Leon Rose awaits smacking his home run transaction for the Knicks — or at least finding a starting point guard not named Elfrid Payton.
Knicks president Leon Rose has a league-high $53 million in cap space and seemingly 53 million options at point guard and small forward — two areas the franchise has honed in on with free agency commencing Monday at 6 p.m.
Rose has been mostly conservative during his 1 ½-year reign as the Knicks’ Godfather as he awaits smacking his home run — or at least finding a starting point guard not named Elfrid Payton. But Rose is now holding a stack of bills and is ready to toss them around.
The grand slam would be Rose finding a way to convince his former favorite client, Chris Paul, to try to get back to The Finals with the Knicks as Eastern Conference champions rather than re-signing with Phoenix.
The Knicks are one of just six teams with cap space greater than $20 million. They’re only one of two teams that can give Paul a whopping three-year, $123 million offer, but rumblings out of the desert are Paul wants to run it back in the Valley of the Sun when he turns 37.
The Suns can offer Paul three years, $144 million, but owner Robert Sarver sounded last week as if he had his limits.
The other earth-shattering move Rose could pull would be bowling over Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry with an offer the Mavericks, Pelicans or Heat can’t meet.
The Knicks can offer Lowry a starting salary of $39 million, but that would eat up a lot of their space. That could prevent them from getting the scoring wing they seek — say, Evan Fournier, Duncan Robinson, Norman Powell or Kelly Oubre.
The most likely Knicks catch would be Lakers point guard Dennis Schroder, a solid defender and playmaker who may be expendable now that the Lakers have landed Russell Westbrook. The Knicks scouted Schroder intensely this season to make sure the German native is a fit for coach Tom Thibodeau.
Other point guards on the Knicks’ list are the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie, who wants a maximum $125 million pact, the Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball, who reportedly is a heavy favorite to land in Chicago, and of course Derrick Rose, who proved invaluable as Thibodeau’s lead operator last season off the bench.
The Knicks have Rose’s early Bird rights and can go over the salary cap to bring him back. The potential problem with Rose is that he could be offered a long-term deal that the Knicks brain trust is hesitant to extend.
The Clippers’ Reggie Jackson and the Suns’ emerging backup Cam Payne are also free-agent point guards, but it could be considered financial risks to hand either the keys as difference-makers.
The Knicks fashioned a shockingly good 41-31 record for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference this past season, Thibodeau won Coach of the Year and league sources believe the club has become — finally — a destination. But that’s only a theory until it happens.
If the Knicks strike out on a free-agent point guard, they could again look at trading with the Cavaliers for Collin Sexton.
Some league personnel men, however, wonder if the Knicks’ trade assets aren’t as strong after Thursday’s draft.
From a trade standpoint, there’s a good argument to be made the Knicks were better off last week, when they had the unused 19th, 21st, 32nd and 58th selections, than they are with the current assemblage of Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, Lithuania’s Rokas Jokubaitis, Jericho Sims and a future first-round pick from Charlotte that may not be conveyed for four years.
Be mindful, too, that Rose does not want to waste cap space on iffy long-term deals that would handcuff the Knicks in 2022 free agency when Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine and Jimmy Butler are expected to be on the market.
In addition, Damian Lillard could still ask for a trade away from Portland and various reports have the Knicks very high on his list. That actually isn’t as good as it sounds, as the Trail Blazers can — and will — take the very best deal, according to league sources. The Knicks have to hope they have a thing for Lithuanian lefty combo guards.
As for small forward, SNY reported Fournier has interest in the Knicks — even if former French first-rounders Frank Ntilikina and Frederic Weis didn’t pan out in New York. Knicks general manager Scott Perry knows Fournier well, as they were both together with the Magic.
The free-agent pool for wing-type players is rich, and it also includes Denver’s Will Barton, Charlotte’s Devonte’ Graham and Spurs veteran DeMar DeRozan.
The Knicks also have to consider re-signing starting shooting guard Reggie Bullock, though he may have a four-year offer in place elsewhere. The Celtics, Sixers, Lakers and Suns have mulled signing the Knicks’ “unsung hero.’’
Their own free agent, swingman Alec Burks, probably will get a better deal in a different place. So might center Nerlens Noel, who is looking for a long-term monstrous deal after being such a shot-blocking warrior for the Knicks in Mitchell Robinson’s absence. The Raptors, Pistons and Kings have interest in Noel.
The other Knicks issue is negotiating with Julius Randle about a contract extension rather than waiting for him to hit unrestricted free agency in 2022. Randle has said he wants to retire a Knick, so nobody is too worried.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman