Here is our second big board of offseason scenarios for the Knicks:
There will be plenty of rumors about the Knicks making trades for big-name players or bidding for top free agents over the next few weeks. But I think the most likely scenario is that the Knicks are conservative during free agency. As we noted a few weeks back, the Knicks are open to using their cap space to taking on undesirable contracts if the trade returns something valuable. If teams like Boston, Brooklyn, Miami or Golden State want to shed salary, I think the Knicks will be willing to listen.
Worth noting: some in touch with the Knicks late last week hadn't gotten a clear indication on whether New York planned to take a patient approach this offseason, or take a more aggressive approach by putting together a roster trying to win immediately. Something else worth noting: in the wake of the Bucks' trade for Jrue Holiday, execs from two teams said that it was highly unlikely Milwaukee would make that trade without knowing Giannis Antetokounmpo was going to sign an extension.
“You don’t give up what they gave up without a commitment,” the exec speculated. If Antetokounmpo is indeed staying in Milwaukee, you can cross him off of the list of free agents that New York could pursue next summer.
Also, the Pelicans received George Hill and Eric Bledsoe in the trade. They already have Lonzo Ball at point guard. And there are people in the organization who are high on a point guard in the draft who is projected to go before 13, where the Pelicans pick. So it’s logical to assume that one or more of those players will be available via trade. In past offseasons, the Knicks have had interest in Hill. If New Orleans drafts a point guard in the lottery, that would seem to indicate they are not fully committed to Ball, who will be a restricted free agent next summer.
2. TRADING FOR WESTBROOK
If the Knicks acquire Westbrook in a trade, several teams expect them to also pursue veterans in free agency that can help them compete in 2020-21. As we’ve reported, some MSG people are hesitant to give up assets in a Westbrook deal because they want to have enough trade capital to deal for another top player – if/when one becomes available via trade. The same was true for Chris Paul, who was deal to Phoenix on Monday. (Ramifications of that deal for the Knicks, including a note on Devin Booker, are here).
If the Knicks find a Westbrook trade that suits them, it’s fair to assume that Julius Randle is involved to match salaries. The Knicks could also absorb Westbrook’s contract into cap space. If they were to acquire Westbrook and trade Randle, I can see them taking a hard look at veterans like Justin Holiday to fill out the roster. There are people in the organization who see Danilo Gallinari as a possible addition, but the expectation is that Gallinari is looking to go to a competitive situation.
If New York can convince Gallinari that the club wants to win next season, maybe he agrees to come to the Big Apple. But opposing teams expect Gallinari to end up on a contender, particularly in the wake of the Paul trade. Per sources, some with the Mavericks have interest in pursuing Gallinari. The Mavs reportedly also want to conserve cap space for the summer of 2021. So the franchise would have to weigh that factor in any offers it makes to Gallinari.
The Knicks were planning to sign Carmelo Anthony last summer if they’d landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. That obviously didn’t happen. But Leon Rose was Anthony’s agent at the time. So, logic says that the Knicks and Anthony will at least discuss the possibility of a return.
With Paul in Phoenix, will Anthony want to come back to New York – or does he feel comfortable in Portland or on a title contender? Just a guess: if everything is equal, I think Anthony would sign with the Knicks over other suitors.
4. SPENDING MONEY ON YOUNG TALENT
Opposing teams interested in Christian Wood believe New York has Wood as a top free agent target. The guess here is that Wood ends up back in Detroit, though no team with interest in Wood considers that a done deal at the moment. If New York can ink Wood to a deal that it deems reasonable, I think the club would pull the trigger. That would likely move Randle to the bench – if he isn’t traded. I think the same holds true for Fred VanVleet. My guess is that he returns to Toronto. But if New York doesn’t draft/trade for a point guard and can ink VanVleet to a reasonable contract, I think the club would have strong interest.
A dream scenario for the Knicks – and 28 other teams in the NBA - is if for some reason Brandon Ingram can be signed as a restricted free agent. But that’s not happening. Also, Joe Harris is widely expected to re-sign with Brooklyn. As many outlets have reported, Atlanta will have interest in Harris. The Knicks had interest in trading for Harris prior to the 2020 trade deadline, per SNY sources. It’s logical to assume that they would have interest in signing Harris. But he’s expected to command a salary above what I think New York would be comfortable with.
5. STANDING PAT
A big factor in the Knicks offseason is what the club chooses to do with Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock. The Knicks have considered scenarios where they pick up the option for Payton and retain Bullock, per SNY sources. Things can change, but per SNY sources, the current plan for New York includes retaining Bullock, who has a $4.2 million deal for 2020-21 that is guaranteed for $1 million. Both players would be on expiring contracts. They could provide stability for a Knicks team that won’t have a long training camp to get acclimated and could be of value to contending teams at the trade deadline – or in offseason trades. Teams expect the Knicks to decline the option for Portis, unless it’s picked up so Portis can be included in an offseason trade. Portis is well-liked in the organization and has played for Thibodeau. So I could see a scenario where he returns to New York on a new contract. Gibson, who has a team option for 2020-21, is close with Thibodeau.
I would bet a modest amount of money that he is back with the Knicks next season, most likely on a new deal. A couple things to keep an eye on for New York: as we reported a few weeks ago, Indiana has interest in trading for Gordon Hayward. Several other teams also have interest in Hayward, who has a player option on his contract for next season.
Also, in Los Angeles, there isn’t a consensus among decision-makers about signing Kyle Kuzma to a contract extension, SNY sources confirm (as first reported by The Ringer). I don’t see Los Angeles seriously considering a trade of Kuzma at the moment, but it’s something worth keeping an eye on if you’re a Knick fan. The Knicks pursued Kuzma in trade talks at the 2020 trade deadline. Also, as basketball analyst Rashad Phillips first noted, the Hawks are among the teams who will pursue Rajan Rondo, SNY sources confirm.