The New York Knicks entered the 2018 NBA offseason without any plans of making a huge splash in free agency. While waiting for recovery of Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks are expected to use the 2017-18 NBA season to develop their young core. However, things are expected to be different in the summer of 2019 where several NBA superstars like Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard will be available on the free agency market.
As of now, the Knicks are doing everything they can to free salary cap space in preparation to sign max free agents. According to Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report, one of the moves the Knicks could do to save money is by trading Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers for J.R. Smith.
“New York doesn’t want nor need Smith despite his former glory days in the Big Apple, but his partially guaranteed 2019-20 contract will come in handy. By moving Lee and Thomas, the Knicks save about $5 million this year and $10 million next summer, when salary-cap space for them becomes important with a star-studded free-agent class. Moving the two veterans also opens up minutes for players such as Knox, Tim Hardaway Jr. and newly signed Mario Hezonja.”
The proposed trade deal will be beneficial for both the Knicks and the Cavaliers. As Swartz noted, the trade will give the Knicks about $10 million in additional salary cap space in the 2019 NBA offseason. In the past months, rumors and speculations continue to swirl that Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler are planning to play together in New York. Pairing both superstars with Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Knox, and Frank Ntilikina will undeniably make the Knicks a significant team in the Eastern Conference once again.
Meanwhile, for the Cavaliers, the acquisition of Courtney Lee could strengthen their chance of earning a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference next season. After LeBron James left in free agency, the Cavaliers are no longer a serious threat in the East. Though the Cavaliers still have Kevin Love, their roster, as currently constructed, are not in a position to beat powerhouse teams like the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and the Philadelphia 76ers in a best-of-seven series.
Courtney Lee could be a reliable contributor for the Cavaliers on both ends of the floor where he could replace J.R. Smith as their starting shooting guard next season. In 76 games he played with the Knicks last season, Lee averaged 12.0 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals on 45.4 percent shooting from the field and 40.6 percent from beyond the arc.