Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Pelicans still hope to convince Anthony Davis to stay in New Orleans. "We feel confident that we can create the right, and are creating the right, environment for Anthony," Pelicans top executive David Griffin said Tuesday.
Those hopes aside, it's fair to assume at this point that Davis remains committed to leaving the franchise.
The Knicks, of course, will be among the many teams interested in trading for the big man this summer if he wants out of the Big Easy.
We know that Davis would consider re-signing with the Knicks if he felt he could succeed with the club . We also know that several rival executives see the possibility of Davis and Kyrie Irving ending up in Los Angeles alongside LeBron James as something that's very real.
When you talk about potential Davis trades, there a few things to consider.
One is if the Knicks are able to pair him with one or two max free agents. If the Knicks are only able to pair him with one max free agent, they could potentially acquire Davis into cap room without regard to salary matching. Pairing him with two max free agents would require both precise timing and salary-match considerations.
Another is Davis' trade bonus, which would pay out up to an additional $4.1 million on top of his $27.1 million salary for next season if he's traded this summer. That bonus would be payable by the Pelicans, but would be added to the cap sheet of any team that acquires him. Players are allowed to waive all or part of their trade bonuses, at their discretion.
The Knicks can create as much as $72.5 million of cap room this summer, if they were to waive Lance Thomas (his $7.6 million salary becomes $1.0 million guaranteed on June 30); renounce their rights to Emmanuel Mudiay and other free agents; and decline their team options on Allonzo Trier ($3.6 million), John Jenkins ($2.0 million), Henry Ellenson ($1.6 million) and Billy Garrett ($1.4 million); but retain Damyean Dotson (whose $1.6 million salary becomes guaranteed on July 15).
With that in mind, here are a few pathways for the Knicks to acquire Davis in a trade, with the assistance of Albert Nahmad.
SIGNING KEVIN DURANT, TRADING FOR AD:
Let's assume the Knicks sign Kevin Durant to a max contract ($38.2 million in 2019-20, with a $164 million total over four years). The remaining $35.2 million in cap room would be more than enough to acquire Davis' salary (between $27.1 million and $31.1 million, depending upon whether he demands his trade bonus). So they could potentially acquire Davis for a package of young players and picks, without needing to match his salary. They would even have cap room to spare, in addition to the $4.8 million room mid-level exception, with which to fill out the roster.
SIGNING DURANT AND KYRIE IRVING, TRADING FOR AD:
Now let's assume the Knicks sign both Durant and Kyrie Irving ($32.7 million in 2019-20, with a $141 million total over four years). Things get a bit trickier here, as they wouldn't have enough cap room to absorb Davis' contract. They'd need to create at least $70.0 million in cap room to sign both Durant and Irving, but would still need to have enough salary left over to salary-match for Davis. If Davis were to agree to waive his trade bonus, they'd need to send out at least $21.6 million in salary. If he doesn't, which in a way could serve as a no-trade clause of sorts, they'd need to send out at least $24.8 million in salary.
Davis' trade bonus could impact which players the Knicks would need to send out in a deal, as well as what actions they take prior to the start of free agency. Counterintuitive as it may seem, New York could potentially gain flexibility in trade scenarios by exercising the team options of Trier, Jenkins, Ellenson, and/or Garrett. While they can create up to $72.5 million of cap room, they only need $70.0 million to sign both Durant and Irving. Exercising all of the latter three options would still leave New York with $70.1 million of room -- enough to sign both players, while giving them another $5.1 million of tradable salary. This could prove important if Davis demands his full trade bonus because the Knicks wouldn't have enough salary left over after signing Durant and Irving to trade-match for him unless they exercise at least one of the options.
If Davis does waive his trade bonus, the Knicks could reach the $21.6 million by putting together various packages of players, including a package of RJ Barrett, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr. and Dotson, along with Jenkins and Ellenson. If Davis doesn't waive his trade bonus, New York could make a trade work by including Kevin Knox in the package above. In either case, they can (and will probably have to) include future first-round picks in a Davis deal. They have six over the next four drafts but can't trade all of their first-round picks in successive years.
As for timing, the Knicks would first need to sign Durant and Irving, then complete the trade for Davis. They'd also need to sign Barrett to his rookie-scale contract, and then wait 30 days for him to become eligible to be traded.
Upon completion, they'd have just the room mid-level exception ($4.8 million) and veteran's minimum exceptions to fill out the rest of the roster.
WHAT ABOUT RJ BARRETT AND MITCHELL ROBINSON? DO THEY HAVE TO BE IN THE DEAL?
There remains no consensus among Knicks decision-makers about including the No. 3 overall pick in a Davis trade, per sources. Obviously, the Knicks would prefer to keep the No. 3 overall pick (which is expected to be Barrett) and young center Mitchell Robinson out of any trade talks. But at current cap projections, they'd need to include at least one of the two in a trade if they hope to sign both Durant and Irving -- or two other max free agents with similar service time -- and trade for Davis. It would be technically possible to complete a trade for Davis without including Barrett, but only if the entire rest of the roster is included (Ntilikina, Smith, Knox, Robinson and Dotson, as well as Jenkins, Ellenson and Garrett, whose options would need to be exercised) and only if Davis waives his trade bonus.
WHAT ABOUT ALLONZO TRIER'S OPTION?
Trier could be an interesting factor in the Knicks' summer plans. They have a $3.6 million team option on him that they have until June 20 to exercise. If they exercise it, Trier would count against their cap at that number. If they decline it, he'd have a cap hold of $4.7 million if they extend a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent or $4.5 million if they keep him unrestricted.
The Knicks could exercise the option and still have enough cap room for both Durant and Irving, but they'd need to waive Dotson to get it. Exercising Trier's option while retaining Dotson would leave them a mere $130K short of necessary cap room for both Durant and Irving. To bridge that gap, either Durant or Irving could take the slightest of discounts from the max or the final salary cap would need to increase from its current $109 million projection to $109.5 million. The cap could jump based on increases in revenue (for up-to-the minute cap analysis, be sure to check @KnicksFilmSchool regularly). One factor there is revenue from postseason games. So Knicks fans should be rooting for a longer Eastern Conference Finals and a seven-game NBA Finals.
Something worth noting: If the Knicks choose to move Ntilikina in a separate trade for a draft pick(s), they could potentially create an additional $4.0 million in cap space. But that trade would also take away $4.9 million in salary that they can send out in a Davis trade, which matters if the Knicks sign two max free agents and then try to trade for Davis.