What other teams can poach the Knicks’ top free agent?

What other teams can poach the Knicks’ top free agent?


Can anyone actually meet OG Anunoby’s asking price?

It’s the question the Knicks must answer as they negotiate with their top free agent this summer and run the risk of losing him for nothing on the open market after trading RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to the Toronto Raptors for Anunoby’s services in late December.

Yesterday’s price is not today’s price, and for Anunoby, what may have been an acceptable offer when he arrived as the headliner of the mid-season trade is no longer market value for a player whose impact lifted the Knicks to championship contender status this year.

The growing sense is a deal with an average annual value of $30 million is not satisfactory enough to keep Anunoby at Madison Square Garden long-term.

But can any teams actually afford to sign Anunoby with cap space? And if so, does it make sense for those teams to do so?

Here’s a look at teams with enough room to make the Knicks’ top free agent an offer he would find it difficult to refuse:

DETROIT PISTONS

The league-worst Pistons project to have at least $38.8 million in cap space to sign free agents and can easily create enough room to offer Anunoby a four-year max contract worth $189.5 million paying $42.3 million in Year 1.

This is the same contract extension the Indiana Pacers gave to All-Star forward Pascal Siakam.

If Detroit were to sign Anunoby, they would roll out a projected starting lineup of Anunoby, Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson and Jalen Duren, though a move for Anunoby would likely signal subsequent trades to push the Pistons into competing for a playoff spot.

The Pistons are not a likely landing spot for the three-and-D wing given their status as a bottom-three Eastern Conference team in each of the last five seasons, but they are in a tough spot which will require overpaying non All-Star players to climb out of the NBA’s most disappointing drought.

UTAH JAZZ

The Utah Jazz have $35.5 million in cap space to sign free agents and can create even more space if they find suitors for John Collins or Jordan Clarkson.

The problem is acquiring Anunoby does little for the Jazz, who have a foundational piece in Lauri Markkanen but are several pieces away from playoff contention in a loaded Western Conference. In fact, the Jazz may trade Markkanen to usher in a full rebuild using their war chest of draft assets.

It’s difficult to envision the Jazz giving all their available cap space to Anunoby, who is not a No. 1 offensive option, but they do have the room to make a significant offer if they were to have interest in the forward’s services.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Fresh off a second-round playoff exit after securing the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, the Thunder have $22.5 million in cap space to sign free agents. However, they can create an additional $11.6 million by trading Kenrich Williams and Ousmane Dieng for no salary in return.

Acquiring Anunoby would bolster a lineup featuring MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Rookie of the Year runner-up Chet Holmgren. The Thunder just acquired Alex Caruso and already have Lugentz Dort, and adding Anunoby would create a defensive lineup teams would struggle to score against on a nightly basis: Gilgeous-Alexander, Caruso, Dort, Anunoby and Holmgren.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

The 76ers have not yet signed All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey to a contract extension. As a result, they have $55 million in cap space to sign free agents to help former league MVP Joel Embiid, space they can use to improve the roster before handing Maxey a deal in excess of $200 million.

The issue, however, is the Sixers have done this before: They paid Tobias Harris $180 million over five years, only for the deal to quickly become one of the worst in the modern basketball era.

Anunoby’s defensive impact far outweighs any impact Harris had on either side of the floor in Philadelphia, and Sixers head coach Nick Nurse was Anunoby’s coach in Toronto.

How disappointing would it be for the Knicks to lose their most valuable free agent to a division rival, the same rival they ousted in the first round of the playoffs last season?

THE KNICKS ARE STILL THE FAVORITES TO RE-SIGN ANUNOBY

The Knicks can exceed the salary cap to re-sign Anunoby to a five-year deal worth $245 million, or 30 percent of the cap. This kind of offer is unlikely given max contracts are traditionally reserved for All-Star caliber players, of which the Knicks already have two — Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle — and are seeking a third on the trade market.

The best-case scenario for the Knicks is Anunoby as the fourth offensive option. One popular comparison is Boston’s Derrick White, who is expected to sign a four-year, $127 million extension paying an average of $31.75 million per season.

It’s unclear if that’s a number Anunoby will accept, and if he can get more on the open market, the Knicks will have to up their offer or risk losing their biggest free agent for nothing.

It’s hard to envision the Knicks letting Anunoby walk, however, given the cost of acquiring him in the first place, which means this could be an expensive roster with Brunson and Randle extensions looming, too.


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