In coach Tom Thibodeau’s words, the Knicks are looking at July 29’s draft for “wings and shooters.’’
They have one in their midst who performed admirably during their 41-31 season. But they could lose him to a division rival in free agency if they don’t step up, The Post has learned.
According to an NBA source, two Atlantic Division squads, the Celtics and 76ers, have interest in Knicks swingman Reggie Bullock, who started all season at either shooting guard or small forward.
The source said the Lakers, whom Bullock played for in 2018-19 alongside LeBron James, also have Bullock on their list. Interestingly, a report surfaced Wednesday the Lakers will try to lure Chris Paul back to Los Angeles. Paul and Bullock are both from North Carolina and are close.
Bullock’s preference is to stay with the Knicks, but he likely will command the full mid-level exception of $9.23 million. One source believes Bullock, who turned 30 in March, will seek a three-year deal.
The Knicks are always looking for the next shiny new thing and will explore their free-agent options, too, but have sincere interest in bringing back Bullock.
The Knicks don’t have to use their cap space to do so because they have Bullocks’ Early-Bird rights. Hence, they can go over the salary cap to sign him. The Knicks are eligible to offer him a first year likely starting at $10.3 million, pending the NBA’s audit. That number is more than the full mid-level exception. However, they must first reach the salary cap before making that offer.
One issue is Bullock’s playoff performance was a disappointment. In Game 3 in Atlanta, he went scoreless. But in the regular season, Bullock was tough as nails, and Thibodeau often called him “our unsung hero.’’
Bullock was one of three players this season to shoot at least 44 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point land and 90 percent from the free-throw line — based on minimums of 100 3-point and 50 free-throw attempts. Of the two others who did it, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving, Bullock had the best plus-minus.
Yet this is the time of year for the front office to go shopping with its cap space. It’s known Thibodeau has a yen for former Raptors/Blazers shooting guard Norman Powell, who as expected opted out of his contract. He’ll be seeking a deal close to $20 million per — as will another wing on the Knicks radar, Kelly Oubre.
If the Knicks lose Bullock, they’d be more likely to attempt to match a modest offer to guard Frank Ntilikina, a restricted free agent. According to a league source, the Knicks haven’t ruled out bringing back their 2017 lottery pick selected by Phil Jackson, even if Thibodeau barely played him last season.
The Knicks still like his versatility as a point guard and a defensive specialist guarding wings, and he’ll be on display Sunday for Team France versus the U.S. Olympic team.