Why Knicks could take on Nicolas Batum's unwanted contract from Hornets

Ian Begley
·3 min read
Nicolas Batum
Nicolas Batum

The Hornets are looking for a team to take on Nicolas Batum’s salary via trade, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The club could waive and stretch Batum’s salary to fit Gordon Hayward’s new four-year, $120 million contract, but the Hornets probably prefer to trade Batum’s salary and avoid tying up future cap space.

Could the Knicks take on Batum’s contract?

We noted earlier this week that teams think the Knicks are still open to taking on contracts other GMs want to unload into their cap space.

Earlier in the offseason, New York took on Ed Davis’ $5 million from Utah in exchange for two second-round picks. The Jazz were reportedly looking to shed salary to accomplish other goals (re-signing Jordan Clarkson among them.

Charlotte now seems to be in the same predicament.

Currently, the Knicks have roughly $18.5 million in cap space. If they slot Elfrid Payton’s contract into the room mid-level exception, their cap space would increase to roughly $23.5 million. The final year of Batum’s contract is $27.1 million.

So if they converted Payton’s deal to the room mid-level exception, they could absorb Batum’s contract by sending out an additional $3.5 million in salary. They could also create the $3.5 million in cap space by waiving players.

Of course, New York would want something valuable from Charlotte in exchange for taking on Batum’s contract. (To be clear, Batum is still an effective player and can help teams. But Charlotte needs to shed his salary to make the Hayward signing work.)

What would the Knicks ask Charlotte for? Based on their Davis transaction, maybe the Knicks would ask for future picks.

Worth noting: before Leon Rose took over, some with the Knicks had interest in Charlotte’s Terry Rozier. I don’t see why Charlotte would have any interest in parting with Rozier at this point. The Knicks and Hornets talked about a deal that included Julius Randle, Dennis Smith Jr. and Rozier and Malik Monk before Rose took over as team president.

I’m not suggesting that any of those players would be involved in any talks about Batum – if those talks ever occur. But it’s worth pointing out given the same teams could engage in trade talks around the veteran forward.

Also worth noting: the Oklahoma City Thunder have a trade exception that they can use to take on Batum’s deal, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Lastly, it’s unclear that New York is in a rush to use their current cap space to absorb a contract.

The Heat signed Bam Adebayo to a big extension. They may need to shed salary in order to create enough space for a max free agent in 2021, as Marks notes (there are scenarios where they could acquire a max free agent in a sign-and-trade, too).

Other teams may be looking to clear cap space at the 2021 trade deadline to prepare for free agency (New York did this in the 2019 Kristaps Porzingis trade).

But if the Knicks want to use their current cap space to take on Batum and acquire assets from Charlotte, they’ll reportedly have the chance to do so.