December 16, 2020 | 8:41am | Updated December 16, 2020 | 10:37am
The Knicks’ options for making a splash in the 2021 free-agent market are dwindling.
One more huge name came off the board Tuesday when Giannis Antetokounmpo agreed to a five-year, $228 million super-max extension with the Bucks. It came after recent extensions for LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Paul George to ensure those stars wouldn’t hit the market next summer, either.
“I think it’s critical,’’ Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday on Zoom of having a star. “When you look at every team in the league, particularly the playoff teams. … There’s a lot of different paths to getting stars.
“Sometimes it’s the development phase. I think when you look at Jimmy Butler when he came in, he hardly played as a rookie. He played more each year and then would become a top-10 player in the league. It’s a testament to his work ethic and how he approached things.”
Here’s a look at the top potential free agents the Knicks could target in 2021:
The two-time NBA Finals MVP can opt out of his deal with the Clippers next summer. If his second season with George doesn’t go better than the first, could he be looking to play elsewhere?
Before potentially hitting the market — he also has a player option for 2021-2022 — the veteran guard will try to team up with Antetokounmpo to win a championship in Milwaukee after being traded from the Pelicans this fall.
His future with the Jazz seemed tenuous after his COVID-19 snafu last March, but the two-time defensive player of the year is still a force at center.
The All-Star guard did not appear to be long for the Pacers a few months ago when news broke of him reportedly asking players on other teams to trade for him. He denied he wanted out, but could move on next summer if he proves he’s fully recovered from a brutal knee injury in 2019.
Leon Rose didn’t end up trading for his former client this offseason, but could have a shot at him again next summer if the 10-time All-Star opts out of his Suns contract.
The contract DeRozan signed with the Raptors, only to get traded to the Spurs before Toronto won a title, is about to be up. Now the four-time All-Star wing gets to choose his destination.
He’ll be 32 next summer and plays the same position as the Knicks’ most recent lottery pick, Obi Toppin, but still has something left in the tank.
The Knicks missed out one Raptors point guard in Fred VanVleet last month, but could they lure another next summer? Lowry will be 35 but he’s put together six straight All-Star seasons.
Another veteran point guard, Conley was traded to the Jazz last summer and declined a potential opt-out last month. Instead, he should get another playoff run in before becoming a free agent.
The Thunder’s teardown included sending Schroder to the reigning champion Lakers. The runner-up for sixth man of the year could now get a boost being the starting point guard for LeBron James.