Trier Signing Gives Knicks Flexibility for the Future

In less than six months, Allonzo Trier went from the devastation of being passed over on draft night to the life-changing reality of being paid like a top-10 lottery pick.

The Knicks announced on Thursday that they converted Trier’s contract from a two-way G-League deal to a full NBA contract. Trier was signed with the Bi-Annual Exception, which will pay him $3.3 million this season. There is a club option second year for $3.5 million.

That second year is in place mainly to gain Early Bird Rights on Trier, which allows the team to re-sign him as a free agent beyond the salary cap. Making that second year an option also gives the Knicks flexibility just in case things don’t work out and they need the cap space for this summer’s foray into free agency.

But let’s assume the obvious: the Knicks want to keep Trier beyond this season. The added salary does put some pressure on general manager Scott Perry to work to move some salary before the Feb. 7 trade deadline so the Knicks have as much flexibility as possible in free agency. Candidates include Courtney Lee ($12.7 million owed in 2019-20) and Tim Hardaway Jr. ($18.1 million owed in 2019-20). Lance Thomas has just $1 million guaranteed of his $7.5 million salary for 2019-20.

After those two players, the only ones left are 2017 draft picks Frank Ntilikina ($4.8 million) and Damyean Dotson ($1.6 million, not guaranteed) and 2018 draft picks Kevin Knox ($4.3 million) and Mitchell Robinson ($1.5 million), plus Trier’s club option.

The Knicks are projected to have enough cap space for one full max contract offer, but could carve out more.

Trier’s emergence, however, could be viewed as adding a rotation player that you didn’t expect to have. He’s 7th among rookies in scoring at 11.3 points per game, despite logging fewer minutes per game (23.3) than anyone above him on the list. Trier’s game has also drawn the attention of players around the league — namely a few stars who like his game — which certainly helps when making the case that the Knicks have some talent in the system. It’s worth noting here that Knox’s recent production has moved him into the top-10 in rookie scoring, as well, at 9.9 points per game.

To make room for Trier on the NBA roster — the league allows two two-way contracts for G-League players to move up and down — the Knicks cut Ron Baker, who is a very popular player in the locker room. David Fizdale told reporters after practice in Charlotte, “Cutting Ron Baker was really tough.”

From Kansas to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Ron Baker has embraced the culture of the Big Apple. The Knicks' guard talks about one of his favorite neighborhoods in New York and takes a tour of it.

Baker, 25, coincidentally, was an undrafted player who made the Knicks roster in 2016-17 and wound up starting 13 games that season. His best game was in a win at Miami when he posted 10 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 38 minutes.

Beloved by coaches and teammates alike for his toughness and work ethic — and how he humbly handled internet meme moments with self-deprecation, such as when he tried to block a drive by Anthony Davis and was elbowed in the face — Baker signed a two-year, $9 million deal after his rookie year.

He appeared in 92 games with the Knicks, including 11 this season, and averaged 3.3 points in 14.7 minutes per game. And he may have had the best flow (hair) in franchise history.

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