Report: Knicks trade Noel, Burks to Pistons in move to free up more cap space

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The Knicks’ plan to offer Jalen Brunson a big-money free agent contract — one he is very likely to accept — took a big step forward Tuesday night.

The Knicks are trading center Nerlens Noel and guard Alec Burks into the Pistons’ cap space, creating more room for them to make a big offer to Brunson. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news of the deal.

While there had been rumors of a Clippers trade with the Knicks for Noel earlier in the day, that leak may have been leverage to push the Pistons trade over the finish line. New York’s trade with Detroit fits what the Knicks want — cap space to use in the pursuit of Brunson, their top target (even more than Kyrie Irving when New York was mentioned in those rumors. Marc Stein put it well in an email newsletter sent out less than an hour before the trade hit.

The New York Knicks offer Jalen Brunson an enticing opportunity to run his own team. They play in a conference that potentially offers Brunson a more favorable path to All-Star status. The Knicks can also put Brunson alongside both his father (new Knicks assistant coach Rick Brunson) and virtual second father (Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose) every day.

It’s a combination of lures that, when packaged with a forthcoming four-year contract offer from the Knicks expected to reach (or even cross) the $100 million threshold, has the Dallas Mavericks resigned to losing Brunson in free agency.

The Knicks can now have about $30 million in cap space, or enough to offer Brunson a max contract if they want (a 25% max, to be precise). That may get too rich for the Mavericks.

One more note on the Knicks: The players they have traded on draft night and Tuesday to free up cap space — which looks like a good move right now — were all players the team signed last offseason.

As for the Pistons, they say they are going to keep Noel and Burks.

Of course, that’s exactly what a GM would say to ensure he gets the maximum value when re-trading a player later. “We don’t want to give him up, he’s such a good fit for us, but if the offer is strong enough…”

The real loser in this trade is Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, who are going to lose their No. 2 option, a guy who stepped up in the playoffs. Dallas has to be looking for his replacement.