NBA Free Agency Primer: Will Knicks remain conservative or make a splash?

The New York Knicks remain a mystery despite a playoff run that purged the long years of misery. But if there’s anything we’ve learned from Leon Rose’s leadership after a year of operating in the shadows is that patience is a virtue.

There’s already a pattern we can deduce from the way they approached last summer’s free agency and last Thursday’s NBA Draft.

Last summer, the Knicks created over $40 million in cap space, yet their signings didn’t scream sexy and fancy. Instead, they went after grimy stuff and made them shiny once the sexy names like Gordon Hayward went off the board.

Last week, we saw the same kind of maneuvering from the Knicks in the NBA Draft when they took a calculated conservative approach once their targets were off the board. They got away with Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride, two rookies who could become rotational pieces after the once-grimy stuff they stumbled upon last summer sign fancy deals somewhere else.

They followed up that conservative Draft Day by exercising their $1.8 million team option on Mitchell Robinson and waiving Norvel Pelle and Frank Ntilikina. Now, they are armed with the most significant cap space — $52.6 million — in the NBA landscape this summer.

All moves are indicative of one thing — creating the largest cap space as much as possible.

The thing is, the Knicks also want the shiny stuff like the rest of the league. Even their two-time NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau pleaded for stars, whether from free agency, trade market, or at the very least, organically developing one through the draft. But after returning to relevance with a first-round playoff appearance, the third option is no longer viable. And it’s no longer as impossible as it was a few years back for the Knicks to land a star via free agency.

Rose moves in mysterious ways. He may be silent, but the Knicks’ actions are pretty telling. His silence is synonymous with the Knicks’ patience.

Based on their recent actions, here is my educated guess on what the Knicks free agent board look like:

Top Targets

Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard remain this summer’s biggest prizes despite overtures that they will re-sign with their respective teams, Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers. Things can change quickly in the NBA.

The Knicks can easily slot one of them to their cap space and possibly work a trade to dump salaries if both A-list stars want to team up in New York. The operative word here is “if.”

Backup plan

If Paul and Leonard opt not to move, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will dictate this summer’s free agency. Both former All-Stars are on their last legs, and reuniting in a contender would be a dream come true for the best of buddies.

Pat Riley has his eyes set on Lowry via sign-and-trade and DeMar DeRozan for the Miami Heat’s full MLE.

The Knicks have all the cap space in the world to scuttle those plans and immediately solve their glaring holes in the point guard and wing spots while still having the option to have either Derrick Rose and Reggie Bullock or both of them re-sign via their Bird rights.

Lowry and DeRozan starting alongside Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Robinson with Rose and Bullock leading the bench with Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin will make them more formidable than last year’s overachieving roster.

This move makes them a bona fide playoff contender for the next couple of years while they continue to organically develop their young core and angle of the next disgruntled star.

Place holders

Just like last year, the Knicks could always go back to the route of signing underrated players to shorter deals to preserve cap flexibility. If Stephen Curry, Jimmy Butler, Bradley Beal, and Zach LaVine won’t sign an extension this year, next summer’s free-agent market will be loaded.

And there’s always the allure of the trade market as Damian Lillard’s clock in Portland has begun ticking or even Beal if he sees the Wizards heading to a rebuild rather than contending soon.

But having the cap space to absorb the exorbitant contract of a disgruntled star isn’t enough for the Knicks to become a major player in the trade market. They can use this free agency to get solid pieces that can help them in the present and become salary fillers in a blockbuster trade in the future.

If the Knicks decide to punt this summer again, here are some names to watch outside their own free agents:

(starting salary range based on ESPN’s projection)

PG: Spencer Dinwiddie ($18-20M), Lonzo Ball ($18-20M), Dennis Schroder ($16-18M), Devonte Graham ($12-14M), Reggie Jackson ($10-12M), Cameron Payne ($8-10M)

SG: Norman Powell ($18-20M), Evan Fournier ($14-16M), Danny Green ($8-10M), Malik Monk ($6-8M)

SF: Duncan Robinson ($14-16M), Josh Hart ($10-12M), Kelly Oubre, Jr. ($10-12M), Carmelo Anthony ($4-6M)

C: Richaun Holmes ($12-14M), Andre Drummond ($10-12M), Javale McGee (veteran minimum)

The Knicks have all the tools to upgrade — cap space, stable organization, family environment, and a team on the rise. They will strike when the opportunity arises. This summer gives them a small opening to get that shiny stuff and not settle with the grimy one that needs elaborate work. But they are also disciplined and wise to acknowledge when they couldn’t crack that opening wide enough.

Let’s see if the patience the Knicks have shown so far finally pays off.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks: A Kyle Lowry free agent acquisition could pay dividends for Miles McBride

kyle lowry, knicks

Finding a solid veteran point guard will be a priority for the New York Knicks in August as they scour the free-agent market. With several options available, one who stands out is former Toronto Raptors PG Kyle Lowry.

While Lowry may not be a perfect fit with the Knicks, he closely resembles the 36th overall selection Miles McBride out of West Virginia. McBride has been compared to Lowry in the past, playing fearless defense but also elevating his team as a scoring option too.

“I definitely honored to have my playing style compared to Kyle Lowry,’’ McBride said on a Zoom call Friday, via Marc Berman of The Post. “I know he’s led the league in charges and I’m willing to do anything to win. That’s something I certainly can get behind.”

McBride is known as a tough player, featuring as a former high school quarterback and leader on the basketball court. Tom Thibodeau loved what he saw from McBride during the pre-draft process, as just several days before, he keyed in on him as a perfect fit to develop.

Last season with West Virginia, the 6’2″, 200-pound guard averaged 15.9 points, 4.8 assists, and shot 43% from the field. He also connected on 41.4% of his shots from three over 3.8 attempts per game. By all standards, McBride offers plenty of value as a defensive player first and foremost but also has tons of offensive potential that could be unlocked by good coaching and a solid veteran mentor above him.

Should the Knicks consider Lowry?

Lowry could fit that bill perfectly, coming off a solid season averaging 17.2 points, 7.3 assessed, and shooting 43.6% from the field. He’s also a quality three-point shooter, hitting on 40% of his shots over 7.2 attempts per game. Learning from a player like Lowry would undoubtedly elevate McBride and his skill set, especially since he’s been compared to him in the past.

However, Lowry’s coming off what most would consider a down year, playing in just 46 games. At 35 years old, Lowry just finished a one-year, $30.5 million contract and could sign in that price range.

If the Toronto Star is looking for a one-year contract, the Knicks should consider jumping on it, as it would give them the ability to clear space next off-season in 2022 to target a younger long-term solution or star like Bradley Beal. As far as we know, having Lowry ahead of McBride might even help him become a starting player down the line, and opening up more cap space next season would be ideal.

Nonetheless, if the Knicks elect to go that direction, signing Lowry to help develop McBride while also having a solid defensive player and offensive threat at point guard would be a win-win situation.

What do you think about the idea of signing Kyle Lowry? Comment below!

Knicks Notes: Kyle Lowry could hand deliver Lonzo Ball to Knicks as Pelicans pursue

New York Knicks, Lonzo Ball

One way or another, the New York Knicks will be seeking a point guard to upgrade the position this off-season. With the NBA draft in just three days and free agency starting in August, things are about to get exciting for a team with $50+ million in funds and four draft selections.

However, free agency may offer the team their best vehicle to bolster the unit, despite a recent report indicating the Knicks could wait until the 2022 off-season to spend their ample money. However, with eyes on Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine next year, there’s no guarantee either will be available whether they are traded or signed to a long-term extension.

One option this summer is New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, who is coming off a solid campaign, averaging 14.6 points, 5.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and shot 41% from the field. From downtown, he connected on 37.8% of his shots over 8.3 attempts, the highest of his career. Based on the simple reality that players were elevated by Tom Thibodeau last season, Ball could see a statistics skyrocket in New York, which has to be on the mind of the front office. It has been eerily quiet on the Lonzo Ball front the past few weeks after he was heavily discussed at the trade deadline.

If the Knicks are still intrigued by his services, one veteran could open up the door for his departure from New Orleans.

Ian Begley of SNY stated that the New Orleans Pelicans could be pursuing Kyle Lowry at point guard, which would open up the door for a Lonzo Ball departure:

Regarding the Pelicans, opposing teams expect New Orleans to explore ways to shed salary in pursuit of a veteran. Kyle Lowry is one player on New Orleans’ radar, sources confirm.

If the Pelicans are seeking a veteran PG, Lowry undoubtedly fits the bill. At 34 years old, he averaged 17.2 points, 7.36, and shot 43% from the field over 46 games this past year. He also connected on 40% of his shots from range, averaging 7.2 attempts. Ultimately, Lowry should be a player the Knicks are looking at too, simply based on his historical success and veteran experience. If the Knicks are looking for a younger option, the Pelicans could be gearing up to let Lonzo Ball walk if a big offer sheet is presented.

His current contract would be on the books for $14.3 million on a qualified offer. The former first-round pick hasn’t made the elite impact most believed he would when drafted four years ago, but there’s no question he has untapped potential at 23 years old.

Do you think the Knicks should be considering Ball as a long-term solution at point guard? Comment below!

Knicks News, 6/28: Lonzo Ball, Kyle Lowry connected to Knicks in free agency

New York Knicks, Lonzo Ball

There’s no question the New York Knicks are going to need to splash the cash if they want to land a long-term solution at point guard, and while there are a bevy of options available on the free-agent market, the targeted players they seek must also want the bright lights of New York.

At the trade deadline this past season, the Knicks were heavily connected to New Orleans Pelicans PG Lonzo Ball, who will be a restricted free agent this off-season. Either the Pelicans can match his offer sheet that starts at $19 million, or they can let him test the market and match any offers made my alternative clubs.

Ball is not only a young point guard that took a positive step forward this past season, but he also has chemistry with Julius Randle, as they spent two seasons together in Los Angeles between 2017-19.

However, Ball is an entirely different player at this point in his career, similar to Randle. Randle is coming off a career season with the Knicks, averaging 24.1 points, 6.0 assists, and shot .456 from the field. Both players took extravagant leaps in their three-point percentages, with Julius increasing his number from .277 in 2019 to .411 in 2020. Ball went from .329 in 2018 to .378 in 2020 over 8.3 attempts, indicating a lofty increase.

In addition to the statistical improvements, LaVar Ball has always wanted his sons to end up at MSG on the biggest stage in basketball.

Marc Berman of the NY Post reported that LaVar Ball’s desire is for his sons to end up ‘on Broadway”:

The father’s eccentricities are not an issue. Sources believe Lavar, a former tight end on the Jets’ practice squad, wants all his sons on Broadway, and the Knicks are on Lonzo’s radar.

Landing Ball on a multi-year deal would enable the Knicks to spend the rest of their funds on high-end complementary pieces. Of course, signing a bonafide star like Chris Paul or trading for Damian Lillard might be ideal for some parties, but Lonzo is just hitting his stride and will likely continue to develop, especially with a great Knicks coaching staff.

Kyle Lowry also reportedly “wanted to be a Knick,” according to Berman:

As stated above, the Knicks will have several options to choose from on the open market, and Lowry remains one of them. Coming off a one-year, $30.5 million deal, Lowry only started 46 games this past season at 34 years old. However, he’s earned six All-Star appearances over the past seven seasons, averaging 17.2 points and 7.3 assists during his playing time this year. He also connected on nearly 40% off his three-point attempts, averaging 7.2 shots from beyond the arc per game — a category the Knicks ‘NEED’ to improve in.

There’s no question that Lowry would offer a significant upgrade at PG for the Knicks, but overpaying for an oft-injured, declining PG might not be the best allocation of resources. Staying young while also adding superior potential is what the Knicks should be focusing on. A dual threat of Lonzo and Derrick Rose would be a solid pairing, as Rose can operate the offense at a high level and Ball can also swing out to shooting guard if need be as they rotate and keep Rose healthy and fatigue-free (Rose simply can’t manage a full seasons workload at this point). This theoretical move would also allow Ball to develop even further behind one of the best PGs of the past generation, taking over in the long term. This idea might only work if Rose was on a one-year deal, and he might be looking to cash in one last time late in his career.

What do you think of a Lonzo Ball, Derrick Rose pairing at PG? Should the Knicks spend that much on to starting options, if they were willing to operate under that mold? Comment below!