New York Knicks: 2020 free agents to wait for if 2019 offseason fails

New York Knicks Browne/NBAE via Getty Images)
New York Knicks Browne/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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New York Knicks (Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

If the New York Knicks strike out in 2019 free agency and circumvent their cap space for the 2020 offseason, who are players worth waiting for?

The New York Knicks have approximately $70 million in cap space to spend in 2019 free agency, and this arrived after the January Kristaps Porzingis trade cleared the future salaries of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee. Waiving and stretching Joakim Noah in October helped the cause.

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler headline a star-studded class on the open market in July, and the Knicks can sign two of them to max contracts.

However, it is realistic for New York to strike out and sign none of them. Even if just one player from this group, they may have significant cap space leftover, which can be used for one-year deals to fill the roster and reuse that money for the 2020 offseason.

Knicks general manager Scott Perry also said 2019 free agency is not the “end-all, be-all” as advertised throughout the 2019-20 season, per Marc Berman of the New York Post:

"“Our vision is eventually is to become a championship-caliber team,’’ Perry said. “All our planning has that in mind. We’re not going to look at this summer as the end-all or be-all, per say. We’re excited to be in the game. We’re not going to go off the rails if we don’t get what you’re talking about. We’ll be very comfortable with the draft and what we can add via trade to be a better basketball team.”"

What if that is the case, and the Knicks handle this summer differently? That could create flexibility for 2020 and leave them in a position to target a lesser-but-interesting free agent class.

Jaylen Brown (Restricted Free agent)

Restricted free agents pose difficulties for any NBA team to sign in the open market, since they are technically not in the “open market,” but a controlled one. Their incumbent team can match any offer sheet they sign with another organization.

There are a handful of interesting restricted free agents in the 2020 class, but few are like Jaylen Brown, the talented Boston Celtics wing and former third overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft.

Brown is potentially a trade candidate more than anything if the Celtics want to target a superstar via trade this summer. Like the Los Angeles Lakers’ failed in-season pursuit of Anthony Davis, it might not work, and the California product could return to the Northeast for another year.

The Celtics can pay above the salary cap to keep Brown, but they will also have to pay Jayson Tatum, maybe Kyrie Irving if he returns, Gordon Hayward‘s $34 million in 2020-21. They do have just $66 million in committed salaries for 2020-21, but that will likely change with their 2019 free-agency direction.

Watching Boston let Brown go for nothing would surprise, but if someone makes an offer that is too big for general manager Danny Ainge‘s willingness to assimilate into his payroll, will he let an intriguing, young talent walk? Brown has shown the potential to excite with a bigger role, and on the New York Knicks, he could slot into the middle of their lineup and play off career 46.2 percent shooting and 36.5 percent on three-pointers.