While the decision to trade Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks surprised many people, there’s a method to the madness for the New York Knicks.
As one of the teams with the best odds to land the No. 1 overall pick, the Knicks will go deeper into the tanking hole without contributors like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee on their roster any longer. This should give them at least a slightly better chance at landing the top selection in the 2019 NBA Draft.
The “grand plan” is to sign both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with their available money, per Frank Isola.
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the Knicks will have $74.6 million in available cap space this offseason. That is a huge difference from the $29.5 million they had to start the day.
Porzingis had a team option of $17.1 million that the front office would have assuredly offered him this summer. But by trading him, that comes off the books and they were able to move off the $18.1 million owed to Hardaway Jr. as well as the $12.7 million owed to Lee.
In return, they received the expiring contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Wes Matthews from the Mavericks. Both will come off the books this summer, which means they have a total of just $18.7 million in guaranteed salary for next season. That leaves a lot of room for roster construction with only young talent on the books.
That money will be owed to recent first-rounders including Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox as well as their second-rounder Mitchell Robinson. They will have Lance Thomas and Damyean Dotson on non-guaranteed contracts, and they can decide what to do with those players after seeing how free agency plays out.
It may seem unlikely, but if the Knicks can use that cap space to secure Durant and Irving (or another top free agent), the trade won’t seem nearly as crazy in retrospect.