It took more than eight months from the day he was named Knicks president for Leon Rose to make his first personnel moves, but he wasted little time once he started, reshaping the roster drastically in a 24-hour flurry.
After drafting Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley on Wednesday night, the Knicks signed Seton Hall’s explosive Myles Powell and invited him to training camp. Then, as soon as the window was opened to pick up or reject team options, Rose brought a machete to the Knicks’ roster.
The Knicks waived Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Taj Gibson, who had partial guarantees on their contracts. They did not pick up the team options for Bobby Portis and Theo Pinson and also waived Kenny Wooten, who had a two-way contract. They also did not make a qualifying offer to Damyean Dotson, which allows him to be an unrestricted free agent.
The Knicks will bring back Reggie Bullock with a one-year, $4.2 million contract, which had a $1 million guarantee.
Rose then swung a deal Thursday afternoon with the Utah Jazz, who were trying to free up cap space. The Jazz will send the Knicks forward Ed Davis, who is due $5 million in the final year of his contract, and a pair of 2023 second-round picks. The Knicks will absorb the cost into their cap space, still leaving them with approximately $35 million to spend.
The deals have given the Knicks a total of two first-round picks and four second-round picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. That year’s showcase figures to be stocked with talent, as it is expected to be the first time that high school seniors can enter along with what would have been the rest of the prospects.
The Knicks still can bring back the waived players on lesser contracts. Portis and Gibson are the most likely candidates. But the moves provided the team’s front office with more cap space and flexibility in free agency, which begins Friday evening, and in the trade market.
The temptation certainly will be there for Rose to bring a big name to New York. Boston’s Gordon Hayward opted out of his remaining year at $34 million and is a free agent. He has many options, including searching for a team such as the Knicks or Hawks with the space to fit him, a sign-and-trade deal from Boston or a longer deal at a lower annual salary to remain with the Celtics. Toronto guard Fred VanVleet is the highest-rated free agent in a less-than-stellar class.
With the $35 million in cap space available, the Knicks could go after a big-name point guard, and Rose will have the opportunity to bring in a big-name player through free agency or a trade.
The names most raised are point guards to lead this group. That makes sense, both for team need and the available talent.
Russell Westbrook, who could be had if the Rockets lower the asking price, is a high-risk move. He is 32 years old with seven surgical procedures on his medical chart, and despite continuing to put up huge numbers as a triple-double threat, he brings a three-year, $132 million contract. It would put a crimp in the Knicks’ plans for next summer, when the free-agent market will be far more attractive than this one.
The most attractive option in this free-agent market might be VanVleet, but he also will be pricey. He is expected to seek a deal worth more than $20 million per season. The Raptors have expressed interest in keeping him, too, and many of the other teams expected to be suitors for him cut into their cap space this week.
D.J. Augustin and Jeff Teague have history with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.
The 6-2 Powell was the only player immediately brought in by the Knicks after the draft. He went undrafted despite winning the Jerry West Award as the best shooting guard in the NCAA and Big East Player of the Year honors. He was a consensus first-team All-American selection and a finalist for the NCAA Player of the Year honor — which went to new Knick Toppin.