As one of a small handful of NBA teams projected to have significant cap room this fall, the Knicks are in position to make a splash on the free agent market. However, the club is also open to using its cap space to take on other teams’ unwanted contracts in trades, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv.
Since the Knicks have so many players with options or non-guaranteed salaries for 2020/21, it remains to be seen exactly how much cap space they’ll have. Begley suggests the number could exceed $60MM, but that seems unrealistic to me. Something in the $25-40MM range should be doable though, and that would give New York more flexibility this fall than all but one or two other franchises.
Teams willing to accommodate other clubs’ “salary dumps” are generally rewarded with draft picks or young players. Last summer, for instance, the Clippers got a first-round pick for taking on Maurice Harkless; the Grizzlies got one for absorbing Andre Iguodala‘s $17MM+ salary; and the Hawks got a pair of first-rounders for taking Allen Crabbe and sending Taurean Prince to Brooklyn.
The Knicks didn’t take advantage of those opportunities in 2019, opting instead to use their space on second- and third-tier free agent signings. However, Leon Rose has since replaced Steve Mills as the head of basketball operations. And in 2020, there may be even more opportunities for Rose and the Knicks to take on undesirable contracts — if the tax line remains unchanged at $132.6MM, several clubs that didn’t expect to be taxpayers will be near or over that threshold and may be looking to shed salary.
In addition to their own future first-round picks, the Knicks also control the Clippers’ 2020 pick and a pair of future Mavs’ first-rounders. Accommodating a salary dump or two would allow New York to continue stockpiling draft assets and could give the team extra ammunition to eventually put together a trade package for a star.