Porzingis will become a restricted free agent this offseason, and he’ll count just $17,091,162 against the cap until signed. Holding his Bird Rights, New York can conduct other business then exceed the cap re-sign him. With his max salary projected to be about $27 million, that extra $10 million of flexibility could be quite important.
But Porzingis – who has missed the last 11 months with a torn ACL – might resent the Knicks’ approach. Young franchise players like him usually receive more security.
However Porzingis feels, New York might try to push its luck re-signing him this summer.
Some around the league believe the team will try to include protections in the contract, meaning it wouldn’t be fully guaranteed should Porzingis miss an allotted amount of games due to a specific injury.
Joel Embiid set the precedent here. He signed a rookie-scale contract extension that guaranteed just $84.2 million of his $147,710,050 compensation over five years – more money becoming guaranteed as he played more games.
But Embiid played just 0, 0 and 786 minutes in his three professional seasons before signing that deal. Porzingis has played 2,047, 2,164, 1,553 and 0 minutes (so far) in his four seasons. The injury concerns with Porzingis are not nearly as great.
That said, they still exist. If the Knicks can sign him to a more team-friendly contract, they should.
Porzingis has leverage too, though. He could sign an offer sheet with another team, which projects to carry a max of $117 million over four years. He could even sign his qualifying offer, which will be worth just $4,485,665 for one season but would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
The Knicks – with the ability to offer a max deal that projects to be worth $158 million over five years – have room to negotiate. They could guarantee him more than any other team could while still not guaranteeing his full max. They can also match any offer sheet.
But they could also push too hard and further alienate Porzingis.
It’s a fine line, one New York might be prepared to walk.