- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here's one positive for the Knicks in the wake of their inactivity at the trade deadline: They're still on schedule to have plenty of cap space in 2015.
Remember, Steve Mills and the Knicks hope to be big players in free agency in the summer of 2015. The plan is to surround Carmelo Anthony with at least one additional max-level free agent. Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love are expected to headline the 2015 free-agent class.
Of course, the first step in that plan is to re-sign Anthony this summer.
Anthony's said that he would consider taking less money to attract other free agents to New York. The max he can sign for is five years, $129 million. Assuming he re-signs, how will that impact the Knicks' cap space going forward? And how much money will they have left over the spend on other free agents?
With a big assist from ESPN cap guru Larry Coon, let's take a look at how re-signing Anthony would impact New York's cap situation. While Anthony has talked about taking less money to help the Knicks, for the purpose of this story, we're going to assume he signs a max deal.
2014 offseason: If Carmelo signs a max contract, he will receive $22,458,401.
He's currently on the books for $23,333,403.
So, in 2014-15, the Knicks would actually save $875,002 on Anthony’s salary. But that salary relief likely won't go toward a free agent. The Knicks are expected to be over the salary cap next summer, assuming Andrea Bargnani, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are on the books.
So Anthony's $875,022 decrease in salary will only lessen owner James Dolan's luxury tax bill. It probably won’t be spent on other players.
2015 offseason: With Carmelo's salary that season ($24,142,7891), the Knicks are expected to have five players under contract at a total salary of $39,492,533.
This assumes that J.R. Smith picks up his $6,399,750 player option for 2015-16 and Raymond Felton picks up his $3,950,313 player option. It also assumes that the Knicks offer Iman Shumpert a qualifying offer of $3,695,169 (this could be higher if Shumpert meets the starter's criteria) and he accepts. Lastly, this assumes that the Knicks don't exercise the non-guaranteed option on Pablo Prigioni's contract.
This calculation also includes Tim Hardaway Jr. being on the books for $1,304,520 in 2015-16, the third year of his rookie contract.
The Knicks will also have a 2015 first-round draft pick. It's impossible to predict where this pick will fall. So for the purposes of this story, let's split the difference and assume the Knicks pick 15th.
In that case, they'd owe the rookie $1,600,200 in the 2015-16 season, based on the rookie scale.
Assuming the Knicks renounce their cap holds on all free agents, that would leave them with six players under contract.
With the 15th pick, the five other players under contract and six cap holds for the other roster spots ($525,093), that would bring the Knicks' total salary to $44,243,291. Their actual cap room depends on the cap that year. The 2014-15 cap is projected to be $62.9 million. For the purposes of this story, let’s assume the cap that season is $65 million.
That would leave the Knicks with about $20.8 million in cap room, per Coon's calculations.
Where does that leave them with Rondo, Love, Aldridge, ect? All three players will be eligible for the maximum contract afforded to players with 7-9 years of service. This year, the first year of a max contract for players in the 7-9 year service range was $16.44 million, per Coon's excellent website on the CBA. So let's ballpark the figure and put it at $18 million for 2015.
So if they sign one of these players for a contract starting at $18 million, they’ll have about $3.3 million in cap room remaining. After that they’d have the “Room” mid-level exception which will be about $2.8 million. When that’s gone, their only option will be minimum-salary contracts.
What about Kevin Durant? If the Knicks added a big-name free agent in 2015, they probably wouldn't have enough room to sign Durant to a max contract in 2016.
Let’s assume that they sign a player to a max contract in 2015 and use their Room mid-level exception to give out a two-year contract.
In 2016, that would leave them with $58.4 million in committed salary (including six cap holds for other roster spots), per Conn's calculations. If the salary cap is at $67 million (which is just a prediction), that would leave the Knicks with $12 million to spend. That's a healthy amount of money, but it wouldn't be enough to ink Durant to a max contract.
So to be in play for Durant in the summer of 2016, the Knicks would have to spend prudently in the summer of 2015.
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You can follow Larry Coon on Twitter.
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