On Thursday, the New York Knicks cut a few players, declined a couple of team options, made a trade, and signed an undrafted rookie.
NBA free agency is set to open at 6:00 p.m. ET on Friday night and the New York Knicks have upwards of $40 million in cap space to spend. How did they get here? Well, on Thursday, they made a number of roster moves to clear out space.
Let’s take a look at the moves president Leon Rose made on the eve of his first free agency.
Knicks Waive 4 Players
The Knicks announced in a press release on Thursday that they were waiving four players — Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, Taj Gibson, and Kenny Wooten. None of these moves were all that surprising, especially when we consider the money involved for the three veterans.
Wayne Ellington was brought in as a three-point specialist, but he struggled to find a rhythm with inconsistent minutes. He finished the year shooting at a 35% clip from deep, but that number hovered around 30% for much of the season. The veteran guard was signed to a two-year, $16 million contract with only $1 million in guaranteed money this season.
Elfrid Payton came to the Knicks on the same exact deal as Ellington. The Knicks needed a stopgap at point guard and Payton provided them with exactly that. However, with Immanuel Quickley coming aboard and the Knicks potentially looking at Fred VanVleet or other point guards in free agency, this was the end of the line for Payton.
Taj Gibson was signed to a two-year, $20 million deal, but much like Payton and Ellington, he only had $1 million in guaranteed money on the second year. The veteran big man served as a mentor for Mitchell Robinson. The two were often paired together for skill work in practice and Gibson was one of the most vocal leaders in the locker room without a doubt.
Kenny Wooten getting cut might be the biggest surprise of the four here. He never made it onto the floor for the New York Knicks, but he was electric for the Westchester Knicks. The bouncy big man was named to the 2019-20 G League All-Defensive Team, but that was not enough to keep him in the fold with the new regime.
Knicks Decline 2 Team Options
The Knicks had to decide on two players with team options for the 2020-21 season — Bobby Portis and Theo Pinson. They declined the options on both players.
Bobby Portis was the only Knick to play in all 66 games this season. The forward is not a perfect player by any stretch, but he found a role as the power forward on the second unit. Although he struggles to defend the perimeter and isn’t much of a rim protector, he provides floor spacing on offense with his 36% shooting from three.
There are some murmurs that the Knicks might want to bring Portis back on a different contract, but they did not want to pay the almost $16 million that would come with picking up the club option.
Theo Pinson never had the chance to dance on the MSG sidelines in a Knicks uniform. After the Brooklyn Nets cut Pinson during the shutdown, the Knicks picked him up, but his tenure in orange and blue was over before it started.
Trade for Ed Davis
Prior to this deal, there was some reason to believe that the Knicks would bring Taj Gibson back on a different contract. Mitchell Robinson was the only center on the roster and signing a veteran to back him up made the most sense.
But it looks like Ed Davis is going to be that veteran backup. It’s still unclear what the Knicks gave up to get Davis, but he’s coming to New York along with two second-round picks in 2023.
The Utah Jazz are trading Ed Davis and two 2023 second-round picks to the New York Knicks, sources tell @WindhorstESPN and me.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 19, 2020
No Qualifying Offer for Damyean Dotson
And just like that, the longest-tenured player on the roster is gone. Damyean Dotson was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft along with Frank Ntilikina. The Knicks chose not to extend Dotson a qualifying offer so he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Through three years of inconsistent playing time, Dotson averaged 7.8 points per game on 41.9/36.1/72.1 shooting splits. He could heat up from the outside in a hurry and was a decent defender. Dotson could definitely latch on somewhere else.
Here Comes Seton Hall’s Myles Powell
Hometown hero Myles Powell is staying local after signing an Exhibit 10 deal with the Knicks. The Seton Hall product should have an opportunity to make the final roster, whether that is with the Knicks or on a two-way contract remains to be seen.
Either way, the worst-case scenario for Powell is that he does not make the Knicks and he can sign with Westchester with a nice bonus due to the Exhibit 10 deal.
Powell went undrafted despite the fact that he was a consensus All-American and the Big East Player of the Year with Seton Hall last season. He could have benefited from a deep NCAA Tournament run, but coronavirus put a stop to that.
After signing Powell and drafting Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin, the Knicks have the Big East Player of the Year, SEC Player of the Year, and National Player of the Year coming into camp.
For more on Powell, check out our pre-draft breakdown of the local product.
What’s Next for the Knicks?
Free agency officially opens up at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, but teams can only talk to players and form verbal agreements. Most players cannot put pen to paper until noon on Sunday.
There are multiple holes that Rose and his front office need to fill. For one, they need to add dead-eye shooters to provide floor spacing. Surrounding RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and Mitchell Robinson with shooters is the best way to maximize their development.
After that, the Knicks could use another point guard on the roster. For now, the only options at the position are Quickley, Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr. A bonafide starting point guard would take some pressure off Quickley and it would likely mean that Ntilikina is officially shifting to a secondary ballhandler role.
One name to keep an eye on is Gordon Hayward. The former All-Star opted out of his deal with the Boston Celtics and there are rumblings that he could be destined for Madison Square Garden.