The annual NBA spend-a-palooza begins Thursday at 6 p.m., with the Knicks re-established as the big players after draining nearly $30 million in cap space over the past week.
Leon Rose’s entry into big-time spending was a major disaster last year, when the Knicks withheld their money to Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Nerlens Noel, Derrick Rose and Alec Burks. Three of those five are already out of the team, traded with draft capital requirements, while the other – Rose – hasn’t been played since pre-Christmas.
The reason for such moves is mostly about Jalen Brunson, who we’ll break down for NYK’s Thursday with three important questions.
Is Brunson worth it?
At this point, it is fitting that the Knicks would offer Brunson a monster contract to be their lead defender. The only thing that could derail the signing is for the Mavericks to exercise their bird rights to offer more, but the Dallas report suggests Mark Cuban is unwilling to go that high. Brunson may have been on $125 million, but Cuba hasn’t gone above $106 million. The Cubans also have luxury tax penalties to pay, and last season’s acquisition of Spencer Dinwiddie left Brunson somewhat unappreciated.
Knicks offer? A reported four years and about $110 million.
It is easy to defend his argument. The Knicks, as seen over the past two decades, need a dependable point guard. Brunson, despite his flaws (more on that later), is available at the helm of free agency when Kyrie Irving finds that he is not trusted by any team in the NBA, especially his own in Brooklyn.
You could argue that the Knicks are better traded for San Antonio’s DeJonte Murray or Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon—both of whom are upgrades defensively—but the Knicks are focused on Brunson first.
As widely spread, the organization has family ties to Brunson that raise eyebrows. His father, Rick, was hired as an assistant coach under Tom Thibodeau. Rick was also Rose’s first NBA client, the former agent who now runs the Knicks and recently attended Rick’s 50th birthday party.
Rose’s son, Sam, becomes an agent and represents Jalen Brunson.
It sets out a defining moment of the Leon Rose regime, which will be run on the basis of Brunson’s production. If he struggles, Rose may have manipulated James Dolan’s money to take care of his people. Think Brody Van Wagen. Or, if Brunson successfully navigates the Knicks in their 2020-21 position, Rose will be applauded for her connections and insight into an unseen star.
According to one source, Brunson is viewed as a top-10 NBA point guard by at least one high-ranking member of the Knicks. This is a fair assessment, but hardly one given that would translate to NYK without the vacancy provided by Mavericks systems and personnel.
He’s a proven champ (two-time NCAA champion) and a dependable personality, which is vital for a franchise that seems to be forever shaky. Brunson offers something the Knicks backcourt has sorely missed – a facilitator and playwright who can make shots for himself and thrive with the ball screen.
His defense, however, is questionable. Opposing teams often target Brunson, who is not an elite athlete, which bothers Ivan Fournier, especially with Tom Thibodeau’s defensive demands.
It is unknown for Brunson to add use to the game without Luka Doncic dominating the ball and attention. He handled well during Doncic’s absence last season, especially in the playoffs, when Brunson averaged 36 points to lead the Mavericks to two wins over the Jazz.
That being said, Brunson, in itself, is not seen as a route to immediate controversy. Much of his value will stem from transforming the Knicks from a disappointment into a desirable destination for a true superstar.
Will Michelle Robinson sign again?
Trading Nerlens Noel on Tuesday set up another possible scenario: Robinson’s return.
It’s another gamble for the Knicks, but for different reasons. Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t sign an extension by Thursday’s deadline, has been a skilled scorer and rim defender but also an injury risk who has been intermittent and out of shape about his role. is out.
Robinson, 24, was paid significantly less during his first four seasons in the NBA, and many wonder what a sizable guaranteed pay day would be for his inspiration.
According to Bleacher Report, Robinson is expected to sign with the Knicks for four years and approximately $60 million. This is 1,000% more than his previous deal.
Still, the Knicks could lose nothing after Robinson was drafted and developed for four years.
He is their best option at the centre. Also, on a team mostly devoid of charming and fun personalities over the past two seasons, Robinson was a shining light.
What about RJ Barrett’s expansion?
The Knicks’ best young player gets eligible for an extension on Friday but there’s no rush. The sides have until the season opener to reach an agreement, and, if a deal is not reached, they could renegotiate next summer when Barrett hits up restricted free agency.
The NBA’s all-around pulse will ask Barrett the maximum, which is worth an estimated $185 million over five years. Whether he gets it or not is a different story. If Barretts don’t, things can get messy.
The big hole in Barrett’s argument for maximum money is his efficiency, which ranks among the lowest in the NBA for such a high utilization rate. With only two weeks away from his 22nd birthday, it is reasonable to expect Barrett’s free-throw and 3-point percentage to improve. Athleticism, or lack of bursting, isn’t changing. He’s strong to score in the transition with the running room, but Barrett isn’t going to break defenders at the halfcourt.
He’s a relatively low-maintenance personality who enjoys the Knicks’ spotlight, and we may know if that translates to playing third fiddle on a better team.
Then there’s the history of this heart-wrenching franchise and its draft picks, a statistic that reflects its disqualification of the past two-plus decades: the No Knicks first-round pick since Charlie Ward resigned from his rookie deal with the team. He’s so old he played two games (and four years) in college.