In Parts One, Two and Three of this series, I’ve examined players the Knicks could target in free agency that would improve the team and maintain cap flexibility moving forward if they don’t land two max free agents. But there’s other ways to use cap space, which many would argue is more prudent and forward-looking.
It’s not very complex. The idea is if you can’t get stars, you shouldn’t sign players who will help you be better, but still not good. So instead, use your space to help other teams unload unwanted contracts with assets attached. If you make any move like this you will earn the undying respect of NBA Twitter and they will sacrifice themselves for your cause like Jorah Mormont (see Marks, Sean).
So who are some of the prime targets in this scenario? How much draft compensation would you expect? Let’s get jiggy with it.
Note: All the contract numbers are estimates rounded to the nearest 500k because I ain’t got time to write down shit like “$8,356,932 for Stinky Buttmunch”
Also note: A lot of these trades would require the Knicks to punt on their double max dreams before this summer’s free agency, so just assume in those scenarios they’ve found out through back channels it ain’t happening anyway.
One and fun
Danilo Gallinari, one year, $22.5 million
Gallinari is still a very legit player and just finished off a relatively healthy campaign — rare for him — in which he helped the Clippers punch a playoff ticket and push Golden State to six games in the opening round. This would be a fun homecoming for a player who was a Garden favorite in his time as a Knick.
The Clippers’ interest in moving him is directly tied to their ability to attract two max level free agents this summer. If they do, “The Rooster” gotta go. Depending on the level of interest in Gallinari, there could even be a bidding war, but it seems likely the Clips would be more inclined to do him a solid, curry some brownie points with agents and players around the league, and trade him to his preferred destination among interested parties for more or less nothing.
Would Gallo be into coming back to the place he started his NBA career? Maybe.
Price point: Knicks give top-55 protected second rounder
Goran Dragic, one year, $19 million
Dragic is certainly well into the downside of his career. It never quite happened for him in Miami like they hoped when Pat Riley traded two unprotected firsts for him at the 2015 trade deadline. His overall scoring efficiency has dropped over the last three years as his three-point percentage and free throw rate have declined. He’s just not as dynamic off the bounce as he used to be.
Still, he’d be the most complete point guard the Knicks have employed since Stephon Marbury. For a team with this many dumb young players trying to figure shit out, a steady hand like Dragic would be a boon. Sure, he might take some time away from Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina, but he could also show them the ropes, and he’s demonstrated the ability to play alongside another ball handler throughout his career.
For Miami, it’d be an attempt at further slashing a payroll and managing a bloated cap sheet that’s spiraled out of control for a team nowhere near contention. Would they want anything in exchange? I’m not sure, and if they do they can kick rocks. I’m not here to do Pat Riley a solid.
Price point: Knicks give top-55 protected second rounder
Andre Roberson, one year, $11 million
Roberson, when healthy, is arguably the most impactful perimeter defender in the league on a team level. He can switch 1-4 and he’s a nightmare defender on the ball.
The problem is, he can not shoot. At all. Not a lick. He makes Frank and DSJ look like the Splash Brothers. He also has very serious injury concerns, which held him out this entire season.
But the defense is real, and defense is something the Knicks have only feigned interest in for most of this millennium. Even in an increasingly offensively-oriented league, defense matters.
OKC’s motivation, like Miami’s, would be to cut salary from an already bloated cap sheet — and boy do they need it. They’re already paying approximately 723 bajillion dollars in luxury tax, so shaving a few sheckles on a player that probably doesn’t move the needle for them in terms of what they need to improve upon makes sense.
Price point: Knicks give top-55 protected second rounder
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, one year, $13 million
Yeah, I’m still here. I’m an MKG Truther. The dude is a small-ball 5 who can play some power forward in lineups where the center can shoot. I refuse to give up on a 25-year-old with his defensive chops. This is my hill and I will die on it.
Charlotte could be very motivated to get off salary, especially if Kemba Walker re-ups, but they’d probably save any primo assets to attach for a contract that we’ll get into later.
Price point: Knicks get 2020 and 2021 second round picks
Just gimme a first rounder
Meyers Leonard, one year, $11 million
Chandler Parsons, one year, $25 million
Ryan Anderson, one year, $21 million
Allen Crabbe, one year, $18.5 million
Evan Turner, one year $18 million
Timofey Mozgov, one year, $17 million
None of these guys are good, and all of them are lingering remnants of the shitty contracts that were handed out when the cap jumped in consecutive years. Maybe they can eat some minutes for a year, but they’re definitely not going to help you win games. Depending on the Knicks’ motivations, that may be just fine.
Price point: Need a first round pick to eat any of these salaries.
Miami can’t give up next year’s to dump Anderson since they owe their 2021 pick, so that’d be tricky. The Nets have Denver’s pick in addition to their own if they want to dump Crabbe. For Parsons I’m either getting the lottery pick this year if they hold on to it, a very lightly protected 2020 pick if it does convey to Boston, or they can kick rocks.
Note: I completely forgot that Timofey Mozgov is in the league
The veteran pump and dump
Patrick Patterson, one year, $6 million
Jae Crowder, one year, $7.5 million
Once upon a time, Crowder and Patterson were viewed as solid rotation cogs. Despite neither being particularly old, the passage of time has not been kind to them. Patterson fell out of the rotation entirely in OKC as his three-point shooting deserted him.
Crowder was very much in the rotation in Utah, but they need more juice to get where they want to be going and Jae ain’t it, chief. They need more cap space to land bigger fish and he’s just collateral damage. It’s not personal, it’s business.
We’re gonna get these kids right.
Price point: Knicks get a second round pick, maybe two if they’re lucky. If the Knicks are really lucky, they get into a groove early on courtesy of some contract year motivation, and New York can flip them to a playoff team looking for more depth for another small asset.
Mason Plumlee, one year, $14 million
Mason isn’t bad, but he’s really not producing enough to justify that salary for a Nuggets team operating dangerously close to the luxury tax for Stan Kroenke’s liking. Kroenke’s notoriously cheap. Don’t believe me? Well listen to my friend, Troopz.
If you didn’t know about Arsenal Fan TV before this, you’re welcome. Pro tip: only watch when they lose.
Anyways, back to the Nuggets. Denver can almost certainly find similar backup center production using an exception or via trade. Plumlee isn’t worth risking a million or two of a billionaire’s money, I guess.
Price point: Knicks get a 2020 first round pick or Juancho Hernangomez
Miles Plumlee, one year, $12.5 million
Yeah, I still don’t know how Miles finagled himself such a rich deal from the Bucks, but big ups to him. I don’t think the Hawks are desperate to salary dump an expiring salary. They have a real butt-ton of cap space and they seem pretty set on course for a patient rebuild process. Pretty unrealistic they use a first round picks to dump him, but I wanted to include him, well, because Plumlee.
Price point: Knicks get a first round pick, but don’t hold your breath on this one
Too rich for everybody’s blood except their own
Nicolas Batum, two years, $52.5 million
Gorgui Dieng, two years, $33.5 million
Andre Drummond, two years, $56 million
I’d guess that there’d be interest in dumping these guys into some poor sucker’s cap space from all their incumbent teams. The price would be steep, though. For Batum and Drummond, considering the money you’d be eating, the price is at least two first round picks. Dieng’s contract is a little bit cheaper, but not much more appealing. If Minnesota offered up their lottery pick this year for him that’d be something to pounce on, but Gerson Rosas doesn’t seem like a dummy. Too bad.
Price point: Knicks get what I told you above, but it ain’t happening
Andrew Wiggins, four years, $122 million
Tim Hardaway Jr., two years, $39.5 million
Norman Powell, three years, $32.5 million
The Knicks should demand at least three first round picks for Wiggins AND Saric. It’s not going to happen. The Wolves aren’t ever going to do that, and the Knicks aren’t ever going tie up that much cap for that many years into a player of Wiggins’ skill level (or lack thereof).
Norman Powell isn’t bad, but he’s definitely not good enough to just eat that contract, and Masai isn’t in the business of giving away multiple firsts just to dump salary. Can’t see the Knicks eating a three-year deal under any circumstance either.
Tim Hardaway Jr. ain’t coming back for a third time, and the Mavs don’t have jack to trade.
Price point: Lol, nah
Sleeping with the enemy
Gordon Hayward, two years, $67 million
I know, I know, I know. The thought of us striking out in free agency, and then using the space to help the disgusting and vile Boston Celtics rid themselves of their savior-turned-albatross is vomit-inducing. That it could help their flexibility in assembling a contender is stomach-churning. But they got a lot of assets, man. Three or four first round picks in this draft (Memphis pick pending), including two that could well land in the lottery.
On top of that, Hayward may be able to find himself two years removed from what was a truly horrific injury. He showed flashes this year of the all-around wing wizardry that made him an All-Star, but it’s just drips from the faucet, not a steady stream. As much as it would suck to help out a hated rival, it could be a two-way street.
Price point: Knicks get the two highest of the Celtics firsts this year and two seconds
Tell Pat Riley to go to hell
Dion Waiters, two years, $24.5 million
James Johnson, two years, $31 million
Miami can trade their first this year. They can’t trade their 2020 first because they already owe their 2021 first. Unless they get some lottery luck and they’re stupid enough to trade it away to rid themselves of these contracts, just laugh Riley off the phone. It’s probably about time to call it a career, Rat.
Price point: No
Still young but not sure about it
Dante Exum, two years, $19 million
Exum’s entering his sixth season in the NBA, and he’s still quite an unknown commodity. At just 24 years old, Exum’s been injured a bunch, but when healthy certainly looks the part of a defensive nightmare. Being healthy hasn’t been easy though. Exum’s played just under 900 minutes over the last two seasons, and questions linger over his ability as a distributor, finisher and shooter.
We have point guard projects of our own, and they’re cheaper and younger. Does Exum make sense? Maybe. Maybe not.
Price point: Knicks get Utah’s first round pick
Only consider if you got Durant or Kawhi in the bag
Mike Conley Jr., two years, $64 million
Conley was nearly dealt at the deadline to Utah, but the two sides couldn’t quite agree on compensation. It’s unclear what the Grizzlies would want, but based on what they settled on for Marc Gasol, it seems that their main priority isn’t to milk the asset value of these franchise pillars, but rather finding them a place where they can compete at a high level. Conley isn’t as far down the tunnel as Gasol, but he’s only a few steps behind
Competing at a high level isn’t something the Knicks’ current roster is set up to do. If you get either Durant or Kawhi to commit, then things change. Conley’s not the best point guard in the league, he comes with some injury concerns, and he’s certainly in the downslope of his career, but he’d be the Knicks’ best point guard since Rod Strickland or Mark Jackson, at least. He’s a steady hand that knows how to run an offense, how to set scorers up, and has plenty of playoff experience. It also helps that he had arguably the best year of his career under David Fizdale in 2016-17. And with just two years left on his contract, you’re not totally hamstringing yourself if he goes into the shitter.
I don’t know if I would do it, but if I would, I certainly wouldn’t go nuts bidding for him. Not a huge market out there for soon-to-be-32-year-old point guards making big-time money.
Price point: Knicks give Dennis Smith Jr. and their 2020 first round pick, top-20 protected
Hopefully this series helped everybody walk through some of the possibilities open to the Knicks if they can’t nab a star or two with their cap space. The Knicks opened up a ton of paths with the Hardaway Jr. trade. How they negotiate that will determine (at least in part) how smart that deal was, and whether or not they’re guiding the franchise forward in a responsible fashion.