Weaponized cap space is the new name given for the process of taking on a contract without giving back salaries within 125% of the salary taken. This is legal under the collective bargaining agreement if the team accepting the larger contract has enough cap space.
The Knicks potentially have up to $40M in available cap space if they decline the options of several players. By doing so, the Knicks will be able to utilize weaponized cap space and do more than just signing free agents. They can create extra cap space for cash-strapped teams via trade. The reason it’s called weaponized is you aim to get assets in return for helping another team’s financial situation. These assets can come in the form of draft picks, additional desired players, or to receive the targeted player without giving any players or draft picks in return.
This year there are not many known large contracts that teams are willing to give up multiple picks and assets to move. This can change if an organization wants to make a move bad enough. It was recently rumored that the Knicks are still thinking of weaponizing cap space. However, instead of seeking larger contracts, they would focus on smaller ones. This weaponized cap strategy would be secondary to focusing on the coming NBA draft. Once the NBA trade window is open, we will start to see player movement. Once there is player movement, there may be opportunities where a modest contract move can make a sizable difference. There is a good chance NBA teams will be approaching the Knicks for help even before draft night.
I have identified 5 contracts the Knicks may find attractive to acquire in order to receive an asset. These are not in any particular order:
Mike Scott 1 year @ $5M
Philadelphia 76ers $145,603,990 in committed contracts for 2020 – 2021
Assets to Target: None
Earlier in the week, we saw rumors of Mike Scott being linked to the New York Knicks in a trade for cap space. Daryl Morey may be readying his roster for several potential trades. The 76ers are on track to have one of the NBA’s highest payrolls for the 2020-2021 season. It is easy to see why they will want to get rid of some payroll when the dust settles. Possibly, any move for Philadelphia this summer will add more long term salary. I’m not sure if Scott can net the Knicks any additional draft assets, but I can see where he can be had without giving any assets up. Scott brings outside shooting which the Knicks can use.
Ersan Ilyasova 1 year @ $7M
Milwaukee Bucks $130,777,415 in committed contracts for 2020 – 2021
Assets to Target: 2020 #24th Pick; 2022 2nd Round Pick (from Indiana)
The Milwaukee Bucks are willing to go into the luxury tax to improve their roster. Maintaining a competitive championship-level roster weighs heavily into Giannis Antetokounmpo’s free agency decision. They will explore trades to bring in more talent to complement Giannis. Most of these options will drive the Bucks payroll higher. Ersan Ilyasova could be a contract the Bucks could look to move off the books to help smooth the impact of another large contract being added. Ersan is definitely on the downside of his career at 33 years old. He averaged around 15 minutes a game last season, and the Knicks could always use some veteran leadership with such a young roster.
Enes Kanter 1 year @ $5M
Boston Celtics $123,318,557 in committed contracts for 2020 – 2021
Assets to target: Pick 2020 Draft Pick #26 or #30
The Boston Celtics have 4 draft picks in the 2020 NBA draft. This will be followed by free agency only 2 days later. The Celtics may have an issue with having roster spots available. Enes Kanter is an early candidate to be moved off the roster. Kanter, the former Knick, didn’t make any friends leaving New York in 2019. The Knicks were playing the upcoming young core and sitting the veterans in January and February of that year which hurt Kanter, who was playing for his next contract. Eventually, he made negative comments which led to him being cut when he couldn’t be traded by the NBA trade deadline. Would trading for him again be any different? Enes is scheduled to be a free agent in the summer of 2021. He would be playing for a contract once more.
Dewayne Dedmon 2 years / $26.6M total
Atlanta Hawks $58,202,336 in committed contracts for 2020-2021
Assets to target: Kevin Huerter or Cam Reddish
Atlanta has the most cap space in the NBA going into free agency. Dewayne Dedmon is a throwback to centers past. He would be a nice backup for Mitchell Robinson. He occasionally shoots the 3-point shot when open but shoots poorly from distance. Dedmon is the oldest player on the Hawks at 31 years old. He is grossly overpaid for a backup center. I don’t think it’s an immediate need for the Hawks to move him. The Knicks could do the Hawks this favor by absorbing his contract for an asset. It would be ideal if such a trade added the asset of either Kevin Huerter or Cam Reddish. For one of those two players, it would take the Knicks giving up some additional assets to make it happen.
James Johnson 1 year @ $16.4M
Minnesota Timberwolves $94,407,457 in committed salaries for 2020 – 2021
Assets to Target: 2020 #17th pick
During the last 2 years, staying healthy has been a struggle for James Johnson. When he suited up for Minnesota last year, he looked really good. Unfortunately, that happened for only 14 games for Minnesota. He has great size for a shooter as well. The Minnesota Timberwolves look aggressive to improve their squad, and this can open a lot of opportunities while they have cap space. The Wolves already own the top pick in the draft, and they already have quite a bit of youth on the roster. Perhaps, they can take a lower pick to make a bigger splash in free agency.
Are there any contracts that you think the Knicks should pursue? What assets would you like in return?