There is no question the New York Knicks will be aggressive this free agency, but how will they deal with some of their own players who are hitting the market and looking for new contracts? Depending on how President Leon Rose and the front office view some of their players from this most recent season, it will impact their salary space in a big way.
The players that are set to walk in for agency if not retained are Reggie Bullock, Taj Gibson, Nerlens Noel, Elfrid Payton, and Derrick Rose. If New York allows all five to leave, they will have $50+ million to work with, but it would be in their best interest to keep some of the more influential free agents.
According to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports, the Knicks will have the most cap space in the league this off-season:
The cap space kings of the 2021 offseason can create as much flexibility as they need. If they renounce all of their own free agents, they can get up to around $50 million in space. Don’t be surprised if that amount winds up being a bit lower, though.
Retention considerations for the Knicks:
1.) Taj Gibson
After Mitchell Robinson went down with a fractured foot during the second half of the season, the Knicks brought in veteran Taj Gibson to fill the void. He signed a one-year, $2.28 million deal with a $1.4 million cap hit. If New York elects to retain him, he will account for $1.7 million, a slight increase in earnings.
Evidently, Gibson was one of the more productive players in the postseason, especially on defense. Why he doesn’t offer much offensive production, he is a high-intensity player that elevates those around him. If he’s willing to stay on a cheaper contract, the Knicks will likely consider it.
2.) Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel was an impact player throughout the regular season, but an obvious injury hindered his quality during the playoffs. He finished with a career-high 2.2 blocks and posted 5.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Again, another big man who lacks scoring efficiency but represents one of the best shot blockers in the league.
Noel signed a one-year, $5 million deal, and if retained, would count $6 million — he has non-Bird rights. They wouldn’t have to dip into their cap space to pay him the additional funds, but other teams are intrigued by his skill set, including the Brooklyn Nets.
3.) Reggie Bullock
Bullock is a great candidate for retention, after connecting on 41% of his shots from three last season, averaging 6.1 attempts per game. He recorded 11 points per contest and proved to be sufficient on defense, signing a two-year, $8.2 million contract in 2019 with New York. If he is retained on a one-year extension, he will carry a $5.46 million salary hit for the 2021 season, an increase that wouldn’t count against the Knicks’ cap space.
Given his abilities as a three-point shooter, he is likely a far cheaper solution than targeting a player like Duncan Robinson out of Miami.
4.) Derrick Rose
Another intriguing player to consider is Derrick Rose, who is one of the only reasons the Knicks made a late-season run and secured the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. He averaged 15 points, 4.2 assists, and shot 48.7% from the field with New York this past season. He also hit on 41% of his shots from three, averaging 2.6 attempts per game. His three-point percentage during his 35 games with the Knicks was a career-high, proving he has plenty of gas left in the tank. While his defense is a bit spotty and he offers more as an offensive weapon, the team could extend him for one more year at $10 million, but he will likely be looking for a pay increase based on his production — deservedly so.
5.) Elfrid Payton
Of course, New York will allow Elfrid Payton to hit the free-agent market, based on his disappearance in the postseason and lack of offensive production. Leon will likely replace him via trade or draft a prospect.
Last season Payton was earning $4.7 million, so they will save a nice chunk of change to reallocate.
Overall, Bullock and Rose represent the two players with the highest probability of being kept in New York for next season, but there is reason to believe they can allow all five to walk, saving $50 million and going on a spending spree in FA. The Knicks have the flexibility to do so, so it is just a matter of deciding on their future and if any of these free agents are considered solutions moving forward.