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First rule of free agency is looking at what was attempted in the past year, how it was attempted and what can be gleaned for the future. The mix of draft picks and the players brought in did not mesh well. Regardless there were still clear positives and some rotational fits at times that the Knicks can build with. Do they have the flexibility to enhance the good rotational fits?
NYK have eight first round picks over the next three years and at minimum will have $16.6 Million in cap space in 2020. They can also shed up to another $34.1 Million by declining team options to Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, and Wayne Ellington. In total there’s almost 50 million in cap space (will likely be less due to COVID-19), but maybe there’s a non-linear solution to bringing the Knicks back into a respectable basketball conversation. Most see that cap-space as needing to be used to sign free agents but it can also be used to start extending on players who fit best next to RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson.
RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson have developed on/off court chemistry with players like Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox. If NYK is building with them in mind, keeping playing they have a chemistry with sounds like a no-brainier. Now shedding all the players with team options isn’t wise since Taj in particular seems to be a great influence for Robinson. After the qualifying dust has settled you have a lot of assets, a semblance of a rotation that’s balanced, and the players who either regressed or take away more than they give. In 2020 expiring contracts values are increased going into a large free agency class, so in theory trading most of them would be feasible. What if there were a disgruntled All-Star who could have a connection to the Knicks that could be available through players request? That last part is important because it signals the team has less leverage in the negotiation.
A Starting Point for Donovan Mitchell
It’s been reported by Tony Jones of the Athletic about the relationship between Gobert and Donovan regarding the situation with COVID-19 needing work. Jones states,
“That he [Donovan] didn’t extend Gobert an olive branch when given the opportunity gives a glimpse of how upset he’s truly been over the last few days.”
Donovan has always been very good with handling media and providing thoughtful and clear answers. Whether the relationship is repairable or not isn’t known. Even still having a starting point of an offer would be any team doing its due-diligence because there’s no way to know if you don’t ask. While true that the Knicks can offer players they also have a lot of trade-able assets.
NYK – Donovan Mitchell
UTA- Dennis Smith Jr.*, Clippers 2020 1st, Dallas 2023 1st, & both Charlotte 2020 & 2021 2nd round picks.
*can be a purely draft pick offer, can absorb Donovan’s salary
This isn’t meant to be a final offer but as a starting point of negotiation because that relationship can have continued tension. It may be more beneficial for the Jazz to try and get a lot for their franchise player if that’s the decisions made after presumed attempt to mend the relationship. In this offer you have a clear path forward to improve the offer incrementally so if they’re willing to have a dialogue, there’s a lot of places NYK can go without including players. Overwhelm them with draft value they can’t ignore and it also has the double meaning that NYK is invested in their current draft picks. The use and leverage with draft picks is usually limited them to drafting only. This kind of trade would use the other leverage, using them to get disgruntled players who can fit nicely into the players the Knicks already invested in.