Cap room for a max contract will be $33 million for a player such as point guard Kyrie Irving or Golden State’s Klay Thompson.
If the Knicks wait until 2019 to lock up Porzingis, when he’s a restricted free agent, it would give them $10 million more in cap room next summer, of which every penny may be needed to lure Irving.
If the Knicks don’t give Porzingis his extension, they project to have $22 million in cap space next summer, according to ESPN’s capologist Bobby Marks.
The difference could be made up by using the stretch provision on formerly exiled Joakim Noah. Starting Sept. 1, if the Knicks waive Noah under the provision, they gain another $12 million in 2019 cap space.
That adds up to $34 million in space — enough for Irving, Thompson or Kawhi Leonard, though not LeBron James’ max if he is free again in 2019.
If the Knicks give Porzingis his max extension this summer, they would go into 2019 with $12 million in space. Of course, Porzingis could agree to take less than the max to help the Knicks and still give him more money than he could ever imagine spending in Latvia.
TLDR Version: Wait to sign Porzingis to an extension. Waive and stretch Noah's contract after the 2018-19 season. Sign max free agent. Sign Porzingis to an extension.
The order you sign free agents matters a lot when it comes to managing the cap. I imagine the front office knows this and has made Porzingis aware of it.
So, yes, the Knicks are already in position to sign a max free agent in 2019. That is, assuming they wait to sign Porzingis. If they trade Lee for an expiring, they could sign Porzingis to an extension afterwards and still be able to offer a maximum contract in 2019.