At one point, the Knicks sought a trade to open a roster spot.
Instead, they made a deal that essentially closed a roster spot.
In its trade with the Kings, New York essentially swapped Wayne Ellington for Travis Outlaw, both of whom have guaranteed contracts, and Jeremy Tyler for Quincy Acy, both of whom have unguaranteed contracts. Prior to the deal, I was already counting on the Knicks waiving Tyler to clear space, but waiving Acy would ruin the whole point of the trade (not that the Knicks always act logically).
Acy’s contract becomes guaranteed Aug. 15, and it seems New York has already decided to keep him and lock in 15 players with at least partially guaranteed contracts.
That leaves unsigned No. 51 pick Thanasis Antetokounmpo on the outside looking in.
Shams Charania of RealGM:
To keep Antetokounmpo’s rights, the Knicks must extend him a required tender – essentially a valid NBA contract – by Sept. 6. That can be a fully unguaranteed one-year deal.
I don’t know what promises Antetokounmpo made (many second rounders agree to play in the D-League or overseas before the draft, which increases the likelihood of being selected) or what New York can do for him (many teams in this position help their draft pick find work in exchange for him declining the required tender). But if nothing is on the table for him, Antetokounmpo should consider accepting the tender.
That would likely lead to him joining the team for training camp and, unless the Knicks make another move that trims the roster, getting waived before the regular season begins so they can reach the roster limit of 15 players.
Antetokounmpo would then become an unrestricted free agent. Considering he sipped to No. 51 in the draft, no NBA team would likely be beating down his door immediately. But if he excels in the D-League or overseas, he could negotiate with any NBA team rather than just the Knicks, an advantageous position.
After playing in the D-League last season, Antetokounmpo probably doesn’t need New York’s help to get another job there again this season. If the Knicks can secure him a more lucrative offer – in the D-League or Europe – than he could get on his own, that obviously changes the equation. But the onus should be on them to deliver before Antetokounmpo gives away his right to bargain with other teams around the NBA.
On the other hand, teams don’t always act rationally. Phil Jackson surely doesn’t want to waste a draft pick or be viewed as someone who wasted a draft pick. He very well could give Antetokounmpo the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making the roster in future seasons – even though he technically wouldn’t be any more beholden to an unsigned Antetokounmpo than a free agent.
Antetokounmpo will probably play ball with the Knicks, who chose to fill their roster without him. But before he does, he should consider how it will affect his future.