Knicks Star’s ‘Leverage Play’ Could Yield $245 Million Mega Contract

Knicks wing OG Anunoby

Getty Knicks wing OG Anunoby

Give Knicks star OG Anunoby credit. His injury in Game 2 of the NBA conference semifinals against the Pacers limited him to playing only five minutes for the rest of the series, but when it comes to free agency, he is so far playing the game well.

Anunoby has a player option on the final year of his current contract, for $19.9 million. He is expected to opt out of that year and hit free agency this summer, though that free agency is not expected to last long. The expectation is that the Knicks will re-sign Anunoby quickly, but the uncertainty is how much money it will take for that to happen.

Specifically, the question is whether Anunoby can wring a maximum contract out of the Knicks in the coming weeks. For a player of Anunoby’s experience level, that would be worth about $245 million over five years.

“If you’re the Knicks, you’re hoping this thing tops out around $35 million a year,” one NBA executive told Heavy Sports. “Four years, $140 million. And, in a vacuum, that’s probably where it would land. But OG just needs one other team to get involved and drive up that price. Then you’re going from $35 million a year to $45 million a year and maybe all the way up to a max.”

OG Anunoby to Have Multiple Bidders?

It’s a headache for the Knicks. There are not many teams that could offer Anunoby a significant free-agent contract this summer, because cap space is limited. But one of the teams is the Sixers, and Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer wrote last week that Anunoby’s Knicks situation is not “cut and dried,” and that, teams now have, “the belief that Anunoby could reach unrestricted free agency and consider deals from other franchises in addition to New York.”

But then, Anunoby needs other bidders in order to get his Knicks price as high as possible. The Sixers are useful for Anunoby (and will be for other free agents, too) in that respect because they have a huge swath of cap space and are considered a contender.

He can use the threat of the Sixers to force the Knicks to go higher in their offer. The Knicks are not revealing any desperation in re-signing Anunoby, but make no mistake, it is there. The team gave up R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to get Anunoby.

They did not go to that length to get Anunoby just to lose him five months later.

Knicks Under Pressure to Get Deal Done

That’s how the exec sees it.

“Imagine the optics if the Knicks lose OG this summer,” he said. “I mean, that looks terrible, right? They’re not going to let it happen. They don’t want to go to the max, but they could have to beat a big offer from the Sixers or someone else. That’s what all the talk is, it is a leverage play from OG’s people.”

As good as Anunoby was for the Knicks, with averages of 14.1 points on 48.8% shooting and 39.4% 3-point shooting, as well as top-shelf perimeter defense, he played in only 50 total games this season.

Availability is one reason the Knicks won’t go to the max for him—or at least they don’t want to. He has missed at least 29 games in three of the last four seasons.

The max the Sixers could offer Anunoby is four years and $181 million. The Knicks have the advantage of adding the fifth year. That’s how they could, conceivably, wind up handing Anunoby a $245 million deal.

It probably won’t get that high. But if Anunoby keeps playing his cards right, it will be closer than the Knicks had hoped.

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