At this point in the offseason and after what went down in last week’s draft nobody is questioning the New York Knicks' grand plan for the 2022 summer: making a run to acquire Dallas Mavericks point guard and upcoming free agent Jalen Brunson.
Everybody is seemingly reporting the Knicks—now real—interest in the New Brunswick, NJ native who will find himself without a deal come July 1 and with it the start of this offseason’s free-agent market. Brunson, who has spent the last four seasons in Dallas, is a free agent coming off a team loaded with talented players and poised to reach the Finals sooner rather than later. In other words, New York is going to be forced into playing hardball by offering Brunson a near-max contract hoping the Mavericks’ don’t offer a strong contract themselves aided by the allure of playing next to the Luka Doncics and Chris Woods they already have in tow.
With the Knicks currently stuck in no man’s land when it comes to their cap space (they have $104 million guaranteed in their books, around $18 million below the $122 million cap for the 2022/23 season) and Brunson’s chase (he is expected to command no less than $20 million per year and most probably up to $25 million), New York needs to find other franchises willing to make room for some of their veterans in salary dumps.
Just this morning, Mike Scotto from HoopsHype reported the Los Angeles Clippers' interest in trading for Knicks big man Nerlens Noel. Both franchises would have already entered discussions about that potential transaction. Noel, who is owed north of $9.2 million next season but has a team option after that, would fit into the Clippers’ trade exception ($9.7 million) created by the Serge Ibaka trade back in February when he was sent to Milwaukee.
The move makes sense for both sides, as HoopsHype reports. It’d allow New York to open enough room for the Knicks to reach the $20-to-$25 million range expected to be demanded by the point guard. The Clippers, meanwhile, would add a big man to their group of interior players as they are expected to lose Isaiah Hartenstein (UFA) while they’ll also have to use their MLE if they want to sign John Wall.
Another potential move that would work wonders for the Knicks would involve Evan Fournier. In a creative exercise, Detroit Pistons’ staff writer at The Athletic James L. Edwards III proposes three deals for the Motown franchise to explore this offseason in his most recent piece.
With the Pistons going nowhere any time soon, let alone making a postseason run, it’d be reasonable for GM Troy Weaver to explore the market and absorb one or two bloated contracts while getting a few tasty draft picks attached to those bad deals Detroit would welcome. Enter Evan Fournier and his onerous $18 million contract with the Knicks.
John Gambadoro reported an offer made by New York to the Boston Celtics back on draft day. The Knicks, as naive as they are, would have tried to fool Boston into acquiring Evan Fournier back while placing his deal in the trade exception the very own Fournier generated for the C’s in the past. Of course, it did not and will never happen.
Edwards III proposes a trade in which New York would receive Cory Joseph (expiring, nothing important or meaningful here) in exchange for dumping Fournier’s contract on Detroit’s books on top of sending a couple of draft picks—a first- a second-round one—to Detroit. Now, that’s something. The Knicks would be creating around $13 million of cap space, yes, but they’d be getting rid of a good off-the-bench player in Fournier and surrendering two selections in next year’s draft, including a first-rounder. This would be a bold move in terms of betting the short-term future on the potential addition of Brunson and the no-impact of losing Fournier to avoid giving away a lottery/top-10 pick if things go awry next season.
Something has to give if New York wants Brunson. Alas, those two potential deals. It might be ugly to dump guys attached to draft picks, but if the front office is truly determined to make Brunson Jr. the brand new playmaker of the Knicks, then this is the only course they can follow. Here’s hoping the gamble pays off.