Frank Ntilikina

Community Shootaround: Knicks’ Offseason Trade Options

With only about $56MM in guaranteed salary on their books for next season, the Knicks have the flexibility necessary to create cap room and make a run at one or more top free agents. However, the team also feels as if it’s well-positioned to trade for an impact player, as an April report indicated.

This year’s free agent class isn’t particularly star-heavy, so it’s possible that greasing the wheels for a blockbuster trade may be a better use of the Knicks’ cap space. Plus, New York has accumulated seven first-round picks in the next four drafts and has a roster loaded with former lottery selections, so the team could put together an appealing package for the right player.

In a report this week, Marc Berman of The New York Post indicated that Pacers guard Victor Oladipo could be that player. Knicks general manager Scott Perry, who drafted Oladipo when he was a member of the Magic front office in 2013, “still is enamored” with him, according to Berman, and there have been rumblings that the All-Star may not be fully committed to Indiana for the long term.

Thunder guard Chris Paul, a former CAA client of new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose, is another potential trade target for the franchise.

Writing today about that possibility in a separate story for The New York Post, Berman suggests that Oklahoma City would likely seek a first-round pick and a young prospect on his rookie contract in return for Paul. According to Berman, the Thunder would probably target Kevin Knox in a deal with New York, while the Knicks would rather give up Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith Jr.

Oladipo and Paul aren’t the only potential trade candidates who could catch the Knicks’ eye this offseason, but they’re probably two of the only All-Stars who will realistically be available. Within his initial article on Oladipo, Berman names three more trade targets who would intrigue the Knicks, but it’s hard to imagine any of them (Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Paul George) actually changing teams this fall.

Of course, even if Embiid, Towns, George, or another superstar becomes available, the cost to acquire them in a trade would be extremely high. On the other hand, there are certain factors that should keep the price tags of Oladipo (health; expiring contract) and Paul (age; exorbitant salary) in check, which may appeal to the Knicks — making a trade for one of those two players could help New York move back toward playoff contention without emptying the team’s treasure chest of assets.

In today’s Community Shootaround, we want to get your input on the Knicks’ offseason options.

Does Oladipo look like an appealing trade target for New York? How about Paul? Should the team wait for a star with fewer question marks to become available before looking to trade future first-round picks? Or should the Knicks altogether avoid trading multiple assets for one impact player, focusing instead – for now at least – on using their cap room to sign free agents or to keep adding draft picks by taking on unwanted contracts?

Head to the comment section to share your thoughts on the Knicks’ offseason plan!

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Draft, Point Guards, Robinson

Five coaching vacancies have been created since Tom Thibodeau agreed to terms with the Knicks on July 25, but he has no reason to regret his decision, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thibodeau might have been a candidate to join the Nets, Sixers, Pacers, Rockets or Thunder, but a source tells Berman the coach is happy to be reunited with team president Leon Rose, his former agent with CAA.

“He took the job because he trusted Leon,’’ the source said.

Trust means Thibodeau will have input on important decisions such as the upcoming draft, where the Knicks own picks No. 8, 27 and 38. Thibodeau served as both coach and team president in Minnesota and is used to being involved in personnel moves.

“I think, as a head coach, the only thing you want is a voice,’’ Thibodeau told reporters Friday on a Zoom call. “I think a lot was made of a president’s title, but also, I had a GM and assistant GMs that did a lot of the day-to-day stuff that a normal general manager would do.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Finding a point guard will be the priority heading into the draft, but the Knicks are also taking a long look at Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, Berman adds in the same story. Okoro’s defensive skills could be a perfect fit for Thibodeau’s system.
  • Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. are both attending the Knicks’ mini-camp to show the new coaching staff what they can do, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Neither of the former lottery picks has been able to seize control of the starting point guard job. “We’re three days in, so I’m getting to know both guys,” Thibodeau said Friday. “I like what they’ve done so far. They got to continue to work. There’s oftentimes ups and downs for young players. There’s a learning curve they have to go through. Some experiences will be better than others.”
  • Mitchell Robinson isn’t participating in the mini-camp, but he impressed Thibodeau during individual workouts last week, Popper writes in a separate story. Robinson pulled out of the team sessions at the last minute due to “personal reasons” that the Knicks say aren’t related to COVID-19. “He’s an incredible athlete, Thibodeau said. “But we don’t want to put a ceiling on him. We want to continue to work on all aspects of his game and develop. He spent some time here earlier in the summer and we’re hopeful that we can get him back in and get to work with him so he can build on those skills, but obviously he’s a very important part of this team.”

And-Ones: Beasley, Walkup, China, Ntilikina

The Nets issued a press release two weeks ago announcing that they had signed Michael Beasley, then voided that contract after the forward tested positive for COVID-19. According to John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link), Beasley’s case is technically being treated as if he failed his physical and had his contract disapproved. As Hollinger puts it, “it’s like he was never there.”

Substitute-player contracts don’t count against NBA teams’ cap sheets this summer, so the Nets’ cap will be unaffected either way. However, presumably the team won’t be on the hook for the $183K they would have owed Beasley.

More importantly, the five-game suspension that Beasley would have had to serve if he had stuck with the Nets appears to still be in play — if and when the former No. 2 pick signs with a new NBA team, he’ll still have to serve that five-game ban before being activated.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former Stephen F. Austin guard Thomas Walkup, who has spent the last three seasons overseas, received some NBA interest, but has decided to remain with Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas rather than exercise his opt-out, according to Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link).
  • The NBA has terminated its relationship with a basketball academy located in the Xinjiang region of China, according to a letter sent by the league to a U.S. senator, obtained by Ross Dellenger of SI.com. “The NBA has had no involvement with the Xinjiang basketball academy for more than a year, and the relationship has been terminated,” deputy commissioner Mark Tatum wrote to Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn. The Xinjiang region, where Chinese authorities are holding approximately one million Muslims in “re-education” camps, is “known as one of the world’s worst humanitarian zones,” Dellenger writes.
  • A handful of NBA players are taking part in a basketball tournament in Paris this week, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who reports that Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina, Pistons forward Sekou Doumbouya, and Bulls two-way player Adam Mokoka are participating in the event.

Knicks Notes: Ball, Smith Jr., Playoffs, Aller

LaMelo Ball tops the Knicks‘ wish list for this year’s draft, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. A 6’7″ playmaker who spent this season with the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL, Ball would solve New York’s long search for a point guard. However, unless they get some lottery luck, the Knicks would have to trade up to land Ball, who is expected to be among the first players selected.

Berman notes that new team president Leon Rose has experience in dealing with Ball’s controversial father LaVar during his time with Creative Artists Agency. League insiders told Berman that LaVar likes the idea of his son playing in a big market and will attempt to work behind the scenes to get him to New York.

If the Knicks’ pick remains in the 6-10 range, Berman expects Cole AnthonyTyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes and Tyrese Maxey to all be considered, along with trading down to target RJ Hampton or Kira Lewis.

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks would like to part with Dennis Smith Jr.‘s $5.7MM salary for next season if they can put together a trade involving Chris Paul, Berman adds in the same story. The Thunder guard will make $41.36MM in 2020/21, so accommodating his salary would require sending out some contracts. Berman suggests that Kevin Knox ($4.6MM), whom Rose hasn’t committed to keeping, and Frank Ntilikina ($6.2MM) could also be included.
  • A “playoffs plus” scenario being considered in a survey of general managers could leave the Knicks out in the cold, Berman observes in a separate story. New York currently ranks 12th in the East, so it wouldn’t be included if seeds seven through 10 are involved in play-in games for postseason spots.
  • Plenty of people around the league believe Brock Aller will make a difference in the Knicks’ front office, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Aller left the Cavaliers last month to become VP of strategy in New York. “He’s a big-picture guy who is also a diabolical genius from a cap standpoint,” said David Griffin, VP of basketball operations for the Pelicans, who formerly served as general manager in Cleveland.

Knicks Notes: Robinson, Ntilikina, Front Office

As a second-round pick in the 2018 draft, Mitchell Robinson came cheaper than a first-rounder, but his contract could create some complications if and when the Knicks look to extend him, as Mike Vorkunov and Danny Leroux of The Athletic explore.

Robinson has a non-guaranteed minimum salary for 2020/21 and a minimum-salary team option for 2021/22, making him a great bargain for the next two years. However, if the Knicks wait until the end of that four-year deal to try to re-sign him, Robinson will be eligible for unrestricted free agency and could sign with any team.

On the other hand, if the Knicks were to turn down Robinson’s fourth-year option and negotiate a new deal in the ’21 offseason, he’d be a restricted free agent, giving the team the opportunity to match any offer sheet he may sign.

As Vorkunov and Leroux observe, Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets found themselves in a similar situation a couple years ago, and Denver opted to lock up its star center after his third year, significantly increasing his fourth-year cap hit but avoiding the risk of unrestricted free agency. Robinson isn’t on Jokic’s level, but it still may make sense for the Knicks to take a similar approach with their young big man to ensure they don’t lose him after his fourth year.

For now, Leroux estimates that Robinson might cost about $15MM per year on his next contract, but cautions the 22-year-old’s value could substantially increase or decline depending on his performance over the next year or so.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Within the above-linked piece, Vorkunov and Leroux discuss what Frank Ntilikina‘s next contract might look like, given his defensive strengths — and his offensive shortcomings. While they cite Dante Exum as one point of comparison, the Athletic’s duo notes that Exum’s three-year, $28.8MM deal with Utah ended up being an overpay. Leroux expects Ntilikina – a restricted free agent in 2021 – to get less than that.
  • In his latest mailbag, Ian Begley of SNY.tv examines how changes to the salary cap projection for 2020/21 might affect the Knicks, while also addressing the team’s coaching situation and a few other topics.
  • Nothing has been finalized yet, but sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (Twitter link) that Knicks executives Craig Robinson, Gerald Madkins, and Harold Ellis are unlikely to be retained by new president of basketball operations Leon Rose.
  • In case you missed it, the Knicks are finalizing a pair of front office deals, with the team set to hire Walt Perrin and Frank Zanin as assistant general managers.

Eastern Notes: Ntilikina, Bryant, Cavs, Lowry

Frank Ntilikina hasn’t lived up to the hype of being the Knicks‘ No. 8 overall pick back in 2017, but some around the league believe the 21-year-old still has a future in the NBA — even if it’s not with New York.

“If (the) Knicks move him or let him walk, teams will take a chance,” one Western Conference scout tells Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “… Maybe his role moving forward is a high-level defender off the bench that you can stick him in the corner. That could be his calling … Depends on coach and system to find the right place to play.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Thomas Bryant‘s value on the trade market could be limited, John Hollinger writes in a piece on The Athletic. The former executive believes the Wizards would have a hard time landing a first-rounder without taking back a bad contract, though multiple second-rounders may be in the cards.
  • The Cavaliers may be wise to explore moving down in the draft, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com explains. The top of the draft is loaded with guards and bigs, while Cleveland is badly in need of a long-term option at the wing.
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic wonders how long 34-year-old Kyle Lowry can remain as productive for the Raptors. LeBron James and Chris Paul are the only 33-and-older players who had more win shares this past year than Lowry.

Latest On NBA’s Plans To Reopen Teams’ Facilities

After ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported over the weekend that the NBA will allow some teams to reopen their practice facilities beginning on May 1, clubs around the league are attempting to determine the viability of doing so.

As we detailed on Saturday, the NBA can’t unilaterally direct teams to open up their facilities, since some franchises play in states that have stricter stay-at-home orders than others due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Even in cities where facilities can be reopened, group workouts and organized team activities will continue to be prohibited.

According to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link), teams expect to receive further directives from the NBA at some point this week outlining what will and won’t be permitted as facilities begin to reopen.

Here’s more on the subject:

  • Toronto mayor John Tory said on Monday morning that he has preliminary discussions with Raptors management about reopening the team’s practice facility in May (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca). Tory doesn’t want the Raptors to be at a disadvantage relative to other teams, but is prioritizing safety and will allow public health officials to make the final call.
  • It was unclear as of Sunday whether the Heat will be permitted to reopen their practice facility this Friday, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “As of right now, under current orders, the AmericanAirlines Arena is closed,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s Office of Communications told The Herald in a statement. “But, we have until Friday to gather information on what the NBA plans are and to work with the Miami Heat on what could be possible, safe and acceptable.”
  • The Warriors‘ facilities are expected to remain closed as long as the City of San Francisco keeps its current lock-down ordinances in place, league sources tell Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area. Social-distancing guidelines have been instituted in the city through May 3 and will likely be extended beyond that.
  • New York City’s lock-down regulations are expected to run through at least May 15, but the NBA figures to be proactive in helping Knicks and Nets players find somewhere to work out next month, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. As Berman notes, Taj Gibson and Frank Ntilikina are believed to be the only Knicks players still staying in the New York area, with the rest of the club’s players spread across North America.
  • Chris Mannix of SI.com explores the competitive imbalance that may affect a resumed season if certain teams are permitted to reopen their facilities days or weeks before others.

Knicks Notes: Miller, Ntilikina, Draft, Team Facility

Although several big-name coaches are believed to be on the Knicks‘ radar, Marc Berman of The New York Post suggests that interim Mike Miller has done enough to be considered for the job on a permanent basis. Berman points out that Miller has a .386 winning percentage in 44 games since taking over for David Fizdale, a record that would have New York in ninth place in the East and just four games out of a playoff spot.

Miller has brought stability to the sidelines, Berman adds, and has more of a low-maintenance personality than Fizdale did. Since Miller took the reins, the Knicks have improved from 30th in the league in field goal percentage to 19th and jumped from 28th to second in points in the paint (per 100 possessions).

Miller has the support of Jeff Van Gundy, who still has influence in the Knicks’ organization, after serving as Van Gundy’s assistant in the World Cup qualifier in 2018. Berman also suggests that budget considerations due to the hiatus may not make this the right time to bring in an entirely new coaching staff.

There’s more from New York:

  • The addition of Leon Rose as president of basketball operations may solidify Frank Ntilikina‘s future with the Knicks, Berman writes in the same piece. Rose served as Ntilikina’s agent when he entered the league and developed a strong bond with the French guard and his family. Berman notes that general manager Scott Perry bypassed Ntilikina in the draft when he worked for the Kings and frequently shopped him after joining the Knicks.
  • The Knicks are confident that good prospects will be available with the pick they got from the Clippers, which currently sits at No. 27, Berman adds. He also notes that financial insecurities might prompt some teams to trade down in exchange for money. Berman mentions Alabama point guard Kira Lewis as a potential target if New York tries to move up, along with Villanova’s Saddiq Bey, French guard Theo Maledon, Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith and Florida State’s Devin Vassell.
  • Although the NBA will permit teams to reopen their facilities starting May 1, some Knicks are concerned about traveling to New York while coronavirus numbers in the area are still high, Berman states in a separate story. The state remains under a lockdown until at least May 15, although commissioner Adam Silver could seek a waiver for the Knicks and Nets.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Irving, Powell, Ntilikina

Nets general manager Sean Marks offered an update on the status of injured stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving during remote interviews this week, relays NetsDaily. Durant continues to rehab an Achilles injury that has sidelined him since last year’s NBA Finals, while Irving is recovering from shoulder surgery on March 3.

“Specifically with Kevin, this rehab and return to practice was really looking great,” Marks said. “He was on the floor again. A lot people have seen that short little video that was posted and so forth. It was remarkable to see the way he was progressing. … I’ve talked to Ky multiple times. He seems to be doing very very well, rehabbing in his apartment in Brooklyn and between here and Jersey. So he’s doing well. I know both those guys are itching to get back, but get back at 100 percent.”

Marks also addressed the team’s unsettled coaching situation, as interim Jacque Vaughn only got to coach the team for two games after taking over for Kenny Atkinson. Marks said Vaughn and his staff are staying in touch with players and expressed hope that he will get more opportunity to show what he can do before a final decision has to be made.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors guard Norman Powell is fully recovered from a twisted ankle he suffered during the team’s final game before the hiatus, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Powell has been watching a couple hours of film each day during the break and is concentrating on his defense off the ball (Twitter link).
  • The Knicks are less likely to try to move point guard Frank Ntilikina this offseason than they were last summer, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Several teams said New York reached out to them with trade proposals involving Ntilikina before last year’s draft and may have accepted an early second-round pick in return.
  • There is a “growing belief” that interim Knicks coach Mike Miller will have a role with the organization next season, although he remains a long shot to become the permanent head coach, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Miller has been studying tape and trying to keep the team running as normally as possible under the circumstances. “We’ve done a good job of making sure throughout the week our players hear from us almost on a daily basis — from the training staff, performance staff and medical staff,” he said. “They have been very well connected with us making sure everyone is safe.”

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Payton, Portis, Peters

The departure of former team president Steve Mills and the arrival of replacement Leon Rose will complicate Frank Ntilikina‘s future with the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

As Berman explains, Mills had been Ntilikina’s “stoutest supporter” within the organization, having worked with Phil Jackson to draft the young Frenchman in the 2017 lottery.

Rose, on the other hand, comes from CAA, the agency that Ntilikina left in 2019 when he hired French agent Bouna Ndiaye. Although Rose didn’t directly represent the Knicks’ guard, he led CAA’s basketball department, and Berman hears that the agency was “angered” by Ntilikina’s departure.

Any decision Rose makes on Ntilikina’s future probably won’t be motivated by the 21-year-old’s history with CAA, but it’s not uncommon for new heads of basketball operations to move on from a number of the old regime’s draftees if those players haven’t established themselves as reliable contributors. With Ntilikina entering a contract year in 2020/21, he could be a trade candidate during the coming offseason.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Rose will also have a decision to make on another guard, Elfrid Payton, who is owed $8MM in 2020/21. Currently, only $1MM of that amount is guaranteed. While there are no assurances that the Knicks will bring Payton back at that price, Berman notes in a separate Post article that the veteran guard was one of the team’s most productive players in ’19/20. “I just feel the team has been a noticeably better basketball team with him healthy,” a Knicks source told Berman.
  • Bobby Portis‘ $15.75MM team option for 2020/21 appears unlikely to be exercised, according to Berman. Agent Mark Bartelstein contends that Portis was “really terrific” in the month leading up to the stoppage after adjusting to a new team and a mid-season coaching change. However, an NBA personnel director tells Berman, “I can’t imagine they can keep him (at that price).”
  • It’s possible the Knicks may have found an under-the-radar gem in guard Lamar Peters, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who spoke with Peters about his first season in the G League. Although the former Mississippi State standout spent the year with the Westchester Knicks, New York doesn’t hold his NBA rights, so he could sign with a new team at any point after the current moratorium lifts.
  • In case you missed it on Wednesday, the Knicks are said to have some interest in Sixers general manager Elton Brand for a role in their front office. However, the 76ers reportedly like the job he’s done and don’t plan to let him go.