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Stay or Go: Should Knicks re-sign Alec Burks?

Alec Burks’ reunion with the Knicks via a trade deadline swap turned out to be one of the more wholesome storylines of the season.

After spending two seasons under Tom Thibodeau in New York, Burks was salary dumped to Detroit to make way for Jalen Brunson, and the banged-up Knicks reacquired him this past February along with Bojan Bogdanovic for Quentin Grimes and draft consideration. After struggling mightily to close the regular season, Burks blew up as a last resort in the playoffs.

With such high aspirations and much larger priorities down the roster, should the Knicks angle to keep Burks or let him walk?

This would’ve been a foregone conclusion at the end of the regular season. Burks shot in the low 30 percent from every range, scoring 6.5 points in 13.5 minutes a night over 23 games after rejoining the club.

He played himself out of the rotation between the regression from a hot half-season in Detroit and defense short of Thibodeau’s standards. Part of his struggles were likely due to being thrust into more of a creation role with the barrage of injuries hammering the Knicks.

But the hope of Burks stepping up as an emergency postseason bucket turned from meme to reality. After playing 44 seconds in the first eight games of the playoffs, Thibodeau needed another man and Burks delivered: 17.8 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the field and 42.9 percent shooting from three.

Burks played like it was 2021, speeding over pick-and-rolls, drawing contact inside en route to 6.4 free throw attempts a night, pulling up from mid- and deep-range without hesitation. The performance made outsiders question why he was benched in the first place and could entice the Knicks and other teams into bidding for Burks’ services.

Does the broader market trust a five-game sample in the most important minutes of the season or 23 games of shlock? Though the true answer probably lies in the middle, with Burks creeping towards 33, his biggest contracts are certainly behind him.

Burks earned $10 million a season over the past three years and could be a target via the non-taxpayer mid-level exception of $12.8 million, or a smaller exception of $5 million annually from a contender. There’s likely to be at least an assured bench role elsewhere, while the Knicks are a massive trade short of being able to offer Burks anything close.

Barring a mass exodus, Burks is deep on the depth chart, before whoever the Knicks draft, bring from overseas, re-sign or acquire in a trade. New York has avoided the luxury tax to this point in the Leon Rose era, they won’t break that streak to re-sign Burks, and if they are passing the threshold, it’s to beef the roster up top and fill the backend with cheap contracts.

As nostalgic as it is to have Burks, he’s likely not loyal enough to turn down more money and a greater role. There’s a chance the Knicks could offer one of those things, maybe even two, but with the larger moving parts, it seems likelier Burks once again bids farewell.