New York Knicks: Marc Gasol
Phil Jackson has landed Carmelo Anthony. So what’s next?
Below, we take a brief look at what Carmelo’s re-signing means for the New York Knicks and how Jackson may use his flexibility going forward.
Summer of 2014: The Knicks are in a tough spot when it comes to the salary cap. The specific details of Carmelo’s contract have not been released, but it’s safe to assume that Anthony’s deal leaves the Knicks over the salary cap.
Unless Phil makes a roster-shifting trade, the Knicks will have only the taxpayer’s midlevel exception and the veteran’s minimum exception to offer free agents.
The taxpayer’s midlevel exception starts at $3.27 million and can be used in a contract that extends as long as three seasons. It can also be split among players. Veteran’s minimum exceptions can be as long as two seasons. The value of the contract is based on that player’s years of service.
Jackson said on Sunday that the Knicks would be prudent in their spending for the rest of the summer and seasons beyond. He wants the Knicks to avoid paying the luxury tax, something they have done in each season since the new CBA was ratified in 2011-12.
“I want to be fiscally responsible,” Jackson said. “We’ve been a taxpayer team for a little bit and we want to limit that.”
With nine guards currently on the roster, Jackson will look to balance things out by adding a big man.
Maybe Trevor Booker or Kris Humphries will be interested in playing for new Knicks coach Derek Fisher? That’s something to keep an eye on in the coming days and weeks.
Here’s another aspect to consider: In the days prior to Carmelo re-signing, Jackson shopped forwards Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani in trade talks in an effort to clear cap space to entice Pau Gasol to sign with New York, sources say.
Gasol is now in Chicago, so it’s logical to assume that those talks are now dead. But a source with knowledge of the Knicks’ thinking said recently that Jackson still wants to add talent around Anthony, and Anthony has let it be known that he wants to win as quickly as possible.
So it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Jackson continued to shop Stoudemire and Bargnani. The issue, of course, is finding a team that will take either player without having to sacrifice a valuable piece such as Tim Hardaway Jr. in the process.
Also worth noting when it comes to trades: The Knicks have a $3.7 million trade exception courtesy of the Raymond Felton-Tyson Chandler trade. This allows the Knicks to bring back $3.7 million via a trade for one or more players without having to match salaries.
Summer of 2015: This is when Carmelo taking less money will help the Knicks. New York currently has six players under contract for the 2015-16 season.
Jackson said on Sunday that Carmelo took less than maximum money early in his contract to help the Knicks.
But since we don’t yet know the exact figure, let’s assume Carmelo makes maximum money in 2015-16 for the purposes of this story. If that’s the case, he will earn $24.1 million that season.
His salary, combined with the salaries of Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert (qualifying offer), Hardaway Jr. (team option) and Shane Larkin (team option) equal $44.5 million.
The Knicks will also have a first-round pick that season. Let’s assume, for the purposes of this exercise, that pick makes $1.6 million in 2015-16.
Let’s also assume the Knicks renounce any free agents they have that summer. Those five roster spots would be replaced by cap holds totaling $2.6 million.
Add that to the salaries above and you get $48.7 million in committed salaries. Again, that’s assuming Carmelo is making max money in Year 2 of his deal.
So how much cap space would this leave the Knicks?
The cap this season was set at $63 million, an increase of nearly 7.5 percent from last season. So let’s assume the 2015-16 cap will be $65 million, a conservative estimate.
This would give the Knicks about $16.3 million in cap space. This is where Anthony’s pay cut looms large. If Anthony accepts less money in Year 2 of his deal, it gives the Knicks added financial flexibility in the summer of 2015, when they hope to be able to lure a star to play alongside Anthony.
This is crucial because a player like Memphis’ Marc Gasol will be eligible for a max salary of at least $16.4 million in the summer of 2015.
So the Knicks will be able to afford Gasol at the max, if they wish, thanks to Anthony’s salary -- assuming the cap increases at a similar rate next season that it did this season.
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The collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, and Dalembert would not become a free agent until July 1. Nobody knows what the rules of the new labor agreement will be, and the proposal delivered by the owners to the players last week (which was not received warmly by the union) includes the elimination of the mid-level exception the Knicks would need to use to sign someone of Dalembert's caliber.
Also, Sacramento Kings owner Joe Maloof has said retaining Dalembert (and guard Marcus Thornton) would be an offseason priority. The Kings, who expect to be about $26 million under the salary cap, have the option of signing Dalembert to an extension between now and June 30.
For argument's sake, let's include Dalembert among the top five centers who could possibly become free agents this summer (the rankings are mine) and take a closer look at their individual situations:
1. Nene. The Denver Nuggets center has an early termination clause in his contract, and most around the NBA expect him to exercise it. The Nuggets also have the option of signing him to an extension before the current CBA expires, but he would be the most sought-after big man on the market if he chooses unrestricted free agency -- and thus would be beyond the Knicks' financial means because they have no salary cap space.
2. Tyson Chandler. With the season he is having as the Mavericks are still playing in the postseason, it would make little sense for Dallas to let him leave. That would force them to hand over the position to Brendan Haywood, perhaps the worst free agency signing of 2010 (apologies to Johan Petro) when Mark Cuban signed him for six years and $55 million.
3. Marc Gasol. The Memphis center will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Grizzlies will have the right to match any offer. You think they would refuse to match after Gasol just helped them upset the No. 1-seeded San Antonio Spurs? Didn't think so. And again, he would command a salary that would be beyond the Knicks' means (mid-level, if such a thing exists).
4. DeAndre Jordan. Here is a guy who might accept mid-level money, but he, too, is a restricted free agent, and even the Clippers are smart enough to know that his athleticism and shot-blocking is a perfect complement to Blake Griffin along the front line for the long-term -- especially with Chris Kaman's monster contract coming off the books in 2012.
5. Dalembert. If those first four guys are off the market, Dalembert would emerge as the No. 1 free-agent center if you eliminate Yao Ming and Greg Oden because of their medical conditions. The laws of supply and demand traditionally benefit 7-footers in the NBA, and Dalembert would likely be able to find a team willing to pay him more than the projected mid-level number of $6 million.
So, who else is out there?
Here, alphabetically, are the centers due to become free agents (an R denotes a restricted free agent, a PO denotes that the player has an option to remain under for the 2011-12 season):
Louis Amundson (PO), Hilton Armstrong, Alexis Ajinca, Tony Battie, Kwame Brown, Brian Cook (PO), Jason Collins, Erick Dampier, Francisco Elson, Melvin Ely, Kyrylo Fesenko, Jeff Foster, Dan Gadzuric, Aaron Gray (PO), Hamed Hammadi (R), Spencer Hawes (R), Chuck Hayes, Ryan Hollins (PO), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (PO), Jared Jeffries, Solomon Jones, Nenad Krstic, Jamaal Magloire, D.J. Mbenga, Nazr Mohammed, Shaquille O'Neal (PO), Josh Powell, Joel Przybilla, Theo Ratliff, Jason Smith, Etan Thomas, Kurt Thomas and Ronny Turiaf (PO).