The Knicks weren't able to land any high-profile free agents this past summer, which led to now ex-team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry signing a group of veterans to short, expendable deals.
Now, with a new vision in the front office with Leon Rose the team president, those players -- and even some others -- might be on the chopping block.
In this series, we'll look at whether or not the Knicks should let these players stay -- or let them walk. We'll focus this time on point guard Elfrid Payton:
CONTRACT: Two years, $16 million ($9 million guaranteed) For 2020, $1 million is currently guaranteed, but the remaining $7 million would become guaranteed on June 28.
Why should Payton stay?
Statistically speaking, Payton's first season in New York (to this point) has been fairly successful. Shortly after the season started, Payton took over as the team's starting point guard, and he went on to start 36 of the 42 games he played in. There's no doubt that he has a firm grasp on the offense. Payton has always been a pass-first point guard, and even though the Knicks changed head coaches in December from David Fizdale to Mike Miller, the 26-year-old proved he can be that coach on the floor that teams often look for out of their point guards.
Payton has never been much of a shooter in his career, but he gets other people involved, running the offense and spreading the ball out to players like Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson. Payton finished with double-digit assists nine times before the season was suspended, including a 15-assist effort against Cleveland in February.
He's also a very good and willing rebounder for a point guard, averaging 4.7 rebounds this season. Payton's numbers may never wow you, but when he's on, he can flirt with a triple-double on any given night. He's never going to take over a game offensively, but he can be a streaky scorer at times, and he plays with a level of control to his game that some NBA guards don't possess.
The other thing about Payton is that though he is an established NBA vet at this point, he's still only 26 years old. He's likely to be able to maintain his current level of play for at least a few more seasons, and with the crafty, intelligent way he plays, he could enjoy a long career in the NBA. He could be the perfect mentor to any young point guards the Knicks bring in.
Why should Payton go?
Simpy put, Payton just doesn't shoot well enough to be the point guard the Knicks need in their offense. With players like Robinson and Randle down low, and even with Barrett's ability to post up smaller defenders, the Knicks need to be able to kick the ball back out for open shots if their post-up players get double-teamed. Payton is just not that knock-down shooter, and that would be okay if the Knicks had someone at the two-guard who could consistently knock down open threes, but the current roster is severely lacking in that department.
Payton is a career 45.2 percent shooter overall from the field, but he's always done most of his damage around the rim. In today's NBA, the three-point shot is so valuable, and guards need to be able to knock them down at a high clip. For his career, Payton is a 28.9 percent three-point shooter, and that's never going to be his game.
The other big part of Payton's situation is his contract. At $8 million for 2020-21, he's not the most expensive player on the roster, but the Knicks can save $7 million if he were to be released before June 28 (though with the league on pause, who knows if that date will change). It really just comes down to whether the Knicks feel that money can be spent elsewhere.
What's the right move?
Payton would be an expensive backup point guard at $8 million in 2020-21, but the right move would be to keep him for one season, draft a point guard in the lottery (maybe a LaMelo Ball or Cole Anthony), and let Payton mentor him for at least one season. Payton seems to be well-liked in the locker room, and he would be a positive influence on whichever young guard the Knicks bring in.
Plus, as mentioned above, Payton is still a good NBA player. He's someone you want on your team, but if you're the Knicks, you just don't necessarily want him starting. Having an unselfish guard who can get to the basket and rebounds well as a bench piece is never a bad thing in the NBA.
Payton has plenty of value, and the Knicks should bring him back next season. At the very least, Payton could become a valuable trade asset at next season's trade deadline, assuming the Knicks are not in contention for a playoff spot. If they are in the hunt for the playoffs, having a savvy vet like Payton in the backcourt would be a huge plus, but again, the Knicks should look to upgrade the starting point guard spot through the draft.