Stay or Go: Examining if Knicks should bring back Alec Burks for 2021-22 NBA season?

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Alec Burks treated image, blue background with orange X behind head
Alec Burks treated image, blue background with orange X behind head

In this series, we'll look at whether or not Leon Rose and the Knicks should let these players stay -- or let them walk. We'll focus this time on Alec Burks...

CONTRACT: 1 year/$6 million contract expiring this summer.

Why should Burks stay?

At times this season, Burks was one of the most important members of this Knicks roster. New York’s standout defense would only go as far as their offense could keep pace with, and that offense was often lost without Burks. His ability to score at three levels, handle the ball in the pick-and-roll and create for others made him extremely valuable to a team that could only rely on Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and half a season of Derrick Rose for that combination.

Whatever roster the Knicks assemble going into next year, it’s hard to imagine Burks not being useful to it. Even when he doesn’t have the ball, he can spread the floor and make the timely cut. Defensively, he’s no stopper, but he won’t hurt you either. This helps Burks be a tried and true 3-and-D option when alongside other scorers, while letting his creativity flourish with bench units.

It would be about as close to a no-brainer as you can get if the Knicks can re-sign Burks to a friendly deal to keep doing his thing. He shot 41% from three last year and was the team’s fourth-leading scorer in both the regular season and Playoffs. While he might not maintain that big of a role if the Knicks add more talent this offseason, he’ll still be a quality contributor if they choose to bring him back.

Why should Burks go?

Of course, a friendly deal is one thing, but teams would be silly not to pay out for one of the more valuable role player archetypes in the league. Keeping Burks sounds good until the cost decides to rear its head. He’s not signing for another $6 million if Trevor Ariza and Tony Snell made double that.

So how much is Burks actually worth to the Knicks? Their guard rotation isn’t quite what it was last year, with Barrett and Immanuel Quickley likely to take a step, Luca Vildoza now in the fold and Rose potentially returning. Creation and perimeter scoring may not be as desperately needed as before, with money better spent on higher-end talent or specialists.

These aren’t great reasons to pass on a two-year, $16 million deal with Burks, but they are for a three-year, $36 million contract. He’s turning 30 this month and has rarely stayed healthy through a season, missing 23 games this year for the Knicks. For every 20-point outing he had, there were single-digit snorefests, and post-Game 1 Burks was highly ineffective against the Hawks. That’s nothing to commit long term money over.

What’s the right move?

Once again, this decision may come down to cost. The Knicks have big plans for this offseason and the years to follow, and while Burks was a big piece of this magical season that can still be of value to a contender, he’s not crucial to those plans whatsoever.

If New York can retain Burks on a short-term deal that doesn’t eat up too much of their space, maybe one that’s built to be easy to trade down the line, there’s little reason not to pull the trigger. But there’s going to be competition for his talents and players coming off breakout seasons tend to enjoy cashing in on them, in which case it might be time for the Knicks to move on.