Potential Knicks restricted free agent targets, including Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball white warmup shirt

As we head to the draft and free agency, SNY is doing a series on the different factors surrounding potential free agents for the Knicks.

We have previous stories on Julius Randle, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, and Derrick Rose. Here’s a look at some potential restricted free-agent targets for the Knicks…


Here’s a look at some of the 2021 restricted free agents:

GUARDS: Lonzo Ball, Kendrick Nunn, Devonte’ Graham, Talen Horton-Tucker, Hamidou Diallo, Malik Monk, Frank Ntilikina, **Jalen Brunson

G/F: Duncan Robinson, Gary Trent Jr., Josh Hart, Bruce Brown, Lauri Markkanen, John Collins

CENTERS: Jarrett Allen


New York can have $50 million in cap space in the offseason. The Knicks cap space this summer depends, in part, on the approach they take with their own free agents. The cap holds for New York’s existing free agents amount to roughly $50 million.

If the Knicks sign a restricted free agent to a significant offer sheet, they’d probably need to renounce their rights to some free agents on their roster.

The player’s current team, of course, would have a two-day window to match the offer.

The Knicks can sign a restricted free agent to an offer sheet during the free agency moratorium (Aug. 2- Aug. 6). But a player’s original team doesn’t have to match until Aug. 8, two days after the end of the moratorium.

During that time period, the Knicks need to maintain enough cap space to fit the offer sheet.

With regards to offers, it’s worth noting that the Knicks’ own restricted free agent – Frank Ntilikina – has an $18.5 million cap hold.

Given the size of Ntilikina’s cap hold, it will be interesting to see how New York proceeds with the 2017 Lottery pick.

(New York has to sign Ntilikina to a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. That process takes place between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of free agency. If the Knicks don’t sign Ntilikina to a qualifying offer, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.)

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During the regular season, the Knicks internally broached the idea of signing a lead guard who isn’t ball-dominant.

Why would they do that?

Several reasons: Assuming he re-signs, Derrick Rose will play regular minutes at lead guard next season. So the Knicks wouldn’t necessarily need to sign a lead guard who plays 38 minutes a night.

And if Julius Randle and RJ Barrett are going to have the ball in their hands regularly – as they did in 2020-21 – then the Knicks may prefer to sign a lead guard who’s comfortable with the ball out of his hands.

If New York eschews the traditional ball-dominant guard this summer, some of their options on the restricted free agent market include Devonte’ Graham, Lonzo Ball, and Kendrick Nunn.

The Knicks spoke to New Orleans about a potential Ball trade prior to the deadline but nothing materialized. One source with knowledge of the dynamic at the deadline expected the Knicks to pursue Ball again in the offseason.

But as recently as late in the regular season, there was no consensus on Ball among Knicks decision-makers.

As noted last month, Nunn was among the guards on the Knicks’ radar as they considered their offseason plans. Nunn shot 38.1 percent from beyond the arc on nearly six attempts per game this season and shot it remarkably well in the second half of the season.

The interesting thing with Nunn and Duncan Robinson is that Miami will be forced to make a difficult decision if both players sign big offer sheets. The Heat can – and probably would – match offers to Dunn and Robinson. But bringing both players back on big contracts could hamper Miami’s future flexibility.

(Robinson will probably have plenty of suitors this summer. This isn’t surprising, but Robinson has fans within the Knicks organization.)


No matter who the Knicks sign, one question they’ll have to consider this summer is: Does this player fit well with Randle?

Assuming the Knicks sign Randle to an extension or a new contract, any player they add will need to either complement him or fit well alongside him.

Randle, of course, was tremendous last season with the ball in his hands. If the Knicks acquire another player who is at his best when the offense runs through him, how will that impact Randle?

These are the questions New York probably has to consider if it commits long-term to Randle.


There are several organic connections between the Knicks and Dallas guard Jalen Brunson. Brunson’s father, Rick, was one of team president Leon Rose’s first NBA clients. Rose also represented Jalen Brunson. Rick Brunson, a former Knick, has coached with Tom Thibodeau.

Jalen Brunson will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

A few months ago, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon noted on The Putback that Dallas floated the idea of trading Brunson to New York prior to the 2020 NBA Draft in an effort to move up in the first round. Dallas values Brunson highly, per MacMahon, but the club could get a ton of value back if they moved Brunson between now and the 2022 trade deadline.

Brunson seems like the kind of player who would fit well with Randle.

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