Knicks in a ‘good place’ to bring back 2 essential free agent pieces

Mar 31, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) shoots the ball while being defended by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Aaron Wiggins (21) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

If the New York Knicks manage to retain both OG Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein for the 2024-25 season, they could feel confident about making a significant push in the playoffs. Watching the Boston Celtics dominate the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals has highlighted the challenges ahead for the Knicks, yet their work ethic and aggressive style of play have proven effective against top teams when they are at full strength.

Knicks’ Strategy for Retaining Key Players

Anunoby is acclaimed as one of the best defensive players in the league, while Hartenstein offers a unique blend of playmaking abilities, rebounding, and athleticism from the center position.

With financial flexibility and the potential to offload Bojan Bogdanovic’s contract to save $17 million before July 1, the Knicks are in a strong position. Reports from SNY suggest that the Knicks are optimistic about their chances of keeping both players and believe they are in a “good place” as both approach free agency.

Potential Roster Moves and Financial Implications

Despite knowing that both Anunoby and Hartenstein will attract considerable interest from other teams, the Knicks feel prepared. The front office is also exploring the market for potential superstar additions that might eventually replace Julius Randle, but they value Randle’s All-NBA caliber physicality.

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 Knicks’ strategy involves controlling the pace of the game, a tactic that sets them apart even though it was exploited by the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals due to the Knicks’ lack of depth.

Anunoby, who is likely to opt out of his player option and enter free agency, averaged 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and two assists last season, with a shooting efficiency of 48.9% from the field and 38.2% from three-point range. His defensive capabilities and underrated scoring are crucial for the Knicks.

Hartenstein, emerging as a vital player in Mitchell Robinson’s injury absence, played 75 games last season at 25 years old, averaging 7.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.55 assists with a remarkable 64.4% shooting accuracy.

The Knicks face a tough decision: they can either replace these key players, which would require creative financial maneuvering, or re-sign them to new contracts.

Hartenstein could be offered nearly $16 million per season, totaling $72.5 million over four years, while Anunoby could sign a maximum contract of five years worth $245 million, as indicated by SNY. This level of financial commitment would likely necessitate the departure of Bogdanovic and potentially involve trading Robinson’s contract while using the draft to bolster the center position.

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