Knicks could take advantage of Chris Paul’s massive contract risk in opt-out scenario

New York Knicks, chris paul
New York Knicks, chris paul

In a perfect world, the New York Knicks would land a star point guard this off-season and still have money left over to allocate toward other complementary pieces. Of course, the Knicks will be connected to most big names this off-season, as they’ve already been in contact with the Blazers regarding Damian Lillard.

Whether or not they actually land any of these big names is yet to be seen, but the Knicks finally have an attractive destination, having made the playoffs this past year and a boatload of cash to spend. With upwards of $60 million, the Knicks have what it takes to offer a max contract while also adding a few quality players to supplement their losses in free agency.

With Alec Burks, Elfrid Payton, Nerlens Noel, Taj Gibson, and Frank Ntilikina all expected to hit the market, there’s no question New York will have to supplement some losses and fill roster spots. While the majority of these players will be on the cheaper side, there is one scenario that leaves them with about $30+ million while also adding one of the best point guards in basketball.

Chris Paul is currently enjoying a strong postseason run with the Phoenix Suns, but the expectation is that he will opt out of his player option for the 2021-22 season, where he’s expected to earn $44.2 million. He is seeking a three-year, $100 million deal, which would offer him less next season but job security until he’s 39 years old. Some believe he could end up making far less than that after opting out, but that’s the risk he’s willing to run for a future contract.

The more realistic contract for Paul may fall well below his three-year, $100 million expectation, which would allow the Knicks to pounce with room to spare.

“The Chris Paul player option — $44.2 million — will be interesting to watch. Execs I’ve talked to peg CP in the three-year, $60 million-ish range on a new deal. Does Paul go for the most guaranteed money? Or does he pick up the option and bet he has another All-Star season?,” Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated wrote.

If the Knicks could land Paul at $20 million per season, that would leave them with over $40 million to utilize on other players, meaning they could bring in a star-studded free agency class, helping them take the roster to the next level.

For example, president Leon Rose could theoretically go out and sign Paul, Kelly Oubre, retain Burks and one of their centers and still have room to work with. There are still quality players that will be available, including Danny Green, Evan Fournier, Tim Hardaway Jr. I would be more willing to settle for Paul on this projected contract than send the farm for Lillard in a trade.

Paul is still a quality PG, earning All-Star appearances over the past two seasons and averaging 16.4 points and 8.9 assists, his highest mark since the 2016 season. While general degradation will certainly play a factor, Paul is still capable of being an elite player for the next season or so.