Which point guards should Knicks target in NBA free agency: Jalen Brunson, Ricky Rubio, Tyus Jones?

the Knicks will not go through next season with kemba walker and Alex Burks soaking up most of the minutes at point guard. They are on the prowl for a new one.

They almost certainly wouldn’t play a rookie at the position. If they find a new starter, it will be through either free agency or a trade. Today, we’ll discuss the former, where the market is light.

The name commonly connected to New York is Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunsonwho tore up the Jazz’s hapless perimeter defense in Round 1 of the playoffs but has stifled a bit more in the conference semifinals against the dominant Sun’s. His name from him has bounced around Knicks-related reports since the beginning of the season, which have often referred to ways New York could sign and trade for the 25-year-old.

Yet, a recent report from ESPN said the Mavericks won’t participate in sign-and-trade denials for Brunson, who could earn more than $20 million a year on his next contract, more than 10 times what he’s making now.

If that’s the case, however, it doesn’t mean the Knicks, who don’t project to be below the salary cap, can’t get him.

The team needs to check two boxes with one player: the new point guard needs experience running an offense, and he needs to be able to stay on the floor. Brunson fits the description. Not many other free-agent point guards do.

When healthy, Derrick Rose is one of the league’s top backup point guards, but he saw the court only 26 games last season and had another surgery in the spring. I haven’t played since December. Immanuel Quickley took a step during the second half of the season, but head coach Tom Thibodeau does not yet trust him to run the point full time.

If the Knicks want Brunson enough, but the Mavericks refuse to do a sign-and-trade or Base Year Compensation (which makes players earning hefty raises difficult to sign and trade without a trade exception or a third team) proves too complicated, New York could open up the cap room to sign him outright.

The Knicks could clear about $20 million in space without too much maneuvering. Waiving Taj Gibson, whose salary is non-guaranteed for 2022-23, attaching one or two of the endless number of second-round picks they have to Burks or Nerlens Noel to dump one into someone else’s space, then waiving-and-stretching Walker could get them about $20 million below the salary cap. Maybe that’s enough to land Brunson or some other attractive addition.

But the Knicks won’t be the only ones after Brunson. He could get expensive, and they could bow out. He could choose another destination. He could re-sign with Dallas. If they miss out on him, they will look elsewhere.

They could trade for a name or they could look to the open market, where the market isn’t as deep as in other years.

Here is a look at some other point guards that will be free agents, along with my projections for what their new contracts might look like:

Ricky Rubio

Projected contract: one year, $5-10 million

There may not have been a team this past season with worse luck than the Cavaliers. Colin Sexton played in only 11 games; Lauri Markkanen missed 21; Jared Allen and Evan Mobley both suffered injuries for the stretch run. And then there was Rubio, whose season ended midway with a torn ACL. The 31-year-old has never been the most efficient scorer, but he was playing as well as ever when he got hurt. The Cleveland bench was thrilled with him running the show. He uses his size of him well on defense, even if he’s not as frisky as he once was, and he remains one of the league’s best passers at the position.

The Knicks could afford him without having to create a cap room. They have the full mid-level exception, projected to be worth a little more than $10 million in starting salary, and I doubt Rubio costs more than that, given the injury. But I am not sold on his fit in New York. Rubio has never been a consistent shooter — and it’s not just his jumper that’s off; he isn’t consistent in the paint, either. The Knicks need someone who can drain jumpers, especially if they end up bringing free-agent center Mitchell Robinson back. An offense with Rubio, julius randle and R. J. Barrettalone, would be too scrunched.

Tyus Jones

Projected contract: three years, $36-42 million

I remain convinced Jones’ asking price will be above the Knicks’ budget. He’s been one of the best backup point guards in the league and tremendously important to the grizzlieswho went 20-5 without Ja Morant this season, in part, because of Jones’ contributions backing up the All-Star guard. He shoots, guards and is royalty in the assist-to-turnover kingdom. I think there’s a realistic chance Memphis gives him more than the mid-level.

If that’s the case, Jones isn’t the type you dump others for to create cap room. If the Knicks miss out on Brunson, they might be better finding a stop-gap player to fill in until 2023-24, when they can sign or trade for someone of bigger stature. Jones is only 25 years old. He’ll want a three- or four-year contract. He may not be the most realistic target, given where the Knicks are today.

John Wall

Projected contract: N/A

Speaking of stop gaps: hello, John Wall.

OK, so Wall is not technically a free agent. He has a $47 million player option for 2022-23 that he’s bound to pick up. Wall also awkwardly sat out this season for a tanking team, and there’s a chance he and the Rockets could agree to a buyout with only one season remaining on his deal. If they do, maybe the Knicks make sense.

The contract would be cheap since he’d likely just want to recoup whatever he gives back in the buyout. But a signing like this would conjure up Kemba Walker-ish vibes.

Would the Knicks want to sign another veteran former All-Star with a significant injury history bought out by a tanking team? Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Wall has played fewer games than Dirk Nowitzki. It’s not like going into next season with Wall and Rose as the two point guards would feel any more reliable than Walker and Rose did last fall.

Alas, we move on.


Could the Knicks pursue veteran point guard Dennis Schröder? (Kiyoshi Mio/USA Today Sports)

Dennis Schroder

Projected contract: one year, $6.3 million

Schröder is the ultimate quick-fix candidate. That’s the reason Celtics signed him last summer. Someone else could do it this July, too.

There’s no question he’ll change teams after Boston dealt him to Houston back in February. The Rockets are stockpiling youth. They don’t need to hand out money to keep a veteran floor generally.

I don’t see Schröder receiving a much different deal than he did last summer, either. He should get something around the taxpayer mid-level, projected at $6.3 million. If he signed for that price, it would leave the Knicks with another $4 million of mid-level money to play with, too.

Schröder is far from a perfect point guard. His jump shot from him is inconsistent and his defense from him goes in and out, but he’s guarded capably before, has experience starting and has helped winning teams. He’s only a few years removed from finishing second in the NBA Sixth Man of the Year voting, and it’s not like he’s physically failed off since then. Maybe he’s someone the Knicks look to if they’re unable to find a starter elsewhere.

Colin Sexton

Projected contract: four years, $50-65 million

The Knicks would probably need to create cap space if they wanted to sign Sexton. They would have to think of him as a point guard, too, which not everyone does.

Sexton is often the target of criticism because of that. The Cavaliers took off after his season-ending meniscus surgery. I have played in only 11 games and it is not a top-notch distributor or defender. But he’s also a 23-year-old who averaged 24.3 points on above-average efficiency during 2020-21, his last healthy season. When he gets hot, he burns nets.

That counts for something.

I’m not sure, though, if he’s the type the Knicks would want — at least not at point guard. The Caves have darius garland, who is now an All-Star, next to him in the backcourt. Paying him would eat into potential 2023 cap room. The Knicks need someone to set up their offense. Is Sexton that guy?

goran dragic

Projected contract: one year minimum

Dragic is another stopgap candidate, though he’s not the same player he was in Miami.

After sitting out for most of the season in Toronto, he signed on the buyout market with the Nets but struggled mightily. Maybe he was just rusty after missing so much time and then joining a squad during a herky-jerky season, or maybe it’s his age: he turned 36 years old on Friday. Regardless, Dragic was worse in 2021-22 than he’s been since becoming a rotation player more than a decade ago. His jump shot of him cratered and his scoring efficiency of him, which was always impressive, imploded.

I could see a team going into next season with Dragic as their backup point guard on a cheap deal, hoping they can recover some of the magic. Once you become a buyout player, as Dragic did this season, minimum contracts normally follow. He’s had dips and then recovered before, but they’ve never been quite this steep. Because of that, I don’t anticipate anyone, including the Knicks, signing him to be a starting point guard next season.

Delon Wright

Projected contract: 1 year, $4 million

I’m including Wright on the list mostly to give an example of what the point guard market looks like this summer. Because of his history of him as a quality contributor, I’ll project him at the biannual exception, though he may get more, considering he was big for the hawks when they made their second-half run.

Wright is feisty and smart. He’s helped teams in Toronto and Memphis and sneakily played well in Detroit before the Pistons traded him to the King’s last season. But he never looked comfortable this season in Atlanta, where he stopped shooting the basketball, especially when he played next to Bring Young. A team won’t sign him to be a starter.

This one is wild: Wright finished only 10 percent of the Hawks’ possessions with a shot, a turnover or a foul drawn while he was on the floor; that’s a Taj Gibson-level usage rate. No other NBA player capable of playing point guard came close. The only other players in his range of him are lightly-used big men or spot-up jump shooters who get a 3-point look every few minutes.

Patty Mills

Projected contract: At least $6 million a year

Mills signed a two-year contract, which included a $6 million player option for 2022-23, last summer and then played this season like … Patty Mills. If he chose to hit the open market again this offseason, he would probably garner a similar contract. Maybe he chooses to pick up the player option and return to Brooklyn. Or maybe he wants to sign a new deal so he can get another season of guaranteed money. He won’t decline the option if he believes he won’t make as much.

The problem with including Mills, who drained 40 percent of his 3s for the Nets, on this list is that he’s not the general floor type. Brooklyn displaced him off the ball. He’s a dead-on spot-up shooter, but that’s not what the Knicks need. They need someone to run an offense, which Mills does not do at this point.

(Top photo of Jalen Brunson: Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

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