Understanding Allonzo Trier’s contract options

When Allonzo Trier's 45 days of NBA service are up on his two-way contract, how can the Knicks keep him in the NBA?

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Allonzo Trier has gone from undrafted to “the Knicks need to sign this guy!

After signing a two-way deal this offseason, Allonzo Trier is taking the NBA by storm, forcing the Knicks into a quick decision about his NBA future.

Why can’t Trier just stay on a two-way contract all season long?

He can. But if the Knicks want him to play more than 45 days in the NBA, they need to create a roster spot (they are allowed to have up to 15 NBA contracts plus 2 two-way contracts) and then convert him to a standard NBA contract. Otherwise, Trier would be stuck playing the rest of the season in Westchester once his 45 NBA days are used up.

Counting up Trier’s NBA service days is not as straight forward as you would think. First, only the days from the beginning of G-League Training Camp count, so the clock started for Trier on October 22. Second, a new rule change excludes travel days from the count. So any date that Trier travels or doesn’t participate in any practice, basketball drill, conditioning, workout, or other such activity with the team, none of those days count.

This makes it hard to track Trier’s official count, but Marc Berman of the New York Post reports the date is December 15.

What options do the Knicks have to sign Trier?

First, they need to create a roster spot by waiving or trading a player. If you are wondering whether they can turn one of their NBA contracts into a two-way contract, essentially exchanging spots with Trier, they cannot.

Once they create a roster spot, the easiest path to sign Trier is to convert his two-way contract into a standard NBA contract at the league minimum rate for the rest of the season, which coincides with the remaining length of his two-way contract.

If the Knicks want to sign Trier for more than the league minimum or for longer than the rest of this season, they have limited options since they are operating over the salary cap.

Their only option is to trade players to create cap space (unlikely) or use a salary cap exception to sign him. The salary cap exceptions available to them are as follows:

  • Minimum Salary Exception, pro-rated down from $838K for Trier this season, for up to two seasons.
  • Bi-Annual Exception, starting up to $3.4M, for up to two seasons
  • Mid-Level Exception, starting up to $655K this season, but for up to four seasons.

Can Trier sign somewhere else next summer?

Allonzo Trier would be a restricted free agent this summer whether coming off his two-way contract or a standard NBA contract as a player with three or fewer years of service. The same would be true next summer, if the Knicks ended up signing him to a two-year deal using the bi-annual exception.

Does it make sense for the Knicks to use their bi-annual exception on Trier?

This is where things get interesting.

If Trier continues to prove his value as a rookie in this league, it might benefit the Knicks to avoid restricted free agency this summer when they want to save as much cap space as possible.

While they could match any offer thrown at Trier, if his value continues to rise, a team might make a significant offer that could pose a risk for the Knicks to match if they want to preserve cap space for a superstar. This is not to say Trier is going to get some crazy offer sheet, but even a two-year $10 million offer sheet starts to cut into the Knicks precious cap space.

The question for the Knicks is whether they think Trier’s two-year value at the bi-annual rate is above or below market value by the time he is ready to sign a contract this summer.

Since the Knicks are projected to drop below the cap next summer, they would effectively lose their bi-annual exception anyway, so it’s not like using it now on Trier would cost them a chance to use it on a player next summer (teams can only use the bi-annual exception every two years as the name suggests).

If Trier believes he can earn more next summer via restricted free agency, he will probably try to avoid a two-year deal, instead settling for the league minimum rate or a portion of the bi-annual on a one-year offer. Trier would then be running the risk that his stock falls, and by next summer, it’s possible no team is looking to sign him for more than what he could have made from the bi-annual exception amount in Year 2.

For now, the Knicks are still in the driver’s seat with Trier. If he doesn’t accept an NBA contract from the Knicks, he is stuck on a two-way contract that would eventually find him back in the G-League (at G-League pay) for the rest of the season. That said, where each side thinks his market value will go next summer dictates whether they try to reach an agreement using the bi-annual exception for more than one season, or wait to see how things play out in July.