Knicks have options this offseason even without first-round pick in 2023 NBA Draft

Nov 4, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) with guard Jalen Brunson (11) against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the NBA Lottery is past, the Knicks know exactly what they have to work with this offseason.

New York will have the $12.2 nontaxpayer midlevel exception and the $4.5 million biannual exception to use in free agency.

And they will have the opportunity to make a competitive offer for any star that becomes available on the trade market.

“Outside of Oklahoma City, maybe Utah – I think they’re in the top five of competitive packages for the next disgruntled All-Star,” ESPN Front Office Insider Bobby Marks says of the Knicks. “They’ve got a little bit of everything here. Tradable contracts, draft picks, young players. I would definitely put them up there.”

Marks walked us through specifics on those trade packages, Julius Randle’s value, the financial reason behind the Knicks declining Derrick Rose’s player option and more. In short, Marks likes where New York sits at the moment.

“The Knicks are in a better spot now than they were when they lost to Atlanta in 2021. They’re in a tremendously better spot,” Marks, who has a detailed breakdown of the Knicks offseason on “[Jalen] Brunson is a franchise player. The question [for the team now] is, ‘Do you have a solid No. 2? If you don’t, what is the cost to go out and get one of those players? There’s a significant cost to that.”

That’s probably the biggest question New York faces this offseason: do you bet on internal improvement of players on your roster or do you make significant changes via the trade market?

The trade market, Marks says, will be active this offseason.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of movement across the league. With the new CBA coming in, you basically have a one-year grace period for everything,” he said. “Next offseason is going to be really hard to do deals for some of these higher-spending teams…. I think a lot of teams will be active either trying to clean up their books or trying to get draft picks[this offseason].”

If the trade market is the focus for New York, which young players increased their value during the 2022-23 season?

“I think Mitchell [Robinson] has. Certainly a quality center at a pretty good number,” Marks says. “[Immanuel] Quickley also because I think he showed that he could start for you and play at a high level. [Quentin] Grimes is interesting because, offensively, there’s still more to grow but defensively he’s high-level. But if you’re trading for Quentin Grimes because you think he’s going to give you 25 points a night, it’s the wrong way of looking at it. I think RJ [Barrett], it’s more just from a consistency standpoint. Putting together 3-4 solid games. Not two good games, two bad games. Overall, I would say Quickley probably took the biggest jump out of that group, and then probably Robinson and it filtered down from there.”

The Knicks have all of their first-round picks over the next six drafts starting in 2024. They also have four additional picks acquired via trade. (Here is a detailed look at those picks).

Those picks, players and team-friendly contracts give New York the opportunity to put together a strong trade package.

Should they ship Randle out in any trade this offseason? Marks says they should listen to other teams on Randle, but it would be foolish to make a trade solely for the purpose of getting him off the roster.

“He had an All-NBA-type year. He’s been an All-Star. We live in a world where we look at what you did in the last game, what you did in the last year. Teams don’t look at it that way. You look at a bigger scope,” Marks said. “He’s not a guy that – if you’re looking to move – you have to attach draft picks to. A hypothetical: if the Warriors called and said we’ll give you Jordan Poole for Julius Randle. He’s a movable contract. It’s a matter of ‘what are we moving him for? Are we comfortable with Obi Toppin coming in and playing the four for us on a full-time basis?’”

That’s a big decision that they have to figure out. Because he’s going to be extension eligible. I don’t know if you can extend him without knowing what his role is going to be.

“Randle’s on a good contract. That’s the reality of it. I think you’re listening [to trade offers]. But I don’t think you’re forced to move off (of him). I get it; he didn’t have a good Atlanta series two years ago; this year he was up and down in the playoffs. But he’s more of a value contract than a dead-weight contract.”

As another hypothetical Randle trade, Marks adds: “If Minnesota offered you Karl-Anthony Towns for Julius Randle and you had to give up something else, you’re probably going to do that here.”

Something worth noting on potential Knicks trades: during the season, New York internally discussed some veteran shooting guards that would fit Marks’ No. 2 description and could become available via trade.

In addition to Toppin’s extension, the Knicks have to decide on an extension for Quickley and a new contract for Josh Hart. But they are well-positioned financially, Marks says.

“For a big-market team, the Knicks are well positioned even with this new collective bargaining agreement. They’ll have the choice of either retaining their own players, they have the option to add in trades and not be restricted and they have all of these picks,” Marks says.

“They don’t have three players making $40 million. Even with [a] Quickley (extension)…. They’re in really good shape. They’re in better shape some of the teams that are in the lottery tonight.

“I think that’s certainly why there was hesitancy last year in Donovan Mitchell. You take on a max guy, you give up a lot. [They probably thought] What do we have left to build around after the Mitchell trade? There will probably be some restrictions there (in the new CBA that would have restricted the Knicks’ ability to fill out the roster)…. [The Knicks] didn’t know what the rules [in the new CBA] were going to be [last summer] but they knew there was going to be some teeth to it [that would potentially restrict them moving forward].”

The Knicks can sign a player to a deal as long as four years with the nontaxpayer midlevel exception. If they picked up Rose’s option for the 2023-24 season, they would lose access to that exception.

“That’s just the reality of the situation. That’s why they put a team option on there,” Marks says of Rose’s contract. “You keep him, you’re going into the tax and you don’t have that exception available.”

The Knicks can split the nontaxpayer midlevel exception up and use it on multiple players. They also have to use the biannual exception this season; they will not have access to it next year. So it’s fair to assume the Knicks will add players with both of those exceptions. (To do that, they would need to crease roster openings.)

Thursday’s Lottery provided some clarity for many teams – and possibly some opportunity for the Knicks. Even before Portland landed the No. 3 pick, some within the organization felt that they would be aggressive this offseason in looking for veteran players to put around Damian Lillard. The No. 3 pick obviously gives the Blazers a huge trade asset to upgrade their roster. Portland GM Joe Cronin intimated to media in Chicago that he would be open to moving the pick.

Houston is another team that could look to trade its pick. After the season, high-ranking members of the organization felt that tanking for high draft picks was no longer a direction worth pursuing. They wanted to field a team that could compete immediately. So it’s reasonable for Houston to at least consider moving the No. 4 pick for veteran help.

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