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Keith Smith: Current Boston Celtics TPEs: $17,142,857- Evan Fournier – expires 7/18/22 $9,720,900- Tristan Thompson – expires 7/7/22 $5,096,479- Kemba Walker – expires 5/17/22 $500,000- Moses Brown – expires 6/27/22 $370,564- Jeff Teague – expires 2/11/22 Reminder: TPEs cannot be combined together! 2/2
The Mavericks, as I reported Tuesday night, have emerged as the most likely destination for Ntilikina. He was poised to enter the offseason as a restricted free agent until the Knicks declined to extend him a qualifying offer and ultimately renounced Ntilikina’s rights to clear salary-cap space in connection with a slew of summer deals. Those included the signings of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, which helped make Ntilikina expendable.
Storyline: Frank Ntilikina Free Agency
The Ntilikina signing, provided that the Mavericks close the deal as anticipated, would not be to address that need. They simply relish the opportunity to bring in a recent former lottery pick with an intriguing build and background and see if they can develop him better than the Knicks did. For all the valid concerns about Ntilikina’s offensive shortcomings, he’s still just 23 and remains a 6-foot-4 defensive specialist with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. He also shot a promising 47.9% from 3-point range albeit on a very limited number of attempts (23 for 48).
For instance, before Russell Westbrook was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, users on had generated over 1,300 trades involving Westbrook in 2021. Of those more than 1,300 trades, only seven percent had Westbrook landing on the Lakers. Similarly, Kemba Walker was involved in more than 4,700 trades since the beginning of the year. Of those trades, less than four percent had Walker headed to the Oklahoma City Thunder (his eventual trade destination before being bought out and signing with the New York Knicks).
Charania and MacMahon both add that the Rockets don’t want to negotiate a buyout at this time, but that could change depending on how much Wall is willing to give up. Kemba Walker gave back $20 million in his buyout with Oklahoma City, but he immediately recouped almost all of it in his new deal with the New York Knicks. Wall would have to give back around $25 million for his buyout to be proportional to Walker’s, which may be the starting point for Houston in negotiations.
One former front-office staffer in New York told Basketball News that Ntilikina’s name would come up in trade discussions multiple times per season, but that the team never received an offer for him that included a future first-round pick. That was believed to be the asking price from the team’s current front office. It obviously never materialized, and somewhere along the way, the Knicks believed that its roster spot and/or the cost of re-signing Ntilikina outweighed the benefit he could provide a roster that suddenly has other talented players competing at his position.