Saturday was the deadline for the New York Knicks to decide the future of Derrick Rose and Josh Hart. While the Knicks, as expected, declined their $15.6 million team option on Rose, the team worked out an extension with Hart until Thursday at midnight.
Derrick Rose is a former NBA MVP and a longtime favorite of Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, but he was removed from the rotation in December and then barely played for the remainder of the season, earning just five minutes of game time once the calendar flipped to 2023.
However, the 34-year-old remained a fan favorite and a role model for the younger Knicks. Fans cheered for him to come into games late in the fourth quarter and many players, including Julius Randle, were open about how much Rose helped them.
When Randle appeared on Paul George’s podcast last week, he mentioned how valuable Rose was to the team.
“He’s just a steady, a steady person. Never too high, never too low. And for me, I need somebody like that…Cuz I play with passion, you know what I mean?… Sometimes my emotions get the best of me…But to have somebody like [Rose], ain’t even gotta say nothing, bro and I can look on the bench and I already know what he’s talking about, good or bad.”
Rose didn’t start any games for New York last season, but was a catalyst in the team’s 2021 playoff appearance, averaging 19.4 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds on 47.6% from the field and 47.1% from beyond the arc.
“He don’t say much, but if he says something, everybody’s listening,” continued Randle. “To have that dude in the locker room, it’s great…He was one of the players that I started to learn how to make the game easy for myself. He used to make the game so easy for me”
The Knicks could have exercised the team option on Rose to give them another expiring contract to include in trades, along with Evan Fournier’s. If the Knicks had paired those two in a deal, they could have sent out $34.5 million in expiring money, which would have allowed them to bring back more than $40 million without losing a rotation player. Yet, moving on from the veteran allows the team to use a $12.2 million exception in free agency.
The fact that they chose to release Rose indicates that the Knicks might not have a trade close, despite many Paul George rumors floating around.
While Rose will now enter free agency, Fred Katz reported that he was told “This doesn’t close the door to a potential return for Rose on a cheaper contract.”
That would be welcome news for Randle. When George asked the Knicks’ All-Star if Rose still had something in the tank, Randle quickly replied, “He got it, bro; he can still play.”
The Knicks also seemed to have an open-and-close situation with Josh Hart, who most expected to opt out of his $12.9 million player option to sign a long-term deal with the Knicks. Yet, the team and Hart agreeing to extend the deadline makes it possible that Hart may instead decide to opt-in.
If Hart does decide to accept the player option, the Knicks could still extend him in August when he’s eligible and sign him to a four-year $81.3 million deal. Opting in would also give Hart a six-month trade restriction, so he would essentially have a one-year no-trade clause.
Those are two enticing reasons for Hart to want to opt in, which the Knicks would welcome.
After coming to New York at the trade deadline, Hart averaged 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.4 steals in 25 games as the first option off of the bench. He also provided the team with elite offensive rebounding and perimeter defense, which were sorely lacking.
Hart accepting his player option would give New York $8.5 million in luxury tax space before they non-guaranteed contracts for Isaiah Roby and DaQuan Jeffries, which would give the Knicks $12.7 million in space, just more than the mid-level exemption, which is now $12 million. That would allow the Knicks to use that to sign another rotation player this offseason.
However, as Jeremy Cohen of Knicks Film School pointed out, “There would be basically no room for the entire season, which is a no-go.” The Knicks would likely need to make another move to get rid of salary and a current rotation player, especially if the Knicks reportedly want to sign Donte DiVincenzo.
That could mean trading a rotation player, like Obi Toppin, who many thought the team would move before the NBA Draft.
There are still a few dominos left to fall, but Hart’s decision on Thursday night is the first step to figuring out how this Knicks offseason will go.