Knicks stand to gain $34.4 million in salary space

NBA: New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have a significant mission to accomplish this off-season – making a substantial move. To do this, they’ll need to free up plenty of salary space. Several strategies could help them achieve this, such as trading high-priced players or extending contracts of some rotational pieces with lower initial salary hits.

The Knicks and Derrick Rose’s Departure

Over the weekend, the Knicks succeeded in opening up $15.6 million after declining Derrick Rose’s team option. With this development, Rose can either play elsewhere or transition into a coaching role, but with Jalen Brunson and Immanuel Quickley stepping up, his on-court services are no longer required by the Knicks.

Rose’s last season saw him playing in just 27 games, posting averages of 5.6 points and 1.7 assists. The veteran point guard primarily saw action late in matches, either when the game was beyond reach or when the Knicks had a comfortable lead, and they wanted to rest regular players.

Though Rose, 34, is clearly in the twilight of his career, he remains a positive locker-room presence and could potentially fulfill a player/coach role, akin to Udonis Haslem.

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Possible Trade Moves

The Knicks are also reportedly looking to trade Evan Fournier, which would free up an additional $18.8 million in salary space. However, this move might be challenging considering Fournier’s limited playtime last season – he only appeared in 27 games, averaging 6.1 points per game.

If they want to offload Fournier’s contract, the Knicks might have to either shoulder part of his salary or incorporate him in a larger deal. Options could involve swapping contracts with another aging player from a different NBA team or offering added value like a draft pick to encourage another team to absorb Fournier’s remaining salary.

Despite his recent performance, Fournier, a skilled shooter, could still contribute to another club. In the 2021-22 season, he played in 80 games and averaged 14.1 points, shooting .417 from the field and .389 from three-point range. This efficiency is valuable, but his limited defensive capabilities have prompted the Knicks to seek other options.

How the Knicks Could Benefit from the Free Salary Space

If the Knicks can free up $34.4 million, they could extend Josh Hart’s contract and potentially bring in a free-agent shooter like Donte DiVincenzo from the Golden State Warriors. Furthermore, if they’re considering trading for a star player such as Paul George, they’ll need the additional salary space.

The Knicks have recently been in discussions with the Los Angeles Clippers regarding George, who is available for trade. The Clippers would want a reasonable return, so the Knicks might need to offer RJ Barrett, a still-developing 22-year-old player, to start negotiations. To accommodate George’s $45.6 million salary for the upcoming season, president Leon Rose would likely need to trade a big contract.

The club has $149 million in guaranteed salary committed for next year, $16 million below the luxury tax level. They have ample opportunities to work around the salary cap, but doing so will require a measure of creativity.