With money left to spend and just two roster spots to fill, the New York Knicks used most of that aforementioned cash to sign Elfrid Payton to a two-year, $16 million contract, according to Stadium and The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The second season is a team option.
This solved the question of how the Knicks would fill their point guard depth. They will seemingly let Emmanuel Mudiay, who they did not make a qualifying offer to, walk in free agency after one-plus season.
Payton is the latest short-term pact for New York. It lets them remain flexible for both the 2020 and 2021 offseasons, pending a top free agent shows interest in signing.
On the court, the veteran point guard joins Smith Jr. in a battle for playing time, which is something to watch for in training camp. Ntilikina and Kadeem Allen, for now, are on the roster, too, although the former has yet to show consistent point guard skills and the latter is on a two-way contract.
Payton could start, as well. His salary is higher and his role has rarely seen him take a backseat, whether with the Magic, Pelicans or Suns. Money does not mean everything, of course, as seen with the Knicks’ handling of would-be outgoing players in their “developmental” year.
Payton is known more for his defense and distribution, while Smith is an athletic slasher with bursts of shooting prowess. They could complement each other, but one must show consistency from the field before that comes to fruition.
The risk is low for New York, and it completes their point guard room for 2019-20, for now. Who starts and if any incumbent is on their way out remains to be seen.