft as part of a deal that involved former Knicks point guard Raymond Felton. His rights stayed with Dallas for 13 years while he had a solid career in Europe, shooting 46% from three in 155 EuroLeague games. Koponen played for the Wizards’ Summer League team in ’08, which is the closest he got to actual NBA basketball.

While unconventional, it’s not the first time a team has traded for a coach. The Clippers acquired Doc Rivers from the Celtics for an unprotected 2019 first-round pick, since Rivers was still under contract with Boston. 

Koponen is also far from the most noteworthy athlete to be working for one team while having its rights held by another. The New York Yankees currently have the rights to Super Bowl–winning quarterback Russell Wilson, who had a minor league baseball career before returning to college to focus on football. 

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

ACC Commissioner: FSU, Clemson Lawsuits ‘Incredibly Harmful’

Jim Phillips laid into FSU and Clemson during football media days.

WNBA All-Star Weekend Signals League’s Growth, Delivers Action

The WNBA All-Star weekend was a showcase of the league’s rise driven by rookies.
Hosts of Inside the NBA on TNT

TNT Sports’ Parent Moves to Keep NBA Rights Despite Financial Woes

Warner Bros. Discovery is attempting to make good on its bid to retain NBA rights.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

WNBA ASG, Paris Olympics Continue Rise of Women’s Basketball


Featured Today

The FTC Noncompete Ruling Could Change MMA As We Know It

Fighters could see their options—and earnings—grow.
July 21, 2024

O No Canada: The Next Big Sports Betting Scandal Could Erupt North of the Border

‘It’s open-season for match-fixing up there.’
July 20, 2024

The Road to the Return of ‘EA Sports College Football’

This summer, the biggest development in college sports is virtual.
Apr 15, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Caitlin Clark poses with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected with the number one overall pick to the Indiana Fever during the 2024 WNBA Draft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
July 16, 2024

Women’s Sports Merch Is a $4 Billion Market, but Supply Isn’t Meeting Demand

Retailers can’t make women’s sports apparel fast enough.

A Year Into Josh Harris Era, Commanders Unable to Fully Break From Past

It’s been one year since Dan Snyder sold the Washington Commanders.
July 17, 2024

Braves’ Bold Plans, Political Backdrop Shape All-Star Game Prep

The Braves plan a series of upgrades to Truist Park while looking to avoid dwelling on state politics.
An artistic rendering of the new proposed Everton stadium in Liverpool.
July 19, 2024

Déjà Vu: Everton Loses Takeover Bid From U.S. Investor

The Premier League club is back on the hunt for a new owner.

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
July 17, 2024

Angel City FC Sale Official at Record $250 Million Valuation

Disney CEO Bob Iger and wife Willow Bay now control the club.
Jun 23, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Paul Skenes (right) reacts as he talks with pitcher Jared Jones (left) after the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at PNC Park.
July 12, 2024

The Pirates Are Facing Political Pressure to Play Better

Pennsylvania state representatives call on the MLB club to boost its payroll.
Apr 12, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Grayson Allen (8) and guard Devin Booker (1) and guard Bradley Beal (3) and forward Royce O'Neale (00) and forward Kevin Durant (35) huddle up before the final seconds of the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center.
July 12, 2024

The Suns Have Entered the NBA’s Uncharted, Punitive Territory

The NBA’s first $400 million team between payroll and projected luxury tax.
July 12, 2024

Oakland Minor League Baseball Team Experimenting With Fan Ownership

The Ballers say more than 1,000 people have registered interest.