Yahoo: NBA Salary Cap might decrease

Relevant news today from Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports, who reports that due to the continuing China situation, some teams are projecting the cap to decrease as much as 10 to 15 percent from it’s initial estimate of $116 million ($11 to $17 million, both of which would be below the current cap number of $109 million).

Translation: the Knicks could be one of the only teams with space. That probably won’t matter on the free agent front, what with the paucity of unrestricted talent available (although some teams with restricted free agents could more readily balk at matching pricy offer sheets). That said, the Knicks may get a chance to do what they bypassed this summer: rent out space in exchange for picks.

They didn’t do it this year, instead deciding to bulk up a roster that would foster competition for the younger players. If that experiment goes well, maybe they’re more willing to try the alternate path come February or July.

Knicks Salary Cap Outlook

As the Knicks head into one of the most important summers in franchise history, let’s take a deep dive into their 2019 salary cap outlook. 

The Knicks offseason can be broken down into two significant timeframes as far as accounting is concerned: before July 1 and after July 1.

  • Before July 1, the Knicks are operating over the cap. They are approximately $548,147 below the tax line. Since they used their mid-level exception to sign Mario Hezonja, they are hard-capped at the apron of $129.8 million.
  • After July 1the Knicks can create up to $73.2 million in cap space, assuming a projected $109 million cap, given their current roster, and including the cap hold for the number three lottery pick. 
  • Knicks need $70.85 million to sign Kevin Durant and another 7-9 year veteran free agent to max contracts. Durant is eligible for 35% of the salary cap on a max contract as a 10+ year veteran. That equates to $38.15 million on a $109 million cap. Kyrie Irving (or any 7-9 year veteran) is eligible for 30% of the salary cap on a max contract, which equates to $32.7 million.
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Bringing The Brow to Broadway: lottery, odds, Cap analysis and NFL weirdness

In order for Anthony Davis to don the blue and orange, it’s going to take some luck, some patience, and some navigation of the weird obstacles which may arise; hurdles like accidentally winning games, CBA quirks, salary cap restrictions, negotiations with NFL people (?!) or someone the team burned a bridge with…these are all possible challenges.

But Davis might very well be the best player in the NBA over the next four years so let’s try to figure out how likely they are to get him as of today.

Step 1: land the first pick in the draft (~14%) and prepare to negotiate with football people and potential rivals

First off, if the Knicks want AD they probably have to land the first pick in the draft. The Knicks (11-47) stink and don’t appear very interested in changing that. The chances of them winding up with the best possible odds for the top pick seem high. Nate Silver’s website, projects them to be the worst team.

Don’t be fooled. That’s great, partly because of Zion Williamson. As Kevin Durant recently said, “Zion Williamson is a once-in-a-generation athlete.” We can infer that the New Orleans Pelicans may have recently felt the same way. It was reported by Frank Isola that former Pelicans’ GM Dell Demps was interested in negotiating with the Knicks in a trade for AD, but not without knowing what pick they had.

Per The Athletic: 

“According to a source familiar with the talks, Demps was not prepared to trade Davis to New York before knowing where the Knicks will select in the 2019 NBA Draft….

Demps was intrigued by the idea of selecting first and possibly drafting Duke freshman Zion Williamson.”

Now that Dell Demps has been fired this may change things, but it’s unclear exactly how. The Pelicans have a very weird power structure. Not only does the President of Football Operations for the New Orleans Saints, Mickey Loomis, the cities’ football team, have the most significant voice in the Pelicans’ front office, but the team is now looking to replace Demps.

Two names that have come up are David Griffin and Mike Zarren, and Isola speculates both could have reason to prefer working with other teams besides New York; the Knicks considered hiring Griffin once before negotiations reportedly went south, and Zarren is currently Danny Ainge’s second in command in Boston and a life long Celtics fan.

Regardless of who New Orleans settles upon to steer their ship, no other projected player in this year’s draft besides Williamson has truly separated himself from the pack. So keeping in mind that the Celtics are prepared to make an “explosive offer” likely headlined by their 20-year-old phenom Jayson Tatum, New York would need all the fire-power it can muster in order to outbid Boston.

Believe it or not, another reason why it is important to land the top pick for a potential Anthony Davis trade are salary implications. Draft picks are paid on a rookie scale amount with the first pick capable of earning about $3 million more than the 5th pick. This is important (as explained in a bit) in trying to match Davis’ salary in trade (which will be over $27m come July 1st).

Step 2: CBA and salary cap hoops to leap through

Special thanks to resident cap expert Knicks Film School (aka Jeffrey Bellone)

Winning the top pick isn’t likely. Even if the Knicks tank as hard as they can, there is an 86% chance the worst team won’t wind up with the top pick because of the league’s lottery reforms designed to curb tanking.

But even if New York gets the 1st pick, there are still more hurdles to clear. Because of the Rose Rule in the CBA, the Celtics (who have the most trade assets in the league) are not allowed to officially make an offer to New Orleans until July 1st, since they already have Kyrie Irving who signed a particular type of extension. Because of this, it does not make sense for the Pelicans to trade Davis before Boston is allowed to join the fray which would force every team to raise their offers.

The Pelicans not trading Davis this February essentially ensured they will wait until Boston can jump into the bidding waters come July.

If the Knicks want to include their 2019 draft pick in a trade, they have their own timing restriction. A draft pick cannot be traded until 30 days after that player has officially signed. Some fans will remember when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the top pick in the draft in 2014 and selected Andrew Wiggins. Because it often takes several weeks to sort out the details of a player’s contract, which it did in Wiggins’ case, the official trade which sent Kevin Love to Cleveland and Wiggins to Minnesota wasn’t consummated until late August.

Now if the Knicks have a winning bid that the Pelicans love, this logistics of when the deal becomes official might not matter. But it won’t make Steve Mills or Scott Perry feel very comfortable if they agree in principle to a deal in late June or early July but have to wait until late August for it to become official.

It simply gives folks like Danny Ainge, Magic Johnson and the rest of the league more time to increase their bids and try to convince the Pelicans to put an end to a saga that will by then have dragged on for about eight months. Think: we can finish this today on July 2nd, instead of waiting until nearly training camp for the Knicks to get their ducks in a row!

If Anthony Davis is indeed a target for the Knicks in this scenario, it would give New York an incentive to get Williamson under contract as soon as possible. They can offer the max 120% salary eligible to a top overall pick (amounting ~$9.7m in year 1) which carries appeal.

But what if Williamson’s camp happens to prefer New York? After all, he did say it “would be dope” to play with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He could wait to see what happens in free agency and then exercise what little leverage he has by putting off signing his contract. He could indicate to the Pelicans an unwillingness to play there.

For New Orleans, the specter of a lengthy summer-long trade process for a player who may be less than overjoyed to come could be a deterrent. Conversely, it has been rumored that Jayson Tatum, for example, would not mind being traded to the Pelicans.

Hypothetically though…

Acquiring Zion should carry tremendous appeal for New Orleans. Described by many experts as the top prospect since Davis himself, signing Zion would mitigate some of the sting of losing Davis. Being able to get a player of that caliber under team control for likely 7 years (perhaps two more than Tatum, who will be a 3rd year player next season) after extension, in addition to the slew of young Knicks’ prospects (who’d need to be kicked in just to make the contracts match) should be very tempting. The Knicks could legitimately contend with the best offers from around the league in this scenario, a marvel in itself.

OK hypothetically, if the Knicks win the draft lottery, and if they wanted to trade their pick and if New Orleans prefers their offer to that of 28 other teams how might this shake out?

Just for fun, let’s assume the Knicks will have spent all of their cap-space long before a deal actually takes place. That’s likely if the Knicks win the top pick and are open to trading it. Let’s say they can get Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to join them.

(That’s obviously what’s being discussed here at the All-Star Game right?)

The timing of signing two max players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is important. The Knicks are projected to have just enough cap space to get a 10+ year veteran max and 7-9 year veteran max under contract. If they were to trade for Anthony Davis before signing these two max players, they would no longer have the requisite space to make the signings.

The reason the Knicks can entertain the idea of adding a player like Davis on top of two max players is because they can trade salary on their books to take back more salary (in this case, 125% of the outgoing salary).

So with Davis due to earn $27 million in 2019, New York would need to send out at least $21.6m in salary. Or another way to look at it: they only have to use $21.6 million in cap space instead of being required to have the full $27 million available if Davis were signing as a free agent or being absorbed into cap space in a trade.

The problem is that since the Knicks have cleared most of their roster to make space to sign two max players, the existing salary on the books available to trade is limited.

However, if they packaged Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., and Kevin Knox together, they would have $13.7 million in aggregate salary. This is where the lottery pick becomes important. The rookie salary for the top pick at 120% of scale is $9.7 million, or just enough to push the Knicks over the $21.6 million threshold needed to make the salaries work in acquiring Davis.

Mitchell Robinson’s salary isn’t quite high enough to swap in for any one of the other young players, although he has played well enough lately it seems likely the Pelicans would insist upon including him as well.

Future draft picks don’t count against the cap next season so you can’t substitute those in for a young player but you can include them as well. To top Boston or Los Angeles or a surprise bidder, the Knicks may also have to include a future draft asset or three, although New York could potentially enjoy more assurances they’d be able to re-sign Davis in 2020 than at least Boston, per reports of Davis’ preferences.

Then New York would be looking at minimum roster charges and a ~$5 million Room Exception to fill out the rest of the roster. They could decide to bring back Allonzo Trier using the Room Exception, and sign Damyean Dotson to a minimum deal similar to what he would be earning if the team just guarantees his contract.

The rest of the roster would be thin, although it wouldn’t be surprising if a core of Durant, Irving, and Davis attracted every cheap, savvy “ring-chasing” veteran in free agency or next winter’s buyout market to help flesh out the team’s depth.

What are the chances?

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 1.14.41 PM

Let’s boil this down to a number.

There’s the great chance the Knicks won’t get the top pick. The slim chance they win the lottery but won’t want to trade it away (maybe Kevin Durant comes and would prefer to play with Zion and all the young guys or maybe he stays in Golden State and the Knicks refuse to part with Zion). There is the solid chance that another team simply blows the Knicks’ offer out of the water and the unknown chance that New Orleans wants a swift resolution that a deal with New York would preclude.

All in all, I’d ballpark the chances of the Knicks trading for Anthony Davis somewhere around 5 to 7 percent as of today.

The odds will probably rocket up towards 40 percent or more if they win the lottery come this May depending on things like how much the Pelicans’ future GM loves Zion, if any other college players step up, what happens in free agency, or a player potentially involved in the trade gets seriously hurt.

It really comes down to the lottery. If the Knicks don’t win the lottery, they probably don’t have the best offer to convince New Orleans to complete a deal. They also would struggle to meet the salary matching requirements if they fall out of the top 2 in the draft.

To win a title in the NBA, you need to hit on some long-shot odds more than once. Having a 14% chance at Zion Williamson, possibly landing guys like Kevin Durant, and then navigating CBA hurdles or negotiating on the phone with some folks who may be more interested in football than hoops… that could be the path to restoring the Knicks to glory.

Imagine? You get to tell your grandkids that Steve Mills made a trade with an NFL team President for Anthony Davis, future Finals MVP of the New York Knicks. 

Having a six or seven percent shot at Anthony Davis is a heck of a lot better odds than fans in say, Charlotte or Detroit will ever have. New York is still a cool city players truly seem to want to play in, and even with lottery reform, it still just might pay big to avoid winning games.

Now they’ll have to keep losing, get lucky, and be patient while jumping over some weird hurdles and parting with all of their young guys to bring The Brow to Broadway by August.

Why the Knicks should trade Noah Vonleh

When the Knicks signed Noah Vonleh last summer, it was a relatively easy decision. They knew Joakim Noah’s time on the roster was going to be short-lived, Kristaps Porzingis was hurt, and it was impossible to predict how many minutes a raw Mitchell Robinson could provide. They needed a body, they preferred someone with a little bit of experience, and Vonleh came on a non-guaranteed deal that wouldn’t impact their 2019 free agent spend plan. A perfect match.

What Noah Vonleh also presented to the Knicks was a reclamation project, something that has become a theme on their roster. He joined Trey Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay as recent lottery picks looking to rejuvenate their careers in New York. Of course, Mario Hezonja would become another player who fits this mold. Like Vonleh, he signed a one-year deal hoping he could prove he still has value in the NBA.

Both Hezonja and Vonleh signed what I like to call “prove it” deals. They faced a tight market in 2018 and knew the following summer would be flush with cap dollars. If they could prove they still had game as players who are only 23 years old, they could turn their one-year “prove it” deal into a nice payday.

The problem for the Knicks is that these one-year “prove it” deals end up helping the player more than the team.

The way the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) works, teams gain salary cap exception rights on players based on the number of consecutive years they play for the team. Since both Hezonja and Vonleh are only signed through this season, they will become non-Bird free agents in July. The Knicks can exceed the cap to re-sign them, but only by offering a very modest 20% raise over their current salary.

This is where we will transition our focus to Noah Vonleh, keeping in mind that the same principles apply to Mario Hezonja, but in a much more limited capacity since Hezonja is making more money and doesn’t offer the same potential return in the trade market right now (at least that is my educated guess).

Noah Vonleh is making only $1.6 million to play for the Knicks this season, an amount that was only recently fully guaranteed. His cap hold in July would be minuscule, only 120% of his salary, but the amount the Knicks could exceed the cap to re-sign him would be prohibitively low in trying to keep him, the same 120% amount.

This means the Knicks have found a player on the cheap who has proven he could be a valuable piece going forward, but they essentially have no advantage as the host team in trying to keep him, other than using cap space like every other team would need to do in trying to sign him away from them.

Meanwhile, Vonleh’s name is beginning to appear in trade rumors. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News recently confirmed what we saw in an earlier report from Sean Deveney of the Sporting News that Philadelphia might be interested in parting with a draft pick to acquire the versatile big man. A report which was later refuted.

Normally, you wouldn’t consider trading a player you found in the bargain bin, but since the Knicks don’t gain anything by keeping him on their roster for the remainder of this season, it makes sense to explore a trade.

Had the Knicks signed Vonleh with a team option for next season, this discussion would be completely different. By exercising his team option, the Knicks could have earned his Early-Bird rights by next summer, which would give them greater purchasing power in retaining him while trying to maximize the amount they are able to spend with their cap space.

Signing players to one-year “prove it” deals seems appealing, but if you don’t structure in a team option for the second season, you basically cancel out the long-term benefits of finding a diamond in the rough.

Of course, adding a team option to a one-year deal is easier said than done. Players want to give themselves a chance to “prove it” so they can make more money in the subsequent offseason. But with someone like Vonleh, who signed a non-guaranteed deal, I would have to think he would have gladly accepted guaranteed money with a team option attached.

Water under the bridge now, but all to be considered in how you maximize Vonleh as an asset going forward. Do you simply let him use New York as a jumping off point, only to let another team reap the long-term benefits? If the Knicks are truly in contention for a player like Kevin Durant, perhaps none of this matters, since they would have trouble saving the necessary cap space to re-sign him, anyway.

But if the Knicks don’t max out their cap space and they do want to re-sign Vonleh, nothing changes by trading him. He will undoubtedly command more than a 20% raise on his current salary, so the Knicks will need to use cap space to sign him whether they trade him or not.

This is why you need to trade him. You are not forfeiting any advantage in re-signing him by trading him, and you risk losing him for nothing if you don’t trade him. The Knicks made a wise decision in believing Vonleh can be a positive contributor; it would be nice if they could reap some reward for this other than the play he provides on the court during a tanking season.

Exhausting Vonleh as an asset by letting his contract run up without making a trade is simply poor asset management. It would be like purchasing a savings bond and not collecting the interest that is owed. The Knicks invested in Noah Vonleh, he has appreciated in value, and since their ability to re-sign him is not tied to whether he finishes this season in New York or not, they need to find a way to cash-in on his increased value by trading him.

For those ready to scream at the screen that the Knicks are not able to re-sign Vonleh after trading him, that is partially true, but not true at all come July. If Vonleh is traded this season, and the team that acquires him then waives him, the Knicks would be prohibited from re-signing him for the rest of this season. Come July 1, it is a new NBA season, Vonleh becomes an unrestricted free agent, and there is no rule that prevents the Knicks from inking him to a new contract.

Of course, all of this is being said from an asset management standpoint which doesn’t consider the very important factor that Vonleh is a human being with arms and legs and a working heart. Perhaps being traded by the Knicks during the season would turn him away from ever wanting to come back. We don’t know how much a trade would impact his view of the organization in terms of deciding to sign with them again in July, shall the Knicks make him an offer to come back. However, I would have to think that offering him a chance to play for a contender where he can showcase his skills, raising his market value even more, would appeal to both his competitive and financial sensibilities.

If the Knicks want to become a championship organization, it starts with little moves like this one. Sign a player to a non-guaranteed deal, let him flourish during an otherwise meaningless season, and then turn him into a future asset. The Knicks need to trade Noah Vonleh. That is not a hot-take; it is just sound asset management.

Explain how Tim Hardaway Jr’s trade kicker works

Tim Hardaway Jr. signed a four-year, $71 million offer sheet with the Knicks that still has some fans pleading for a re-do.

The face value of the contract is quite expensive, but it doesn’t stop there, the Knicks included a 15% trade kicker in the deal. Trade bonuses get the term “kicker” because if the cost of the contract doesn’t hurt enough, an added bonus makes sure to kick you one last time on the way out. Well, that’s not really why it is called a trade kicker, but you get the idea.

If the Knicks want to trade Tim Hardaway Jr., they will owe him 15% of the remaining value of his contract.

This sounds prohibitive in trying to eventually trade the shooting guard, but since the value of the kicker depreciates over time and it is spread over the non-option years of the contract, it doesn’t pose as big of a problem as people think.

Let’s get into the gritty details.

What is a trade kicker?

A trade kicker is a bonus that pays out if a player is traded during the guaranteed seasons of his contract, excluding option years. Trade bonuses can be a set dollar amount, a percentage of the remaining value of the contract, or a combination of both. A trade bonus cannot exceed 15% of the remaining value of the contract. This is why 15% is a common trade kicker percentage, since it is the maximum amount a player can negotiate. A player can decide to waive all or a portion of the trade bonus to facilitate a trade.

The team who trades the player is responsible for paying the bonus, while the receiving team is responsible for the cap hit that includes the trade kicker.

In what can be a bit confusing, the team trading the player with the kicker must use the pre-bonus salary in determining how much money they can accept back in a trade; the receiving team must consider the post-bonus salary in making sure they have enough cap space or outgoing salaries to make the trade work. More on this in a bit.

How much does Tim Hardaway Jr.’s trade kicker cost?

Since Tim Hardaway Jr.’s trade kicker is a set percentage amount, the nominal dollar value of the bonus depreciates over time. For example, if he was traded last summer, he would have been owed 15% of the remaining $35.5 million guaranteed on his contract; whereas, if he is traded this coming summer, he is only owed 15% of 18.1 million.

Remember, while the final season of Timmy’s contract is guaranteed, it is a player option, and player options are excluded in calculating the amount owed in a trade bonus.

So what happens if the Knicks find a way to trade him at this year’s trade deadline?

NOTE: The remaining value of his contract is calculated using a pro-rated value for 2018-19, which brings the remaining value owed for this season down to $6.3 million, if he is traded at the deadline.

The value of Tim Hardaway Jr.’s trade kicker will be $3.6 million at the time of this year’s trade deadline, February 7.

The trade kicker amount is split evenly between the remaining seasons on his contract, excluding option years. This means if the Knicks find a trade partner this February, only $1.8 million would be added to Tim Hardaway Jr’s 2018-19 salary as part of the trade kicker, with the remaining $1.8 million applied to his 2019-20 salary.

In short, trading Tim Hardaway Jr. at the deadline would only add about $1.8 million in salary considerations to make a trade work. Not a big deal.

Now back to the confusing part about which team must include the post-bonus salary in considering a trade.

If a non-taxpaying team wanted to acquire Hardaway Jr. at the trade deadline, and let’s assume this team is over the cap, instead of using his pre-bonus salary of $17.3 million to calculate how much salary they are allowed to absorb as incoming salary, they must use his post-bonus salary of $19.1 million. Since non-taxpaying teams are only allowed to accept $5 million more than what they send out when trading players within the price range of THJ’s contract, the team trying to acquire Hardaway Jr. would need to trade at least $14.1 million to make a deal work, which is about $2 million more than if they used his pre-bonus salary.

If the Knicks trade Hardaway Jr. as a non-taxpaying team who is over the cap, they can of course do the trade as outlined above, but if they wanted to add salary to their books, they would need to use his pre-bonus amount of $17.3 million, which would allow them to take back up to $22.3 million in a trade, or about $2 million less than if they uses his post-bonus salary.

Confused yet?

Don’t worry. A lot of this doesn’t really matter. In fact, this is a really detailed way of saying, Tim Hardaway Jr.’s trade kicker is not worth enough to be concerned that it is a deterrent to making a trade.

At this point, I don’t see the trade bonus impacting Hardaway Jr.’s trade value. James Dolan has never been reluctant to eat money in escaping a deal, as we have seen from his recent firings of Phil Jackson and Jeff Hornacek, and recent waivings of Joakim Noah and Ron Baker. While the Knicks would have to pay an extra $3.6 million by trading the 26-year-old at the deadline, the cap hit would fall on the acquiring team, and I’m sure the Knicks would be willing to pay what essentially becomes a transaction fee for moving a large contract off their books.

The cap mechanics to consider in a potential Enes Kanter trade to Sacramento

A deal is not close, but the Knicks and Kings are discussing a trade that would send Enes Kanter out west in exchange for Zach Randolph’s expiring contract, with perhaps a third team getting involved, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski.

Why would these teams do this?

The Knicks are obviously in a delicate position with Enes Kanter, as they look to prioritize developing their young core, and find lineups that have a chance to stop somebody. Kanter has had a bit of a resurgence in the past few games, but has grown disgruntled in losing his starting spot to Luke Kornet. His playing time is likely to suffer even more once Mitchell Robinson returns to the lineup.

Zach Randolph finds himself in a similar situation in Sacramento, with even more drastic consequences. He has not played this entire season, as the Kings are also prioritizing development. It is worth noting that Randolph signed with the Kings during Scott Perry’s short executive tenure in the royal city.

In the simplest of scenarios, the two teams could exchange veterans on expiring deals, believing that each side is better off mixing the other’s veteran with their young core for the remainder of this season.

Exchanging two players in similar situations doesn’t exactly move the needle much, as both players would find themselves in the same predicament, just in a different city.

That said, the Knicks would be ridding themselves of the constant media storm that seems to follow Kanter, while also saving themselves some money in a straight swap for Randolph. Remember, the team is carrying plenty of dead cap weight this season from Noah and Baker, so while James Dolan doesn’t usually pinch pennies, it wouldn’t hurt saving a few. The Kings might feel that Kanter serves their team better than Randolph does for the remainder of this season.

Beyond Kanter and Randolph’s situation, there is also added motivation for these teams to work together on a trade. New York wants to clear 2019 cap space and Sacramento has cap space to burn. Meanwhile, Sacramento has incentive to add productive players to their roster in a potential playoff push this season. The Kings are currently two games out of a playoff spot in the West, so adding players who they think can offer a competitive mix to their young core could be attractive to an organization looking to maximize revenue from playoff gates.

What are the cap mechanics of a potential deal?

Since Sacramento is $11 million under the cap, they can use that cap space to make any trade that leaves them no more than $100,000 over the cap once the trade is completed.

If Zach Randolph is the only outgoing piece, the Kings could accept up to $22.7 million in salary in return. Enes Kanter has a cap hit of $18.6 million, so a straight up deal would work. However, as mentioned above, there might be more to this potential deal than a straight-up swap of two veterans on expiring contracts.

Sacramento can take back more money by aggregating contracts, and they have a few expiring deals that they could use (i.e Iman Shumpert or Kosta Koufas).

This is where things get intriguing for the Knicks. If they were able to attach Courtney Lee (and his 2019 salary) to Enes Kanter, the Knicks could make a deal work by taking back as little as $19 million in expiring deals (such as Randolph + Koufas).

Sacramento might ask for something extra to actually pull the trigger on such a deal, since they would then be adding an extra year of salary obligation in Lee. The Knicks could use the two second round picks they have from Charlotte, or find a third team to help sweeten the pot.

Of course, the same logic could be applied to including Tim Hardaway Jr. in a deal. His salary would require the Knicks to take back more money (if coupled with Kanter), and perhaps New York would be willing to take back a little bit of term to move Timmy’s larger contract.

Either way, there is a potential framework to help Sacramento improve their roster (either with a 3-and-D veteran in Lee, or a 26-year-old scorer in THJ) in exchange for cap relief to the Knicks.

Which brings us back to Kanter. If the basis of the rumor is the Knicks and Kings are discussing an exchange of Kanter for Randolph, while adding Lee or THJ to the trade makes some sense, it makes even more sense for the teams to negotiate a trade involving those players independent of Kanter. Sacramento has the cap space and expiring contracts to allow them to acquire either Lee or Hardaway Jr. quite easily. Adding the Turkish big man would only be important if Sacramento feels he can offer them a boost this season in a quest for a playoff spot.

Why are Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. important to consider in every trade rumor? Because if the Knicks somehow trade Lee’s 2019 salary for expiring contracts, it would put the team in position to control their own destiny to create as much as $46 million in 2019 cap space (depending on where the cap officially falls and where they ultimately draft). That number balloons to $52 million if you replace Lee in the deal with Hardaway Jr.

For dreamers, Kevin Durant’s max salary under a $109 million cap would be $38.1 million.