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New York Knicks, Kelly Oubre have ‘mutual’ interest; 3 ways it can work

Depending on what they do during the early stages of the NBA offseason, the New York Knicks are expected to have roughly $56 million in cap room. This could be enough to bring in two max-contract players, either via free agency or the trade market.

There’s also a pretty big backdrop here for the surprising Knicks. They might want to hold on to some of that cash for a 2022 NBA free-agent period that is stacked with star power. In no way does this mean president Leon Rose and Co. are going to be inactive. On the contrary, expect the Knicks to upgrade their overperforming roster in the coming months.

That could include bringing in Golden State Warriors wing Kelly Oubre.

“One free agent on their radar is Warriors small forward Kelly Oubre, the 25-year-old out of Kansas,” Marc Berman of the NY Post reported Monday.

This is an interesting potential fit for the New York Knicks. Oubre struggled initially in his first season with the Warriors before picking it up big time.

The former top-15 pick averaged 17.6 points and 6.4 rebounds on 37% shooting in his final 34 games before going down with a season-ending wrist injury. The 6-foot-7 small forward is said to be valued at between $15 and $20 million annually and is unlikely to return to the Warriors in a Sixth Man role as a free agent. Here’s a look at three ways Oubre to the Knicks can work.

New York Knicks pull off sign-and-trade for Kelly Oubre

New York Knicks trade Mitchell Robinson for Kelly Oubre.
Elsa/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

This makes the most sense. Given that Oubre is looking for a multi-year contract on the open market, signing him outright would limit New York’s ability to make a major play during the 2022 free-agent period when up to 10 future Hall of Famers could hit the open market.

Instead, New York attempts to offset some of Oubre’s contract by enticing the Warriors with role players and/or draft picks. Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson come to mind as options. This would equate to New York moving off $7.6 million in salaries. Add in a potential first-round pick down the road, and that could be enough for Golden State to do the Knicks a solid.

New York Knicks sign Kelly Oubre outright

New York Knicks sign Kelly Oubre
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

An average salary of $20 million in a weak 2021 NBA free agent class is not out of the question for Oubre. But it would seem to be an overpay. The Knicks are no longer in the position in which they have to pay above market value for mid-tier free agents.

If Oubre’s market comes in at roughly $15 million, it’s something the Knicks might want to consider. He’s proven to be an elite-level defensive wing and can hit the three consistently. As we saw during their first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, the Knicks have struggled hitting from the outside. Meanwhile, head coach Tom Thibodeau values defense out on the perimeter.

Is Kelly Oubre a fit with the New York Knicks?

Yes. The idea here would be for R.J. Barrett to play the more traditional two-guard position with stud youngster Immanuel Quickley manning the the point guard spot. Add in MVP candidate Julius Randle at the four, and that’s a pretty darn good start for the Knicks.

The best-case scenario for New York would be to add Oubre in a sign-and-trade with the Warriors. It would give the team flexibility moving forward in the 2021 offseason and potentially heading into 2022. What we do know is that the Knicks are in great position right now. That’s something we have not been able to say for the better part of the past decade.