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Everyone is focused on what is wrong with the Knicks, myself included, but it is also important to look for what is right. It’s easy point out the negative, but also recognizing the positive puts things in perspective. In my last article, ‘How to get out of NBA Purgatory‘ I expressed the frustration Knick fans are feeling about the current state of the franchise. There isn’t a clear path to getting the team to championship contender status. But the good news is that there are clear indicators that the Knicks will be in position to take advantage of an opportunity when it eventually presents itself. Allow me to explain why.
The New York Knicks are one of the few destination franchises in the NBA, so they will always be a place where star players will want to play as long as the team is run well. When you look at the other destination franchises the Knicks are competing with for star players: Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, and the Chicago Bulls. None of them have the cap flexibility, draft picks, and young players to trade for a star. Most of those teams went all-in back in the summer of 2019. Chicago waited until 2021 to make there move, trading draft picks, young players, and spending money to acquire Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan, and Lonzo Ball.
The other part that is ironic is that the Knicks currently have a better record than all those teams with the exception of the LA Clippers. But their chances for the next 4 seasons hinge on Kawhi Leonard’s legs, he is 31 years old and is his 12th season, so good luck with that.
Salary Cap Flexibility
While most Knick fans will say, what cap flexibility? We got 2 bad contracts; Julius Randle (4yrs/$117M) and Evan Fournier (2yrs/$36.9M). We also have RJ’s upcoming extension (4yrs/$107M) which isn’t looking so good at the moment. Those are valid concerns, but when you look at what the Knick starters are getting paid compared to other players who play their positions, their contracts actually look pretty good.
- Julius Randle – 8th
- Jalen Brunson – 16th
- Evan Fournier – 24th
- RJ Barrett – 15th
- Mitchell Robinson – 14th
Julius Randle has the highest annual salary among the Knick starters when you compare it to other Power Forwards, 8th overall. It is actually a value when compared to his talent level. There are only 3 Power Forwards that are clearly better; Giannis Antetokounmpo($45.6M), Anthony Davis($38M), and Pascal Siakam($34.2M). Zion Williamson ($38.9M) ranks 2nd in average salary starting next season when he is off his rookie contract, he has the potential to be better than Julius if he is able to stay healthy. Julius is clearly better than the other 3 guys paid more than him: Tobias Harris($36M), Kristaps Porzingis($31.7M), and Kevin Love($30.1M) who is an expiring contract. Of the Power Forwards who get paid less than Julius, only Jaren Jackson Jr.($26.2M) could be better, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
When you look at Wings, players than can play either Shooting Guard or Small Forward, Evan Fournier(18.3M) ranks 24th in salary. Fournier’s play hasn’t deteriorated, it is just that we have 2 young two-way Wings that have blossomed into better players: Cam Reddish and Quentin Grimes. When you look at the Wings that get paid more than Fournier, I can count 5 that are not as good. There is no Knick fan that would pay more to have: Klay Thompson($38M), Buddy Hield($23.5M), Eric Gordon($18.9M), Tim Hardaway Jr.($18.8M), or Joe Harris($18.8M). While it is not ideal to have a pricy vet out of the rotation, he will be an expiring contract next season and would be a salary filler in a trade. A team like the Lakers would gladly take Evan back in a trade.
Valuable Young Players
While the Fournier situation isn’t good, what is, is the value of the players replacing him. First and foremost we can conclude that the Cam Reddish trade was good. It was worth trading a protected 1st round pick to acquire a young player with so much upside.
Now when you look at Reddish’s salary($6.0M) along with Grimes($2.3M), Quickley($2.3M), and Obi’s($5.3M) that is incredible value. These young players on rookie deals make it more palatable for a team to acquire Randle or Fournier in a trade package for star level player.
No Longer the ‘LOL’ Team
The last thing to be grateful for is what the Knicks are no longer, the ‘LOL’ team of the NBA. That title now belongs to the crown jewel of the league, the Los Angeles Lakers. They went all-in on players past their prime just and not only are thy losing badly, they don’t control their draft picks for 5 of the next 7 drafts. This season they might give New Orleans the winning lottery ticket in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. They are what the Brooklyn Nets were to the Boston Celtics, the team they outsource their tanking to. Danny Ainge must be jealous:)
For a change, Laker fans can’t make fun of the Knicks, that alone is a lot to be thankful for.