Some Knicks fans may be worried about the possibility of losing Carmelo Anthony in free agency.
But the team president isn’t.
Phil Jackson has clearly stated that the Knicks would like to have Anthony back. But he also doesn’t think it will be the end of the world if Anthony signs with another team.
“I'm all about moving forward. Just deal with what is and move forward. If it's in the cards, man, are we fortunate. If it's not in the cards, man, are we fortunate,” Jackson said shortly after the end of the regular season. “We're going forward anyway."
So what happens to the Knicks if Anthony leaves?
That depends, in part, on if they decide to participate in a sign-and-trade to send Anthony out -- or let him simply sign with another team.
If the Knicks deal Anthony in a sign-and-trade, they could receive valuable draft picks and rotation players. One aspect to note here regarding sign-and-trades: The Knicks have already cut into their 2015 cap space with the Jose Calderon deal, so it would be surprising if they took back a player with a big salary number for 2015-16 in a sign-and-trade. Remember, they hope to be big players in free agency in the summer of 2015.
Of course, if the Knicks can acquire a player in a sign-and-trade that they’d be interested in as a free agent, they surely would be open to taking on salary that eats into their 2015 cap space. Houston’s Chandler Parsons -- a restricted free agent -- would fit this criteria. But it would be difficult to obtain Parsons in this manner because the Knicks would need to be below the apron -- which is $4 million above the salary tax -- after the trade.
What if the Knicks let Anthony sign outright with another team?
They surely won’t be able to find a replacement for Anthony in free agency this summer, but they'd have a tremendous amount of cap space to offer free agents in the summer of 2015.
If Anthony signs elsewhere, the Knicks will have only the $3.3 million taxpayer’s exception to offer free agents this offseason. That’s unlikely to yield a big-name free agent, though ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne reports that Jackson is going to target ex-Lakers big man Pau Gasol in free agency.
If the Knicks can shed some salary, there is a chance they will have access to the full midlevel exception, which would allow them to offer free agents a contract with a first-year salary of $5 million. This would widen their options in free agency but is unlikely to help them reel in any big-name talent.
So it’s hard to see the Knicks contending for a title next season if Carmelo signs elsewhere.
But they can position themselves for a complete roster overhaul in 2015 if Anthony leaves.
The Knicks have a first-round pick in the 2015 draft. If they fail to make the playoffs next season, that pick will be in the draft lottery.
If Anthony signs elsewhere, it will significantly increase the amount of cap space the Knicks have in the summer of 2015.
Without Melo on the books, the Knicks would be committed to approximately $25 million in salary to five players, a first-round pick (and seven "cap holds") in 2015-16.
That assumes J.R. Smith ($6,399,750 player option for 2015-16) and Tim Hardaway Jr. ($1,304,520) are still on the team. It also assumes that the Knicks offer Iman Shumpert a qualifying offer ($3,695,169) and he accepts, and that the Knicks don't exercise the nonguaranteed option on Pablo Prigioni's contract. It includes the contract numbers for Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin.
As we’ve noted before, that figure includes the salary the Knicks would owe their first-round draft pick (assuming, for argument’s sake, that they have the 15th pick) and accounts for seven cap holds for the remaining roster spots ($525,093).
The Knicks’ actual cap room for that season would depend on where the league sets the cap. The 2014-15 cap is projected to be $62.9 million. For argument’s sake, let’s say the cap jumps to $65 million in 2015-16.
That means the Knicks would have approximately $40 million in cap space in the summer of 2015. That, along with a first-round pick and the presence of Phil Jackson, should make the Knicks an attractive destination for free agents next summer.
Players who are expected to test the market in 2015 include LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo and Marc Gasol. Kevin Love also may test free agency, but the assumption around the league is that the Timberwolves will trade him to a team that he is willing to sign an extension with. That would take him off the Knicks’ wish list.
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