The New York Knicks have a decision to make on Emmanuel Mudiay, who can become a restricted free agent this summer.
Emmanuel Mudiay was the most consistent starter of the bunch, however, averaging a career-high 14.8 points, 44.6 percent shooting and 32.9 percent on three-pointers. At times, it made him New York’s best player. That says little given the 17-65 record, but he was more productive than past seasons with this team and the Denver Nuggets.
It happened at an opportune time for Mudiay, who can hit the open market for the first time in his career as a restricted free agent. That limits his ability to leave the Knicks, if desired, since they can match any offer sheet he signs with another team.
A qualifying offer will likely exceed the $4.2 million Mudiay made in his fourth year. These deals are only for one season and bridge the gap to unrestricted free agency 12 months later — if the player accepts it.
The teams also do not have to make the qualifying offer, allowing that player to become an unrestricted free agent immediately. New York can opt for that with Mudiay, and perhaps they will.
2019 free agency is all about maintaining as much cap space possible to sign maximum contracts, at least for Kevin Durant. Maybe someone else joins him on the Knicks, but he remains the most linked-to player to arrive from another organization.
Signing Durant requires roughly a $38 million starting salary on a four-year contract. That already cuts their cap space in half. If a second star takes a max deal, it leaves the team with little money.
For this to happen, the Knicks likely need to renounce Mudiay and leave no cap hold for the time arrives for Durant or another top-tier free agent. They can’t risk making a qualifying offer, having the 23 year old sign it and then search for a trade without leverage, since their offseason stance is hardly a secret.
Of course, the Knicks can still re-sign Mudiay under this circumstance, but he could find opportunities elsewhere. Smith and a point guard outside the roster will potentially fill the depth chart anyway, leaving little room to maneuver besides a reserve spot. Teams like the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns all need lead distributors.
Outside players may have closed Mudiay’s New York Knicks chapter. There should be a role elsewhere. For what kind of contract remains unknown, but attaining a two-year deal from another organization is realistic.