A headstrong Knicks team made the NBA Draft’s most confusing trade, and it could mean a big step

Scott Perry and Leon Rose are present at the design combination.

Knicks GM Scott Perry (left) and President Leon Rose (center)Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

  • The Knicks made a complicated draft day trade that gave them more draft picks and cap space.

  • The Knicks will need both to chase down point guards like Jalen Brunson and Malcolm Brogdon this off-season.

  • The Knicks are set up to make big moves, but it’s unclear if they can pull it off.

The New York Knicks are planning something, but what exactly is unclear.

For the third year in a row, the Knicks were active on draft day, but not in a way that brought in new players.

The Knicks entered the Draft with the 11th overall pick, and in the days before that, rumors circulated that they wanted to trade-in for draft Purdue guard Jaden Ivey

Instead, the Knicks drafted New Zealand forward Ousmane Diang, only to send him to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for future draft picks. They then traded those future design picks for the Charlotte Hornets’ 13th overall pick, before acting That For more choices, opt for the Detroit Pistons. Oh, and Kemba Walker was involved too.

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Sounds confusing? ESPN’s Tim Bontemps put it as neatly as possible, though it still makes the average fan spin.

Essentially, the Knicks acquired several future picks in the first round while clearing some cap space for this off-season.

What the Knicks plan to do with these assets is a bit unclear. The team itself is unlikely to say much; since he was hired as team president in 2020, Leon Rose has spoken to the media only twice. Rather than hold a season-ending press conference like most team managers do, Rose did a televised interview with Mike Breen on the team’s MSG Networks.

Rose released a statement through the team Friday, stating that the Knicks now have “more financial flexibility and design capital.”

Additional picks can help the Knicks hit their best free-agent target

Jalen Brunson looks up during a match.

The Knicks are reportedly planning to release Jalen Brunson.Tony Gutierrez/AP Images

According to numerous reports, the Knicks are planning to chase point guard Jalen Brunson this off-season.

Brunson is expected to charge around $20 million a season for his next contract — perhaps more if the Knicks want to lure him away from the Dallas Mavericks (who have said they plan to keep Brunson). Currently, the Knicks project has about $16 million in cap space, meaning they’ll have to trade in more contracts this summer to match Brunson’s salary.

The extra picks obtained on Thursday evening can help with that. According to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, the Knicks will have 11 future first rounds in the next seven years (although some are protected).

However, the Knicks’ desire to open cap space this season is the result of short-sighted thinking in 2021.

After finishing fourth in the East last season, the Knicks retained much of their core, while adding guard depth in Evan Fournier and Walker, by awarding a total of $191 million to Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Fournier and Walker. But the Knicks flopped last season, missing the playoffs completely. Now they are trying to get rid of those semi-expensive deals to open up cap space to pursue a new point guard.

Any of those individual contracts handed out last season shouldn’t be too hard to move. Walker was traded on Thursday (although it took the Knicks a few draws to do it). Fournier’s deal is the richest, with three years, $55 million to go, but the final year of the deal is a team option, meaning he only has two guaranteed years left on his contract. Rose, Burks and Noel, meanwhile, have all signed three-year deals with team options in senior year, meaning they are entering the final guaranteed years this season.

But it seems the Knicks’ pursuit of Brunson is so clear (Rose previously represented Brunson, and the Knicks hired Brunson’s father on the coaching staff this summer) that opposing teams are likely to demand assets in exchange for the Knicks’ unwanted contracts. .

Amid rumors that Kyrie Irving could hit the open market over a contract dispute with the Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks could also try to free up even more cap space for Irving.

A potential trade?

malcolm brogdon

Malcolm Brogdon.Michael Conroy/AP Images

The Knicks can also use these extra picks to trade for a player they wantinstead of linking them to unwanted salary.

The Knicks are reportedly interested in trading for Indiana Pacers security guard Malcolm Brogdon. It’s unclear what it will take to land the 28-year-old guard, but the extra resources are helping Knicks’ case.

Likewise, it has long been debated whether the Knicks would go all in to acquire a superstar. Last off-season it was rumored that the Knicks might be interested in Damian Lillard, but a trade clearly never came to fruition.

Last year, the NBA world also wondered if Donovan Mitchell will ask for a trade from the Utah Jazz after another disappointing postseason. While the Jazz have given no indication that they would trade their franchise star, if Mitchell asked, the Knicks may have some of the greatest wealth in the league.

Of course, the Knicks still have to use these assets. They owned cap space in the summer of 2019, but didn’t get away with one of the many stars available.

So far, this Knicks front office has shown a tendency to kick the cane if they weren’t intrigued by the current picks — they’ve swapped out the previous two concepts. They haven’t made any major strides on the trade deadline, and in last year’s free agency they mostly re-signed their own free agents while adding Fournier and Walker. Now they seem ready to move forward with those choices.

The Knicks are set to make some moves; now the question is whether or not they will.

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