A look at the Knicks’ salary cap situation for 2022 offseason

Evan Fournier, Kemba Walker, Tom Thibodeau, Leon Rose, Scott Perry, NY Knicks. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Evan Fournier, Kemba Walker, Tom Thibodeau, Leon Rose, Scott Perry, NY Knicks. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images) /

With some time to reflect on the New York Knicks’ season, there were several negatives and positives to the year as a whole.

Because of this, there are a lot of variables we can analyze to determine if this team is truly progressing or not. One of the most regressing attributes of an NBA franchise is a volatile cap situation, and we have seen many teams get trapped in limbo as they manage contract inflation.

The Knicks made a big move in 2019 to trade Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, and along with him, they attached their most aggressive contracts given to Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee. This finally opened up possibilities for the team to acquire new talent and we have seen them do so in the past couple of summers.

Ahead of the summer of 2022, New York’s cap space remains one of its key advantages in this rebuilding process, and although there are some caveats, even the Knicks’ worst contracts can be portrayed as valuable assets during the offseason.

A look at the New York Knicks’ salary cap for the 2022 offseason

Every player but Mitchell Robinson, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Taj Gibson are currently fully guaranteed (Cam Reddish will be a restricted free agent) to be under contract next season for New York.

The Knicks have made some savvy moves to maintain control of their cap situation going forward though, such as adding club options to the multi-year deals of their veteran contracts.

Some of the deals on New York’s table are lofty, but many are expiring (or close to) after next season. Before we dive into the details and the potentials, take a full, extensive look here at the Knicks’ cap situation going forward.

The Knicks have veteran assets

It is assumed some type of deal will be made to move Kemba Walker, especially since the team elected to shut him down in the middle of last season. His deal is expiring after next year and is more team-friendly than that of a fourth-year rookie contract.

A team trading for Walker would most likely be a contender, looking to salvage anything he has left in the tank in an extremely minimal role, like LaMarcus Aldridge in Brooklyn. He isn’t expected to demand a lot of value, but the Knicks can potentially add another second-rounder to their arsenal of picks.

Nelens Noel finds himself in the same boat as Walker, on an almost identical deal with the exception of a club option the season after. New York won’t find a lot of value in Noel after he missed almost the entire season, but his veteran presence may be welcomed by a contending club looking to use him in a minimal role.

The Knicks’ strongest assets, as far as players go, are Alec Burks and Evan Fournier. I would not expect the team to move on from Burks, as he has played a major role in the team’s offense the past two seasons. He’s an affordable, expiring contract with a club option going forward.

With this being said, he is easily the team’s most attractive veteran and he will surely pique the interest of contenders and buyers alike.

Fournier will be New York’s hardest player to keep and sub-sequentially move at the same time. The Knicks over-embellished on the Fournier contract, much like they did with Hardaway Jr.

They paid the 3-point shooter the team’s second-highest salary at almost $18 million a year, attaching two more guaranteed seasons, and a club option for another after that.

Fournier is a good player and was one of four New York players to score 40 points this past season, but his salary eats up a large percentage of the team’s cap at a position they do not overly covet with Immanuel Quickley, Burks, and Reddish already on the roster.

Knicks fans saw his game be relatively one-dimensional. A spark plug on offense when hot, he was too inconsistent on that end to bypass his lackluster defensive ability.

Fournier plays hard and is a solid veteran presence, but with his best years behind him, his contract does not meet the value he brings as a player anymore.

His deal will be the one New York may have to attach an asset to in order to move him or add him as a piece to a potential Julius Randle trade, much like their predecessor deal with Porzingis years ago.

Derrick Rose will also return for another year in New York, earning the team’s third-highest contract. Rose proves his value on the floor when he plays, but injuries sidelined him for the better part of the past year.

The team hopes that significant time off will allow Rose to return to full strength, and like Burks, once again be a big contributor to the team in an essential veteran role.

Veteran leader Taj Gibson is on a non-guaranteed deal to return next year. Unless Gibson, who entered the league in 2009, decides on retirement, I would expect him back on the Knicks on a restructured contract.

Gibson should not be considered a real rotation piece at this point in his career, but he is a much-needed voice on a young New York team.

Draft stock and young free agents

In addition to club options, New York owns 13 draft picks in the coming years, and is set to have a potential lottery pick in this year’s draft.

They have to make two big decisions about retaining Robinson and Reddish, but it’s important to note the team maintains Bird Rights for Robinson, and as I said, Reddish will be a restricted free agent.

Robinson is most likely set to receive several high-paying offers around the association. The young big man has proved to be an athletic specimen with a slew of intangible attributes that has made him an anchor of the Knicks’ defense when healthy.

Robinson has suffered several injuries in past seasons though, and New York may be wary of a long-term commitment to the big man with money tied up in Randle and Fournier already.

The Knicks could potentially seek out a less expensive veteran, such as Andre Drummond or Hasson Whiteside, who would bring similar talent to the team.

New York saw a small sample size from Reddish this past year, but having moved a first-round pick for him, along with his relationship with RJ Barrett and the unknowns about his game, the team would most likely like to see him return.

If I had to guess, Reddish will be back on a qualifying offer this offseason, allowing him to play this year on a franchise tag basically, and making him now an unrestricted free agent next season.

Reddish has not yet proven he’s an everyday NBA rotational piece, so he’ll hope for a healthy and strong 2022-23, and then look to land a multi-year deal the summer after.

In conclusion

A combination of extensive youth talent, a slew of strong veteran players on movable deals, and significant draft capital puts the Knicks in the greatest situation to control their destiny this offseason.

They would be able to partake in several trades if they find them suitable, maybe looking to acquire strong talent now (a sign & trade for Jalen Brunson?), or accumulate more assets for the future.

This will be a pivotal year for the Leon Rose administration, as they continue to state this team is a continued work-in-progress in the right direction.

I would not expect drastic changes to the 2022 New York squad. But if they look to become aggressive in the offseason, they possess one of the league’s greatest arsenals of assets and tools to restructure the roster any way they see fit to get this team back to the playoffs next season.