Knicks linked to 5 free agents as MLE options

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Los Angeles Clippers
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Many players have had their names associated with the New York Knicks in the open market, and five more could offer fresh advantages to one of the NBA’s most storied franchises.

Fred Katz of The Athletic identified 10 players that the Knicks could look to sign with Mid-Level Exception dollars in free agency, as Knicks Beast shared on X. They include Tyus Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, Monte Morris, Gordon Hayward, and Goga Bitadze:

Knicks: Jonas Valanciunas is a high-scoring role player to consider

Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks

If the Knicks lose some scoring punch this offseason, Valanciunas is a sneaky good bucket-getter that has impeccable feel around the rim. The Lithuanian center is able to throw his body weight around with calculated footwork to get to his spots and convert hook shots, as well as midrange jumpers. He’s also gone the way of the NBA and improved his three-point percentage to 34.1 percent in his last three seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Gordon Hayward could be an x-factor in the clutch off the Knicks’ bench

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks
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If the Knicks want to add a player with major boom potential that would fit right in with their veteran lineup, Hayward is an ideal option. The former All-Star posted 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 31.9 minutes per night in 25 games played with the Charlotte Hornets to begin the 2023-24 campaign. Save his scoring, which was in line with his role in Charlotte’s offense, his output closely resembled his numbers from his All-Star days.

In a reduced role in 26 GP for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Butler product saw 14.7 less minutes of action and fell to five points a night. However, as the featured Sixth Man on the Knicks, he could be a double-figure scorer and a player Jalen Brunson looks to in the clutch if he gets trapped.

Monte Morris is able to slide into both guard spots as a good outside shooter

Morris is a quintessential backup point guard. The 6-2 playmaker put up five PPG with a 2.1-0.2 assist-to-turnover ratio this past regular season. Albeit, his Per 36 minutes peripherals of 12.1 PPG, 5.4 APG and four RPG mirrored his production when last seen in a feature role, having mustered up 10.3 PPG, 5.3 APG, and 3.4 RPG with a 48.4/38.2/83.1 percent shooting line in 27.3 MPG for the Washington Wizards in 2022-23.

Goga Bitadze fits the Knicks’ mold of desired centers

For insurance down low, Bitadze is a huge center that could do some serious work in the middle for the Knicks in 2024-25 and beyond. The Georgian five man contributed five PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 1.2 BPG for the Indiana Pacers in 2023-24. His boards were the fourth-most among all players who played 16 minutes or less, and his blocks were third-most among players who played up to 20 minutes per contest (min. 50 GP). He can give the Knicks defense and glass-cleaning in a reserve role.

Tyus Jones is one of the most elite floor generals in the NBA

Lastly, Jones continued to wow the NBA world while seeing an increased workload as the full-time starting point guard for the Wizards. He asserted his dominance as the premier efficient point guard in the league by notching a career-high stat line in everything except steals and free throw percentage and upped his assists by 2.1 to 7.3 APG with only one turnover in his first full season as a starter for the Wizards.

There may not be an available player that could do more damage for the Knicks than Jones, and Bitadze is a former lottery pick who can thrive without needing touches and blossom should he reach his ceiling in the Association. The Mid-Level Exception has three layers — $12.4 million for the full/non-tax-payer level, $7.75 million for up to three years at the room exception, and $5 million for a one-year deal under the taxpayer Mid-Level.

This gives the Knicks options to assess where they’re at after impending free agents OG Anunoby, Isaiah Hartenstein and Precious Achiuwa make their decisions and determine who makes the most sense for their ball club.

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