The New York Knicks have reportedly inquired on guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee, but with a potential hiccup to move either player.
Enes Kanter and Frank Ntilikina have been the most often reported names from the New York Knicks concerning the upcoming trade deadline. However, as the front office rebuilds this roster and tries to clear cap space, it has others on the chopping block.
Per Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, teams have inquired on Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee, both of whom have guaranteed contracts — eight figures — on the 2019-20 salary cap. Either move places the Knicks above the $38 million needed to sign Kevin Durant to a max contract.
However, the Knicks do not want to attach an asset in a trade, Vorkunov added, despite Lee and Hardaway’s future salaries and the clear-cut case of wanting to shed cap space.
No interested teams were listed in this report, unlike the Kanter and Ntilikina conversations. It would, of course, have to be a team that can assume salary and willingly send back an expiring contract.
The Sacramento Kings, who were interested in Kanter, makes sense. They still have $11 million in cap space and a handful of players on deals that end at season’s end, including Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos and Iman Shumpert.
Moving one of them for Hardaway seems possible, as he’s still a leading contributor for the Knicks, although at an inefficient rate. For Lee, though, he’s outside the team’s rotation and has yet to prove productive play after suffering a neck injury in training camp which sidelined him for two months.
Salary-wise, Lee makes $12.25 million this season and $12.75 million in 2019-20; Hardaway will take home $17.35 million this year, $18.15 million in 2019-20 and owns a player option for $18.97 million in 2020-21. So even if they were playing better, their contracts are still difficult to move.
The Knicks showing their hand with previous roster moves does not help, as well. Joakim Noah was waived and stretched to create cap space in October and contracts given in 2018 free agency were one-year pacts.
Maybe a desperate team approaches the Knicks for who they think pushes them forward as a contender, but unless they attach an asset, hypothetically, trouble seems inevitable to trade Hardaway or Lee before Feb. 7 deadline.
The Knicks have an interesting road ahead to the final day of trades. They have players to move, but whether any of them head elsewhere, and what the organization receives in return, will be interesting to follow.