Knicks Could Lose Star Free Agent to Rival: Insider

Tom Thibodeau

Getty Tom Thibodeau during Game Seven against the Indiana Pacers on May 19.

The Knicks were 26-6 in the 32 games OG Anunoby played in the 2023-24 season (playoffs included). As one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Anunoby fit seamlessly in the blue-collared culture instated by Tom Thibodeau, proving himself to be a player who could thrive in New York for the long haul.

However, finances could complicate Anunoby’s future in the Big Apple. Ahead of his free agency period, which gets underway June 29, there has been some chatter of the Philadelphia 76ers making a run at Anunoby.

According to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto, the “leaguewide expectation” is that Anunoby will be back in a Knicks uniform in the 2025-26 season. However, the cap-strapped Knicks could be forced to shell out at least $35 million for Anunoby due to competition for his services from the Sixers.

“From executives I’ve talked to around the league, Anunoby’s floor appears to be $35 million, and his ceiling is a max contract,” Scotto wrote on June 16. “Philadelphia will be looking for a 3-and-D small forward and has the max cap space to make the offer if they believe they’ll miss out on their top target, Paul George. Two general managers told me they’d pay Anunoby $35 million annually and that a max would be tough because of his injury history.”

Knicks Can’t Afford to Lose OG Anunoby

Technically, the Knicks — who own Anunoby’s Full Bird Rights — could outbid the Sixers or any other team by offering him the most money. However, there was no indication as of June 17 that the Leon Rose-led front office was willing to overpay for Anunoby, an outstanding young player but not exactly a star in the league.

SNY’s Ian Begley also wrote that Sixers front-office head Daryl Morey could throw a “curveball” at the Knicks by overpaying for Anunoby, especially if he fails to land Paul George or other top-level free agents. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News offered a similar report, via HoopysHype’s Knicks rumors roundup.

“One x-factor in the Anunoby sweepstakes is Paul George,” Bondy wrote on June 16. “If George doesn’t go to Philadelphia or Oklahoma City, those two teams will have to spend their money to get somebody. Anunoby is an attractive piece to bring to those two teams.”

Knicks’ Free Agency Could Get Interesting

Besides Anunoby, the Knicks have decisions to make on three other impending free agents — Isaiah Hartenstein, Precious Achiuwa and Bojan Bogdanovic. Unlike in the case of Anunoby, the Knicks have little leverage as it pertains to Hartenstein as they don’t own the German-American big man’s Full Bird Rights.

As such, the Knicks could offer him a four-year, $72 million deal only to be outbid by a team such as Thunder.

“There’s speculation OKC would offer him [Hartenstein] something in the realm of two years, $50 million with an opt-out in the second year, which is something like Bruce Brown got,” Bondy wrote on June 16. “I don’t know where Isaiah’s head is at. How much does he want to go for the long-term, four-year, $72 million, and the security that comes with that? Or would he go for a short-term deal?”

Bondy added that Hartenstein, 26, could attract even more suitors on the back of his impressive 2023-24 campaign. “I know he’s going to get paid this summer, whether it’s from the Knicks or somebody else.”

There have also been rumblings of the Knicks potentially offering franchise co-stars Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson contract extensions this offseason. All in all, it’s shaping up to be a busy offseason for the Knickerbockers.

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