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Knicks trim roster by cutting Isaiah Roby and Jaylen Martin

Only 12 guaranteed contracts signed with three places yet to be filled before Oct. 23rd

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Minnesota Timberwolves v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Knicks started to trim their roster on Wednesday ahead of the final day to apply such touches set for Oct. 23rd and their final preseason game of October—yes, that one.

The two casualties: forward Isaiah Roby and guard Jaylen Martin.

Roby signed with the Knicks right before the playoffs last season, on April 9th. He didn’t appear in any regular-season game or the postseason. However, Roby was considered one of the main candidates to end up snatching one of the final roster spots still up for grabs in New York.

A seasoned vet even though he’s just 25, Roby was coming off bagging 11 points in 16 minutes against the Celtics on Tuesday. Roby was operating under a non-guaranteed $2.1 million deal.

Martin is only 19, and he went undrafted earlier this summer. He was signed to a two-way deal and only got to play three minutes throughout the full four-game preseason schedule.

“The worst part, especially because of the job that they did, both are very deserving and are great kids and great workers,” Tom Thibodeau said before Wednesday’s finale, per SNY. “It’s a tough call but you do what you think is best for the team.”

The best for the team it might be, indeed. Now, the Knicks still have many more decisions to make in the next four days. They cannot carry more than 15 players in their final roster. As of Thursday morning, there is only one two-way spot available and three full-time roster spots.

If you want to look at it from the opposite angle, the Knicks have 12 guaranteed contracts on their books, one non-guaranteed, and four players on training camp deals.

Looking at those five latter guys, you have to make your picks out of DaQuan Jeffries, Ryan Arcidiacono, Charlie Brown Jr., Jacob Toppin, and Duane Washington Jr., as Kristian Winfield of the Daily News pointed out in a report published Wednesday. That is, of course, unless the Knicks decide to part ways with all of them and just explore the waiver wire.

According to Winfield, there were 100+ players fighting for a roster spot, but only around 30 such contracts were available as of Tuesday. Forget about signing any supremely talented player, but there is always the case the Knicks brass and Thibs have targeted someone for a few weeks (or months, or years), and they are about to have a chance at signing him off the open market.

I’m no capologist, so I have to trust Winfield’s research: “A player with eight years of NBA service can command a minimum salary no less than $2.89 million, and players with 10 or more years of service have a minimum salary set at $3.19 million for the 2023-24 season.” The Knicks have $4.7 million in space before they cross the taxpaying line—accounting for the 12 guaranteed contracts they already boast.

Roby was the natural leading candidate to take a spot because of his power-forward chops and the lack of depth at the position outside of makeshift options, such as using Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jericho Sims at the four.

The only other borderline candidate to make the cut that we’ve heard something about is Duane Washington Jr., who Julius Randle praised last week.

“Duane, his leadership is huge. He comes in and works his butt off every day. Talks, he’s vocal, he’s coachable. Knows how to run a team,” Randle said.

Last year, Thibs himself said, “I believe he’s an NBA player,” when talking about DaQuan Jeffries. Jeffries was cut at the end of training camp last season, mostly due to a concussion suffered in the preseason preventing him from appearing in preseason games.

Fred Katz of The Athletic wrote a story on Wednesday in which he discussed some of the issues that could impact the final roster construction of the Knicks for the 2024 season.

He quoted Thibodeau speaking about usual-practice-squader Ryan Arcidiacono. “What (Arcidiacono) brings to our team is huge. The way he practices—practices are his games, and you feel it. You feel the energy from pre-practice to practice to post-practice, and that’s not something we take for granted. We know how important that is for the group.”

Katz noted how the Knicks head coach isn’t simply looking for gameday bodies, but rather valuable players that can offer more than that; namely: good training reps and competition. That alone, it seems, could have the likes of Arcidiacono on the right track to land on the final 15-man squad.

As Katz sees it having covered and followed the team closely for a while as a beat reporter, “Arcidiacono is an unofficial Thibodeau liaison” and “Jeffries is another longtime Thibodeau favorite.”

Thibs is quoted in the piece saying, “It’s going to be a difficult decision,” and it’s obvious that’s indeed the case following the reasonably surprising cut of Roby.

The coach boiled down the difficulty of making such decisions, saying, “It’s hard because you only have four (preseason) games and there’s a back-to-back so essentially it’s three,” adding that the Knicks had 21 players in their summer/preseason squad while only able to list 15 of them in their final roster.

Making clear his priorities, Thibs also revealed, “It starts with practice.” Said the coach: “It’s not that those guys don’t have an important role. They do because they help your team get ready each and every night.”

So if I’m correct, and with four days to go and a bunch of in-house transactions yet to be completed, the Knicks have to pick three names between the following five players, or sign someone from outside the organization instead to reach the 15-man quota:

  • DeQuan Jeffries (non-guaranteed)
  • Ryan Arcidiacono (training-camp)
  • Jacob Toppin (training-camp)
  • Duane Washington Jr. (training-camp)
  • Charlie Brown Jr. (training-camp)
  • Nathan Knight (two-way)
  • Dylan Windler (two-way)

Who will they end up with? I’m not sure we could even ask Thibs.