With the lockout all but over, the "chase for Chris Paul" has officially begun.
Much like last season's "Melo-Drama," you can expect plenty of speculation and debate over Paul's next destination.
And the Knicks will be in the thick of it.
The immediate question for the Knicks is this: Does the new CBA help or hurt their expected pursuit of Paul?
We won't have a definitive answer until the CBA is ratified.
But by and large, the proposed CBA seems to have put the Knicks on an inside track to land Paul, who can opt out of his contract after this season.
Though, to be sure, there are aspects that could hurt their chances.
Let's break it down:
No "Melo Rule": Owners were reportedly pushing for a rule that prohibits teams from signing a player to a Bird Rights deal if they'd traded for him in the final year of his contract (after July 1 of the last year of the deal). They named it the "Carmelo Rule," and aptly so.
If the rule were in place last season, the Knicks wouldn't have been able to sign Carmelo Anthony to a Bird Rights extension after acquiring him in a trade because they wouldn't have been permitted to exceed the cap.
Owners relented on the deal, which means the Knicks can sign Paul to a max extension if they acquire him in a trade during the season.
Amnesty clause: Under the proposed CBA, each team will be able to waive one player to discount his salary from the cap. If Paul tests free-agency in 2012, the amnesty clause will give the Knicks more cash to play with. Let's say they use it on Renaldo Balkman, for example. That could provide a long-term savings of $2.5 million and an immediate savings of $1.7 million (the amount of his contract in 2011-2012).
Mid-level trade exceptions: Non-tax paying teams are permitted to use a full mid-level exception to sign a player for $5 million and a maximum of four years. Taxpayers can use an exception to sign a player for $3 million and a maximum of three years. As currently constituted, the Knicks will be close to $20 million under the cap next summer, when Paul hits the market. Regardless of whether they are over or under the cap after inking Paul, the exception will allow them to add an extra piece to the puzzle.
Additionally, there is a provision that allows non-tax payers to sign a player (or players) to a salary maximum combined salary of $2.5 million for a max of two years. Who knows if the Knicks will be under the tax after next summer. But if they are, they can take advantage of this aspect of the CBA.
No "Franchise Tag": This idea, floated before talks, was reportedly never brought to the table. This is a good thing for the Knicks in their pursuit of Paul and other free agents. And it's an exclusion that certainly hurts the Hornets.
Sign/extend and trades: On the surface, it seems that the CBA's allowance of sign/extend and trades would help the Knicks with Paul. But, hear me out.
There aren't many good trade chips on the Knicks current roster. So the fact that the CBA allows other teams to acquire Paul via a mid-season trade and sign him to an extension hurts the Knicks.
If extend and trades were prohibited, Paul would have been a rental to any team that dealt for him in-season, all but assuring that he would test the free-agent market.
Now, the Knicks have to worry about another team -- with more attractive trade pieces -- acquiring Paul via a trade and extending him.
In addition, all teams (tax payers and non-tax payers) can execute sign and trades without a tax penalty in the first two seasons of the CBA. This means the Knicks will have to compete with teams that have better trade pieces to offer New Orleans in any Paul trade.
Of course, as we saw last season with Anthony, the Knicks can get a third team involved to sweeten the offer. And Paul, like Anthony, could force his way to New York. Either way, it will be fun to watch the free-for-all for Paul's services.
Question: How do you think the CBA affects the Knicks pursuit of Paul?
Let us know in the comments section below.