Fred VanVleet, the undrafted point guard out of Wichita State who has grown into a key part of the Toronto rotation, is the biggest name free agent player who might actually switch teams this summer. Technically Anthony Davis will opt out and be a free agent, but he’s not leaving the Lakers. Brandon Ingram is a restricted free agent, but the Pelicans will max out the All-Star wing.
That leaves VanVleet as the best player actually available (unless you want to make a case for Montrezl Harrell). Toronto is expected to re-sign VanVleet, but the Knicks top off-season priority is a point guard and they are going to take a look, reports Stefan Bondy at the New York Daily News.
The Raptors are the betting favorites to re-sign VanVleet, but his free agency is unrestricted and the Knicks, according to sources, are among the other teams with interest. If they don’t pull the trigger on a Chris Paul trade, it certainly makes sense for the cap-loaded Knicks.
VanVleet will get a four-year contract at north of $20 million a season (Bondy suggests a Malcolm Brogdon-like four-year, $85 million, which sounds about right). Most likely he gets that from Toronto, but a team could come in over the top and try to poach him.
Is VanVleet where the Knicks want to spend their cap space? He is the kind of floor general point guard who can play on both ends — 17.6 points and 6.6 assists a game last season — that would fit a Tom Thibodeau system. However, New York should not be eager to spend all their cap space this summer. The free agent class of 2021 has the kind of star players the Knicks need to truly turn things around, and New York may want to keep its powder dry until then. VanVleet is good but he’s not a franchise cornerstone player.
New York also needs to build a foundation that those franchise cornerstone free agents want to come to play with (like that team over the bridge in Brooklyn did). Van Vleet, or someone like Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic, would help with that.
Another option is to look at a Chris Paul trade, a rumor popular among Knicks fans (and new Knicks president Leon Rose used to be Paul’s agent). The challenge is the price — two years, $85.6 million (assuming CP3 picks up his player option, which he will) — and the assets it would take to land him. Would the Knicks throw Mitchell Robinson in a deal? RJ Barrett? This year’s No. 8 pick would have to be in any trade, along with Julius Randle. A rebuilding Oklahoma City team is going to want young players and picks in any trade.
Expect the Knicks to make a bold move this summer — and if VanVleet is that move, they could do a lot worse. At 26, he’s going to be a quality starting point guard in this league throughout the length of his next deal.