The New York Knicks are desperate for more talent, and considering they may be without Kristaps Porzingis this season, there’s not much else to get excited about outside of the upcoming NBA Draft. That said, they should be buckling down on draft preparations at this point of the season. The Knicks are 14th in the Eastern Conference standings heading into the third game of a six-game road trip to start the new.
Since there aren’t any excuses to win, especially since the Knicks have performed poorly nearing the halfway mark, why not capitalize on players that could get you returns?
A young guard with upside
Tim Hardaway Jr. is in the second year of his newest contract with the Knicks heading toward $18.15 million next season. He has a player option worth close to $19 million in 2020. His contract was lucrative to begin with, coming after a season in which he averaged 14.5 points per game on a slash line of .455/.357/.766 for the Atlanta Hawks.
Currently, Hardaway is averaging a career-best 20.8 points per game on .391/.354/.852 shooting, and the Knicks still manage to lose with him on the floor.
While his performances early in the season seemed like he finally broke the mold, Hardaway has reverted back to merely average play. His shot selection remains questionable, his efficiency has been on a decline and he refuses to give up the hero ball mentality late in games. To his defense, a lot of the blame can be given to the Knicks’ collective inability to keep themselves in games. Hardaway is still one of the sure scorers on the roster, but his efforts are for naught on a team so clearly lost in the rebuilding process.
His market value hurts the cap for 2019, a year in which the Knicks hope to cash in on big-name free agents. Thank you, next.
Veteran with purpose
Courtney Lee, who is in the midst of his third season as a Knick, is set to earn over $12 million this season, and close to $13 million in 2019. Any team willing to take him on would be securing a notorious 3-and-D threat. He can give you quality minutes either as a starter or off the bench for the next season and a half. A championship contender could utilize his assets more than the Knicks could at this time. He will also hurt cap space next season. Lee isn’t going to be a LeBron James or Kevin Durant stopper, but he sure as hell has what it takes to help keep them at bay.
While he was injured early in the season, he has played 10 games since returning from said injury. He is hardly in the young rotation Coach David Fizdale has elected to roll with.
Big man with a big heart
Enes Kanter, meanwhile, is performing close to his career best this season, but has been relegated to a bench role for 13 games. He’s made his issues with this clear on numerous occasions, the most recent pertaining to Luke Kornet‘s spot start against the Milwaukee Bucks.
He has not always been associated with drama like this, but when he is, his behavior comes off as passive-aggressive. Kanter is in a contract year, earning $18.6 million on the final season of his contract. He will likely be looking for a max deal following this season, one the Knicks seem to be less interested in providing by the day.
All things considered, Kanter could help a championship contender more than he could help the Knicks. He provides enough offense to lessen the load of other players, but his defense is lacking. The Knicks feel they could have more success on that end with Mitchell Robinson and Noah Vonleh. Vonleh has stepped up all season, doing all the things Kanter does and more. He has a strong chance for an extension as a result.
For perspective, per ESPN, Vonleh ranks 55th in Real Plus-Minus at 1.69, a testament to his efforts on both ends of the court. Kanter boasts a lowly -2.
While Kanter does not pose much risk for the cap next season, he could still give the Knicks a decent return if they were to sell him well enough to another team.
However the Knicks go about their business the next couple of months, the lingering issue of Joakim Noah‘s stretch provision will be eating away at about $7 million for the next two seasons. Nonetheless, moving Lee and Hardaway at the very least clears up some space to maneuver in 2019.
It’s still early, but the Knicks can only help themselves if they stay on top of this as the season progresses. It would appear there’s a chance to snag Zion Williamson first overall in the Knicks’ future, and that’ll take careful adjustments.
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