The New York Knicks are keeping Allonzo Trier. That much is certain, but how will Scott Perry and Steve Mills clear a roster spot for him?
How in the world did we end up here? The New York Knicks have a difficult roster decision to make in the coming weeks. But Scott Perry and Steve Mills aren’t complaining about it. The front office needs to figure out how to clear a roster spot for Allonzo Trier. The undrafted free agent who is outplaying his two-way contract in a major way.
Trier was originally supposed to be a project in Westchester for head coach Mike Miller to try and mold into a serviceable role player to join Fizdale’s rotation at a later date. That later date came much earlier than expected and Trier is already averaging 11.2 points per game and he’s flirting with the 50-40-90 club that’s populated by the likes of Stephen Curry, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, Reggie Miller, and of course, Mark Price.
Now Trier’s 45 days of service on his two-way deal are almost up. There’s no question that Trier will stay with the Knicks, but there is some doubt as to how Perry and Mills will clear the roster spot for the combo guard. Could they get creative with a trade in the imminent future or will they waive a player already on the roster?
The Most Likely Scenario
Luke Kornet is the odds-on favorite to be the roster casualty who makes way for Trier. There’s reason to be excited about Kornet’s potential to grow into a rotational player in the future. He possesses a unique skill set including a three-point shot and some rim protection. That being said, outside of a few performances during the brutal end of the 2017-18 season, he hasn’t shown enough to secure his spot.
Kornet’s success has mostly come in Westchester. Unfortunately, that success has yet to translate to Madison Square Garden. Furthermore, Kornet’s $1.6 million guaranteed contract isn’t a huge obstacle. This appears to be the most likely scenario at this point.
An Unexpected Waive
Kornet has yet to crack the rotation for David Fizdale in New York. That fact, along with his reasonable contract sets him up to be the expected roster casualty. However, if the Knicks are willing to bet on Kornet’s unique skill set, they could waive Ron Baker — another player relegated to the end of the bench.
This is an unlikely move due in large part to the contract Baker signed in 2017. Baker makes more than $4 million per year and waiving him would make for a messier financial situation for the front office.
Nevertheless, waiving Baker would make sense in terms of actual roster construction. Baker and Trier both occupy the role of a combo guard off the bench. Cutting Kornet would leave the frontcourt a bit thinner. All things considered, this would be a surprising move for Perry and Mills to make.
Creative Trade Scenarios
This is where things could get tricky. There is little indication that the Knicks are aggressively pursuing trades to clear the roster spot. They could be working the phones behind the scenes in an attempt to avoid waiving a player and eating salary.
The problem with predicting what happens in a potential trade scenario is that the trade would need to end with an open roster spot. A one-for-one trade wouldn’t work unless the Knicks plan on waiving the player they acquire. A two-for-one or even a three-for-two trade gets more complicated due to the need to match salary. Furthermore, making sure both sides are happy with the return is a challenge unto itself.
There are no shortage of interesting, if not attractive, trade pieces on the Knicks. The recent emergence of Emmanuel Mudiay and the less recent emergence of Trey Burke have some wondering whether or not their days in Madison Square Garden are numbered.
A trade involving Courtney Lee could happen this season, but teams will want to see him in action before trading for him. He’s still working his way back from a neck injury that’s hampered him all season. He probably won’t have enough time to showcase his health prior to the upcoming deadline on Trier’s days of service. Lee’s practicing again, but it doesn’t look like the timeline will match up with the deadline on Trier.
Is Enes Kanter a trade piece right now? He’s made subtle hints at his unhappiness with his role at times this season. But he’s also one of the most dependable Knicks on a nightly basis, despite his defensive warts. It would be shocking to see the Knicks trade Kanter away at this point in the season. Maybe we’re looking at a different situation come February and the trading deadline, but for now, Kanter looks safe.
Clearing a roster spot for Trier via trade is complicated. As a result, it’s one of the more unlikely situations that could manifest itself. Waiving a player on the roster seems like the much more logical route for the front office to take.
Waiving a player on a guaranteed contract isn’t something the front office expected to be doing in early December, but no one will be complaining about Trier playing his way onto the 15-man roster.