Knicks focusing on the retention of elite defensive forward

May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) drives past Indiana Pacers forward Obi Toppin (1) in the third quarter during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are entering a crucial offseason where retaining key player OG Anunoby is a top priority. With interest from other teams heating up, the Knicks are positioned to make some tough decisions to ensure their core remains intact.

Knicks Face Offseason Decisions with OG Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein

OG Anunoby, who became a second-team All-NBA player in 2022, has garnered significant interest from teams around the league, including the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports that while the consensus is that the Knicks will work to keep Anunoby, securing his signature will come at a steep price, likely starting at a minimum of $35 million per season.

Apr 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) looks to drive past New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) in the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

“The leaguewide expectation is that OG Anunoby will return to the Knicks. The question is, for how much? From executives I’ve talked to around the league, Anunoby’s floor appears to be $35 million, and his ceiling is a max contract,” Scotto said. “Philadelphia will be looking for a 3-and-D small forward and has the max cap space to make the offer if they believe they’ll miss out on their top target, Paul George. Two general managers told me they’d pay Anunoby $35 million annually and that a max would be tough because of his injury history.”

After being traded to the Knicks last season, Anunoby appeared in 23 games for New York, averaging 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while shooting 48.9% from the field. Despite a slight dip in scoring after joining the Knicks, Anunoby enhanced his rebounding and defensive performances, proving vital in the playoffs until a hamstring injury curtailed his contributions. His defensive prowess and ability to impact games were particularly evident as he played a critical role in defeating the 76ers in the postseason.

The Knicks are now faced with the challenge of ensuring that Anunoby does not end up enhancing a direct conference rival like Philadelphia, which could form a formidable core around Joel Embiid. Retaining Anunoby would solidify a competitive trio with Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, positioning the Knicks to challenge top teams, contingent on maintaining player health.

Balancing the Budget with Hartenstein’s Contract

While focusing on Anunoby, Leon Rose must also navigate the situation with Isaiah Hartenstein, another key free agent. The Oklahoma City Thunder are showing strong interest in Hartenstein, and the Knicks’ offer of $16.2 million via Early Bird Rights may not suffice in the competitive market.

To secure the financial flexibility needed to keep both Anunoby and Hartenstein, the front office might consider making roster adjustments such as trading Mitchell Robinson or cutting Bojan Bogdanovic. These moves would open up essential salary space, allowing the Knicks to invest in maintaining the chemistry and consistency that have been developing over the past season.

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