Orlando. San Antonio. Detroit. Utah. Call these cities potential Immanuel Quickley landing spots if the Knicks don’t agree to a contract extension with the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up before the Oct. 23 deadline.
Quickley is back-up lead guard to a potential first-time All-Star in Jalen Brunson – but he is coming off a career year averaging 14.9 points and 3.4 assists as captain of New York’s second unit.
Both Quickley and the organization expect another leap in year four, but as long as Brunson is starting, Quickley is likely to come off the bench – unless Tom Thibodeau promotes him to the starting two guard over three-and-D wing Quentin Grimes.
Quickley’s value is far greater than the average bench player, and the shifty scorer clearly has the talent to be a starter.
“Obviously, everybody – I’m sure in any profession, you want to continue to move up your rank,” he said when asked Friday if it’s a goal of his to become a starter. “Whatever the team needs me to do – start, come off the bench – I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
Teams like the Magic, Spurs, Pistons and Jazz could be monitoring Quickley’s situation – and if he hits restricted free agency, they can make a massive offer the Knicks may be reluctant to match for luxury tax reasons.
Each of those teams are in the market for backcourt help, projects to have at least $40 million in cap space and fits Quickley’s timeline as a young team building with budding talent.
Quickley’s best fit, however, is proven on a Knicks team hoping to build on last season’s second-round playoff appearance.
There are a variety of factors at play on both sides as his camp and Knicks brass negotiate a deal that would keep him in The City.
WHAT IS QUICKLEY’S CONTRACT VALUE?
Four players from the 2020 NBA Draft have signed max contracts: Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball, Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton and Memphis’ Desmond Bane.
Each is due more than $200 million over the next six years.
Devin Vassell recently signed a five-year, $135 million extension with the Spurs; Isaiah Stewart inked a four-year, $64 million extension with the Pistons; and Boston Celtics reserve point guard Payton Pritchard, selected one slot after Quickley at pick No. 26, agreed to a three-year, $30 million extension.
Vassell’s extension could be in the ballpark of the upper end of Quickley’s camp’s asking price, given they both took significant leaps from year two to year three. Vassell’s leap to 18 points per game with elite defense on the wing earned him a sizable new deal, but Quickley finished second to only Malcolm Brogdon in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Quickley and Phildelaphia’s Tyrese Maxey are the only remaining 2020 draft-class standouts without an extension entering a contract year.
Unlike Maxey, Quickley comes off the bench. Other comparisons include Spencer Dinwiddie (three years, $54 million), Tyler Herro (four years, $120 million), Jordan Clarkson (three years, $55 million), and reigning Sixth Man Malcolm Brogdon (two years, $45 million).
While rival teams may value Quickley as a starting – if not star-level – lead guard, it’s unclear if the Knicks will be willing to pay him like one, especially given the decisions they have to make on others in the near future.
2024-25 KNICKS CAP SHEET
If the Knicks decline the team option on Evan Fournier’s $19 million 2024-25 salary, they will have $112.36 million in guaranteed salaries: Julius Randle at $30.3 million; RJ Barrett at $25.8 million; Brunson at $24.9 million; Josh Hart at $18.1 million; Mitchell Robinson at $14.3 million; Donte DiVincenzo at $11.4 million; Grimes at $4.3 million; and Jericho Sims at $2.1 million.
This does not include Quickley’s deal. Miles McBride will also enter restricted free agency next offseason, and the Knicks will have to decide whether or not to re-sign Isaiah Hartenstein.
And then there are the cap holds.
A cap hold is money counted against the cap for a team to retain the rights to its own free agent. If a team renounces its rights to a player, it can no longer exceed the salary cap to re-sign that player, beyond using one of its other salary cap exceptions (mid-level, bi-annual, veteran’s minimum).
The amount of a cap hold varies based on the pending free agent’s previous contract. In Quickley’s case, he would be coming off a four-year, $10.8 million rookie scale contract scheduled to pay $4.171 million in the 2023-24 season. His cap hold is 300% of the previous season’s salary, which is $12.51 million – a fraction of the average annual salary he’s expected to command next summer.
Hartenstein also has a $10.65 million cap hold, and McBride will have a cap hit of $2.3 million until he and the Knicks come to an agreement.
Cap holds also apply to future draft picks, and the Knicks have as many as three first-round picks in 2024: their own, Dallas’ top-10 protected first (likely to convey) and the Wizards’ top-12 protected first (unlikely to convey).
Tankathon projects those picks at 14 (Dallas) and 17 (New York), which would mean an additional $7 million in cap holds if the Knicks use those picks rather than trade them.
Add it up and you get $142.5 million in payroll and cap holds – with the salary cap projected around $149.6 million.
Before accounting for Quickley’s extension.
Randle and Brunson will hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2025, and both have a case to ask for the 30% max, which ballparks as a $49.6 million salary in year one of an estimated five-year, $294 million deal. That max will increase from 30% to 35% of the cap if Randle or Brunson make an All-NBA team this season, increasing the first-year salary to $57.6 million for a five-year, $334 million maximum contract.
If the Knicks max out both Randle and Brunson at 30% of the cap, they will have $168.1 million in guaranteed salaries for the 2025-26 season. That does not include Quickley’s pending deal, which, according to the market, could range anywhere from $10-35 million annually.
That also does not include the deal the Knicks will have to give Grimes if he’s a part of this team’s future. Grimes becomes a restricted free agent the same summer Randle and Brunson can test free agency.
Sims will also become an unrestricted free agent in 2025, and retaining Sims may be a higher priority based on what happens in 2024 with Hartenstein.
All of these factors are in play with respect to the luxury tax, which is projected around $200 million for the 2025-26 season. No organization wants to sign luxury tax checks if it is not a bona fide championship contender – especially given the new ramifications of the CBA’s second apron.
WHAT IF QUICKLEY WALKS NEXT SUMMER?
If the Knicks opted not to match an offer sheet on Quickley, his $12.51 million cap hold would come off the books, creating $19.6 million in cap space. The Knicks could get to well over $30 million in cap space if the organization were also to renounce its mid-level exception, the rights to Hartenstein as a free agent, and trade its 2024 first-round picks for future first-rounders to shed the cap hold.
Next summer’s free-agency pool is headlined by Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan, Philadelphia’s pair of James Harden and Tobias Harris, Indiana’s Buddy Hield and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton.
The real summer to watch is 2025, when LeBron James, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Brandon Ingram, O.G. Anunoby, Lauri Markkanen, Jamal Murray, Bojan Bogdanovic and potentially Kyrie Irving are eligible to test the market.
Future moves could include a trade packaging Quickley, Fournier’s salary, draft compensation and young players for a star – like Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns.
Quickley’s status, however, is the urgent business. If the Knicks don’t want to risk another team getting into their business, their best bet is to sign him to an extension by the Oct. 23 deadline.
Otherwise, the talented guard could play himself out of The City with a massive competing contract the Knicks are not inclined to match.