When the New York Knicks go shopping for the best of a prime free agent class in July, general manager Steve Mills will have a few extra zeroes available by delaying a contract extension for Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis could get an extension next summer, when he will be a restricted free agent and the Knicks are projected to have just more than $30 million available under the salary cap.
New York is within striking distance of a max contract, which would command $32.7 million in cap space for a player who has 7-9 years experience.
The 2019 free agent crop currently includes Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving, Golden State Warriors teammates Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler and Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard. Irving has said he wants to sign a long-term deal to remain in Boston.
As for Porzingis, he might not play until February as he continues to recover from a left knee injury.
“I’m hungry,” Porzingis said at the team’s media day. “I want to be on the court as soon as possible. It’s good that I have a good team around me, holding me back when I need to be held back, telling me I need to be patient. It’s a long process, already 7 1/2 months.
“I’m getting itchy. But it won’t happen until I am 110 percent and medically cleared.”
The 7-foot-3 Latvian wouldn’t rule out missing the entire season, offering only “it’s hard to say” when asked about the possibility.
Porzingis injured his knee in February and missed the remainder of last season. The team has been steadfast about not rushing him back, and team president Steve Mills reiterated that stance last month, saying, “We’re not taking any risks with him.”
The 23-year-old Porzingis said he is not thinking about a potential contract extension.
In 48 games last season, Porzingis averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Entering his fourth season, he has career averages of 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.