Earlier today, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News had an article in which he used some, shall we say… “foreboding language” in regards to the future of Mitchell Robinson and the New York Knicks.Continue reading →
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.
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 1, the 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.
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, 538.com 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.
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?)
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last night 👀
— Ben Stinar (@BenStinar) February 18, 2019
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?
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.
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.
Sixers have expressed interest in Knicks forward Noah Vonleh, according to a source.
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) January 16, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
While the Knicks have put themselves in position to make the necessary moves to offer a max contract to a free agent this coming summer, the front office is not looking to throw a big contract at just anybody, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Berman reports the Knicks are “opposed to giving a 2019 free agent a max-like deal ‘unless that player would be a dramatic difference maker to the team’s fortunes.'”
Some could take this to suggest the Knicks are slowly moving the goalposts for the upcoming summer. In fact, I think Stefan Bondy summarizes it perfectly here:
Steve Mills declared he’ll make the Knicks a desirable destination for a superstar free agents in 2019. He didn’t sign KP to an extension to get more money for 2019. He waived Noah for more money in 2019. They’re his goalposts. https://t.co/uFTXJYEqQG
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) December 23, 2018
The Knicks have set expectations and positioned themselves to make a run at a max player in 2019. This has come at the cost of potentially straining their relationship with Kristaps Porzingis by delaying his contract extension and incurring an added cap cost by stretching Joakim Noah through 2021.
But this is life in the NBA. You don’t build a championship team without taking on risk. And risk carries the possibility of loss.
If the Knicks end up empty-handed in the 2019 superstar sweepstakes, what they do next will define how much loss they actually realize from taking on the risk to chase Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the likes this summer.
This is why Berman’s report (backed by recent comments from Steve Mills) that the Knicks are willing to pass on extending a max offer to a player if they don’t feel like he is a true difference maker is a positive sign.
2019 represents a litmus test for the Mills-Perry front office that has been saying all of the right things when it comes to rebuilding the team through the draft and being careful in how they spend future cap dollars.
If July 1st comes around and a Woj notification pops up on our phones to report the Knicks have agreed to a max deal with say, Kemba Walker, no offense to the Bronx native, but many in New York will be singing the “same ol’ Knicks” song.
The last time the Knicks entered a summer optimistic about their free agent chances and with “max-like” money to spend, they ended up with Amar’e Stoudemire.
It’s okay if the Knicks want to move the goalposts on free agent expectations, as long as when they get to July, they don’t suddenly call an audible and give up on their patient approach to overpay for a player just because they have cap space to burn.
Remember, while the Knicks took on some risk by waiting to re-sign KP and stretching Noah, there were legitimate reasons to make both decisions independent of 2019 cap space.
Noah admitted to having less than ideal focus during his time in New York, and he was not the type of veteran the front office wanted around a young core that includes many players who aren’t even old enough to drink.
Kristaps Porzingis is recovering from a major ACL injury that might have him out of the lineup for the entire season. Perhaps waiting to offer a gigantic extension until he is back on the court and healthy is a wise choice in its own right.
What Berman’s report suggests is that the Knicks are not looking to repeat mistakes of the past in 2019.
Based on the current cap projection of $109 million for the 2019-20 season, the Knicks can create close to $30 million in space by renouncing their own free agents, waiving Lance Thomas, and waiting to sign Kristaps Porzingis until after they have made all of their other signings.
If the Knicks want to create “max-like” space this summer, it will leave their options extremely limited in keeping any of the players who are not already signed through next season. In fact, to create enough room to sign Kevin Durant, who is a 10+ year veteran, they would need to move an additional $8-9 million off their books.
Mills explained in a press conference with reporters on December 21 that the team is still evaluating the players on their roster and that they “feel like there are more people than just the three rookies [they] can grow around.”
This is an important point in the context of whether the Knicks end up signing a max-like player. It seems to suggest that the team is open to bringing back some of their successful reclamation projects, such as Emmanuel Mudiay or Noah Vonleh. As explained earlier, this would be difficult to do if they use all of their cap dollars on a max contract.
In other words, it’s not max player or bust for the Knicks in 2019; it’s max player, if it’s Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard, or it’s use their cap space to sign players they believe they can build around ..
OR, and this is the part of the strategy that has not been reported or commented on, but perhaps most important, it’s use their cap space to sign players who they can later trade for a star player.
We saw Philadelphia do this with Robert Covington. They signed him to a four-year $46.9 million contract and then traded him a year later for Jimmy Butler.
In the chase for cap space, people forget how often star players change teams via trade. Young players on reasonable contracts are just as valuable, in fact, considering they add value to your team before you trade them, they are more valuable than empty cap space.
If the Knicks don’t land a superstar free agent next summer, and instead overpay for a non-max player, they would only limit their ability to land a star in the future.
If they choose to pass on signing a non-max player to a “max-like” contract, they keep their options open. It would allow them to preserve future cap dollars while investing a portion of their space in signing young players to reasonable contracts.
At this point, even after failing to reach their goal of signing a superstar, they would be maintaining their ability to attract one in the future. And they would be showing us that two fundamental things are different than how the organization has operated in the past.
- First, the team would be continuing to accumulate assets in the form of draft picks (remember, they will add another lottery pick to their roster in 2019), cap space, and young players on reasonable contracts. In 2010, the future of the team was heavily contingent on the players they signed as big ticket free agents.
- Second, they will have proven that all of the promises and words they have told us over the past year ring true. They have avoided trading draft picks for stars they can sign later. They have put themselves in a position to sign a star this coming summer. And if they don’t sign a star, they would have successfully pivoted their approach without making a panic move.
The Knicks have set their own expectations by taking on risk to sign a superstar in 2019. But it’s a risk worth taking. And if they don’t sign a superstar, but then successfully pivot their approach, times will truly be different at 2 Penn Plaza.
John Jenkins has been tearing it up for the Westchester Knicks this season, averaging 27.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists, while shooting a scorching hot 51.6 percent from the field.
His impressive play might have you wondering whether the Knicks can call him up to the big club. Let’s examine their options.
First, it’s important to mention that the G-League isn’t quite like the minor leagues that exist in other sports. Players on G-League rosters only belong to their parent club if they are also on an NBA deal with that team, or if they are signed to a two-way contract. Otherwise, most G-Leaguers have no actual connection to their parent club’s roster; they are free to sign with any NBA team.
So while Jenkins plays for the Knicks G-League affiliate, that doesn’t grant them any special permissions in adding him to their NBA roster.
Jenkins is not on a two-way contract, and he is ineligible to sign a two-way contract since he has more than three years of NBA service.
For the Knicks to add the Vanderbilt star to their roster, they would need to sign him to an NBA deal the same way they would any free agent.
Of course, before thinking about signing Jenkins, the Knicks would need to waive or trade an extra player to create an open roster spot, the same way they did for Allonzo Trier at the expense of Ron Baker.
Keep in mind that any player who is owed more than $50,000 in guaranteed money1 cannot be waived and then signed to a two-way contract or waived and then assigned to the club’s G-League affiliate for the rest of this season. This means the Knicks can’t exchange Jenkins’ Westchester spot with a current NBA roster player, such as Luke Kornet. If the Knicks waive Kornet, since he has more than $50,000 guaranteed on his contract, he would be ineligible to join their Westchester team for the remainder of the season. Simply assigning a player to Westchester, as the Knicks have done with Kornet and Courtney Lee, doesn’t create an open roster spot either.
If an open roster spot is created (through trade or waiving a player), the Knicks would then need to use a salary cap exception to sign Jenkins since they are currently operating over the cap. New York used up their bi-annual exception on Allonzo Trier and have what translates into a league minimum value remaining on their mid-level exception. They can also sign any player to a league minimum contract.
It’s unlikely Jenkins would demand more than the league minimum salary at this point, so that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s creating the open roster spot that would delay the Knicks from signing Jenkins, if they are inclined to do so from his Westchester play.
Of course, the Knicks do have another option to sign Jenkins and that is to wait until January 5th and try him out on a ten-day contract, similar to what they did with Troy Williams last season. This would provide them a trial period before deciding whether they want to sign him for the rest of the season. It would also buy them more time to open up a roster spot via trade as we creep closer toward the trade deadline in February.
Ron Baker will sign a new contract with the Washington Wizards, only a week after being waived by the Knicks, per Adrian Wojnarowski. Denver was another team reportedly interested in the Wichita State combo guard.
Baker played two seasons + change for the Knicks, signing a two-year, $8.9 million deal in 2017 that still has the Knicks absorbing his $4.5 million cap hit for the remainder of this season.
Despite Baker finding a new home, the cap hit remains the same on the Knicks’ books.
New York will be allowed to set-off a small amount of the money he receives from Washington, but that amount only impacts the actual salary the team pays, and not the cap hit. The Knicks can set-off one-half the difference between Baker’s new salary and the minimum salary for a one-year veteran minimum salary. So peanuts.
Baker will face his former team for the first time in London on January 17.
More details to come as they become available…
Allonzo Trier’s 45-day service time limit in the NBA is set to expire next week (depending on when he returns from a hamstring injury), so the Knicks wasted no time in securing an NBA deal with the undrafted guard.
According to Shams Charania, the Knicks will sign Trier using their bi-annual exception to a two-year NBA contract. Ian Begley adds that the contract is valued at two-years, $7 million, with a team option in the second year. The terms of the deal suggest the Knicks used the max amount allowed with the bi-annual exception. Trier will make a starting salary of $3.4 million this season, with a 5% raise next season.
Since the Knicks plan on dropping below the cap to sign free agents this summer, they would have lost their bi-annual exception, anyway. This is a good use of the exception to pay Trier extra money over the course of this season, when they aren’t worried about their cap dollars, while securing him with a team option through next season on favorable terms.
Trier will be a restricted free agent in 2020 (assuming the Knicks pick up his team option) and the team will own his Early-Bird rights.
The Knicks maintain flexibility with their 2019 cap by having a team option on Trier’s second year. If they decide to exercise it, the cap hit for 2019 adds $3.5 million to the books, reducing their practical cap space to just below $30 million, depending on what they do with Trey Burke and Damyean Dotson. The Knicks would need $32.7 million to sign a free agent with 7-9 years of experience; they need $38.1 million to sign a free agent with 10+ years of experience, such as Kevin Durant.
To make a roster spot for Trier, the Knicks needed to trade or release a player, and it is expected they will release Ron Baker, per Shams Charania.
Baker played 92 games in New York, becoming a favorite of Jeff Hornacek, who saw himself in the hustle-first player. The Knicks will carry Baker’s $4.5 million salary as dead cap weight through the end of this season.
Allonzo Trier went undrafted in the 2018 draft. Whether scouts missed on him or were concerned with his PED suspensions, it doesn’t matter now. He went undrafted, which limited his ability to hold much bargaining power as a rookie free agent.
Hence, the Knicks were able to sign him to a two-way contract.
While everyone expects the Knicks to clear a roster spot and sign Trier to an NBA contract in December, an interesting caveat in the way NBA service time is calculated for two-way players has him playing several days for free.
Allonzo Trier had another amazing performance last night, becoming the first Knicks rookie to record at least 25 points + 10 rebounds + 7 assists since Mark Jackson.
Learn about his contract options as his two-way NBA service time some expireshttps://t.co/h97NigR6DX
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) November 28, 2018
Free, you say?
Well, let’s get into it.
There are three NBA service rules for two-way players that impact Trier’s service time this season:
- NBA service does not start accruing until G-League training camp begins.
- The days that Trier doesn’t participate in a basketball activity with the team are excluded.
- A new rule excludes travel days.
To the first rule, Trier was able to stay with the Knicks for about one month of time before any of his 45-day service limit started to depreciate. This provided the Knicks with a longer look at the iso-heavy guard, ultimately leading to rotation minutes, which in the end, could lead to an NBA contract.
All is good, right?
Mostly. But where this rule hurts two-way players is in their paychecks.
Two-way salary is calculated by multiplying the league minimum salary for a player with 0 years of service by the number of NBA service days they accrue.
This means that the entire time Trier spent with the Knicks in training camp, playing in preseason games, and balling out for the first three games of the regular season, are excluded from his NBA pay.
Combining the second and third NBA service time rules mentioned above into one thought, any day the Knicks travel, or Trier doesn’t participate in a basketball activity, are also excluded from his NBA service day count.
The recently changed rule for excluding travel days from their NBA service calculation is designed to help two-way players find more meaningful time with their NBA club instead of wasting away service time on buses or planes.
This all sounds favorable to the player since a two-way player is usually trying to prove something in the league and the more actual game days they get to do that, the better.
But all of these days that don’t “count” as service time also don’t count in calculating the amount of NBA salary two-way players receive for days they worked with the NBA club.
What does this all mean?
In the grand scheme of things, not a lot. I expect Trier to be rewarded handsomely in the near future, so he will do just fine for himself. All of this service day math makes it difficult to calculate exactly when Trier’s two-way NBA service time expires. However, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that Trier’s date is around December 15, depending on if a practice, or two, is cancelled along the way. So expect Trier to sign an NBA deal close to that date.
This is really a labor discussion.
From an opportunity perspective, extending the number of days a G-League player can remain in the NBA, whether paid or not, helps, and perhaps a player earns an NBA contract as a direct result of that added service time.
From a labor perspective, it doesn’t seem fair that two-way players should be forced to work on days they are technically not paid.
Of course, even though two-way players are compensated on a daily basis, you could also look at it from an aggregate standpoint.
While Trier will get paid for less days than he serves with the Knicks, his real “paid” amount is the total value of 45 days worth of NBA salary at the rookie minimum rate (approximately $213,169), which is a lot better than the fraction he would have earned each day had he spent those days down in Westchester making G-League pay.
Allonzo Trier has gone from undrafted to “the Knicks need to sign this guy!”
After signing a two-way deal this offseason, Allonzo Trier is taking the NBA by storm, forcing the Knicks into a quick decision about his NBA future.
Why can’t Trier just stay on a two-way contract all season long?
He can. But if the Knicks want him to play more than 45 days in the NBA, they need to create a roster spot (they are allowed to have up to 15 NBA contracts plus 2 two-way contracts) and then convert him to a standard NBA contract. Otherwise, Trier would be stuck playing the rest of the season in Westchester once his 45 NBA days are used up.
Counting up Trier’s NBA service days is not as straight forward as you would think. First, only the days from the beginning of G-League Training Camp count, so the clock started for Trier on October 22. Second, a new rule change excludes travel days from the count. So any date that Trier travels or doesn’t participate in any practice, basketball drill, conditioning, workout, or other such activity with the team, none of those days count.
This makes it hard to track Trier’s official count, but Marc Berman of the New York Post reports the date is December 15.
What options do the Knicks have to sign Trier?
First, they need to create a roster spot by waiving or trading a player. If you are wondering whether they can turn one of their NBA contracts into a two-way contract, essentially exchanging spots with Trier, they cannot.
There are a variety of options to convert Allonzo Trier to a standard NBA contract, but there’s much less flexibility in turning a NBA contract into a two-way.
Learn why the idea of turning Kornet into a two-way to make roster space for Trier can’t happenhttps://t.co/brqYRCAikp
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) November 6, 2018
Once they create a roster spot, the easiest path to sign Trier is to convert his two-way contract into a standard NBA contract at the league minimum rate for the rest of the season, which coincides with the remaining length of his two-way contract.
If the Knicks want to sign Trier for more than the league minimum or for longer than the rest of this season, they have limited options since they are operating over the salary cap.
Their only option is to trade players to create cap space (unlikely) or use a salary cap exception to sign him. The salary cap exceptions available to them are as follows:
- Minimum Salary Exception, pro-rated down from $838K for Trier this season, for up to two seasons.
- Bi-Annual Exception, starting up to $3.4M, for up to two seasons
- Mid-Level Exception, starting up to $655K this season, but for up to four seasons.
Can Trier sign somewhere else next summer?
Allonzo Trier would be a restricted free agent this summer whether coming off his two-way contract or a standard NBA contract as a player with three or fewer years of service. The same would be true next summer, if the Knicks ended up signing him to a two-year deal using the bi-annual exception.
Does it make sense for the Knicks to use their bi-annual exception on Trier?
This is where things get interesting.
If Trier continues to prove his value as a rookie in this league, it might benefit the Knicks to avoid restricted free agency this summer when they want to save as much cap space as possible.
While they could match any offer thrown at Trier, if his value continues to rise, a team might make a significant offer that could pose a risk for the Knicks to match if they want to preserve cap space for a superstar. This is not to say Trier is going to get some crazy offer sheet, but even a two-year $10 million offer sheet starts to cut into the Knicks precious cap space.
The question for the Knicks is whether they think Trier’s two-year value at the bi-annual rate is above or below market value by the time he is ready to sign a contract this summer.
Since the Knicks are projected to drop below the cap next summer, they would effectively lose their bi-annual exception anyway, so it’s not like using it now on Trier would cost them a chance to use it on a player next summer (teams can only use the bi-annual exception every two years as the name suggests).
If Trier believes he can earn more next summer via restricted free agency, he will probably try to avoid a two-year deal, instead settling for the league minimum rate or a portion of the bi-annual on a one-year offer. Trier would then be running the risk that his stock falls, and by next summer, it’s possible no team is looking to sign him for more than what he could have made from the bi-annual exception amount in Year 2.
For now, the Knicks are still in the driver’s seat with Trier. If he doesn’t accept an NBA contract from the Knicks, he is stuck on a two-way contract that would eventually find him back in the G-League (at G-League pay) for the rest of the season. That said, where each side thinks his market value will go next summer dictates whether they try to reach an agreement using the bi-annual exception for more than one season, or wait to see how things play out in July.
Allonzo Trier is making a lot of general managers and scouts look bad across the league. Well, except for those who call the shots for the Knicks.
The undrafted guard from Arizona is proving he was clearly worth at least a second round selection. Lucky for the Knicks, they were able to sign him as an undrafted free agent on a two-way contract.
A two-way contract allows a player to play up to 45 days in the NBA during a given season. The player must spend the rest of the season with the team’s G-League affiliate. Trier’s 45 days with the Knicks were extended by a week since NBA service days for two-way considerations don’t begin to count until the G-League team starts training camp. With the added few days, Trier can play up until December 5 on the Knicks, if he remains on the NBA roster continuously up until that date. At that point, it’s expected the Knicks will sign him to a standard NBA contract.
Which brings us to the point of this post: can the Knicks create a roster spot for Allonzo Trier by converting an NBA contract to a two-way contract, essentially swapping someone’s spot with Trier’s?
Let’s use Luke Kornet as an example.
After being assigned to Westchester to get some extra reps on November 5, speculation has already started that Kornet could be the odd man out when the Knicks need to make a roster move to convert Trier from a two-way to a standard NBA contract.
One reporter speculates that the Knicks could waive Kornet, and then re-sign him on a two-way contract. This sounds pretty logical. It would create a roster spot for Trier. And Kornet gets to stay with the Knicks, mixing his NBA time with Westchester time, as he might already do this season, anyway.
However, the pesky rulebook doesn’t allow this scenario to happen.
Can the Knicks waive Kornet and then re-sign him to a two-way contract?
Two-way contracts do not count against team salary in cap calculations, even when the player is playing in the NBA. This is a player-friendly rule to allow teams to give two-way players a shot without impacting their salary cap position. However, the maximum amount of compensation protection on a two-way contract is limited to $50,000. Therefore, any player who has more than $50,000 guaranteed on their contract falls out of the criteria for two-way consideration.
The Knicks signed Luke Kornet to a one-year, $1.6 million deal this summer, which is fully guaranteed.
Since Luke Kornet is owed more than $50,000 in guaranteed money this season, if the Knicks waive him, he would be prohibited from playing for their G-League affiliate or signing a two-way contract with the team for the rest of the season.
Can they convert his standard NBA contract to a two-way contract?
If they can’t waive him and re-sign him, what about simply converting his standard NBA contract to a two-way contract similar to how they could convert Trier’s two-way contract to a standard NBA contract?
Remember when the Knicks signed all of those players to Exhibit 10 contracts? The Exhibit 10 clause is what allows teams to convert standard NBA contracts into two-way contracts; but the catch, once again, is that the contract cannot include more than $50,000 in compensation protection. In addition, a standard NBA contract with an Exhibit 10 clause must be converted to a two-way contract prior to the start of the NBA season.
Since Kornet signed a one-year, $1.6 million guaranteed contract this summer, the guarantee amount prevents him from having an Exhibit 10 clause. And since the season has already started, even if he did have an Exhibit 10 clause, it would be too late to convert him to a two-way anyway.
What does this all mean?
The Knicks cannot waive any player on their roster who is on a standard NBA contract and then re-sign them as a two-way player, and they cannot convert any of them into a two-way players.
If the Knicks want to create an extra roster spot for Allonzo Trier, they will have to find another way.
Rumors will continue to swirl around the Knicks and Kevin Durant until we reach that fateful date in July when Woj, or someone else, breaks the final news of where he signs.
Putting the reality of the Knicks being able to sign Durant aside, let’s understand the cap mechanics required.
How much money can the Knicks offer Durant?
Kevin Durant is a veteran with at least 10 years of NBA service, which means he qualifies for a maximum starting salary of up to 35% of the salary cap. With the 2019-20 salary cap projected to be $109 million, that means Durant’s first year maximum salary on a new contract in 2019 would be $38,150,000.
The Knicks can offer Durant a four-year, $164 million contract next summer.
How much money can the Warriors offer Durant?
The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement was written to protect teams from losing players to big market teams. It seems strange to say so in this situation, but the Warriors have the rules in their favor to keep Durant by being able to offer him more money than any other team.
Golden State can offer Durant an extra year and a higher annual raise (8% instead of 5%) than the Knicks. They can try to keep Durant by offering a maximum contract of five-years, $221 million.
Why would Durant ever pass up so much money to come to the Knicks?
While it seems like a big difference between what Golden State can offer Durant and what the Knicks can offer him, the difference in salary mostly comes in 2023.
Between 2019 – 2022, Durant would essentially make the same amount of money no matter where he signs. There is only a slight increase (8% vs 5%) in annual raises between the two offers that equates to Durant making $6.9 million extra between 2019-2022 if he resigns with the Warriors.
The question for Durant would be whether he thinks he can still demand a maximum salary in 2023 to essentially make up for the difference in money left on the table from Golden State.
He could also decide to sign a shorter-term deal in New York, so he has the opportunity to become a free agent one more time during his prime (which he would be smart to do) and then cash-in on a long-term deal at that point.
If Durant wants to get paid, he could make pretty close to the same amount of money whether he stays in Golden State or leaves, it’s just a matter of when he guarantees himself making that money.
How do the Knicks create enough cap space to sign Durant?
By waiving and stretching Joakim Noah, the Knicks opened up close to $13 million extra in 2019 cap space, but there is still work to be done to create enough room to offer Durant the maximum salary of $38.1 million next summer.
The graphic below illustrates the Knicks cap situation by separating what I am calling “core pieces,” all of the young players from recent drafts + their 2019 lottery pick, from players on the roster who might have promise but aren’t necessarily fundamental to the team’s rebuild. The Knicks can waive Lance Thomas and turn his $7.6 million salary in 2019 into a $1 million cap hit, so I will assume they take that easy route in this scenario.
For the Knicks to create max space for Kevin Durant, while keeping their core pieces on the roster, it sort of becomes a choose your own adventure game.
By keeping Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier, and their 2019 draft pick, they would only have $22.8 million of salary to play with in order to preserve the amount they need to sign Durant.
The graphic above orders the non-core players by the relative level of difficulty to eliminate their salary from the team’s books. Damyean Dotson is the easiest salary to remove, because his salary is non-guaranteed. There is then a long list of players who count against the cap in order for the Knicks to preserve their respective early-Bird or Bird rights, but the Knicks can simply renounce all of them to open up cap space.
Really, it all boils down to Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee.
The Knicks could sign Kevin Durant and have some extra space to sign additional players, IF they are able to move one of Tim Hardaway Jr. or Courtney Lee without taking too much 2019 salary back. It’s more likely they would be able to move Courtney Lee at a lower cost than Tim Hardaway Jr. based on the term and value remaining on their respective contracts. They could also decide to waive and stretch either player.
Any way you cut it, if you want to keep the core pieces and go for broke on Durant, you have some decisions to make with the players highlighted in the non-core area of the graphic above.
So keep this post handy as you hear rumors about the Knicks signing a max player, like Durant, or if roster moves are made to help create 2019 cap space.
And if you want to know whether the Knicks could have enough cap space to sign TWO max players … well, that requires some more work.
Kristaps Porzingis would be leaving significant money on the table by refusing a max contract offer from the Knicks next season. Even more than people realize.
The Knicks decided not to offer Kristaps Porzingis a rookie extension before the deadline this week, leaving some to wonder if they are making a “risky” move by gambling on a free agent plan in 2019 that could leave them empty handed, and with their own superstar unhappy that he had to wait so long for a max contract.
But does this argument make any sense?
Everything you need to know about the salary cap implications of Joakim Noah’s mega contract from 2016.
When Phil Jackson signed Joakim Noah to a four-year, $74 million contract in the summer of 2016, everybody knew it was a bad deal. Well, everyone except the Knicks, that is. Two years later, the team has waived Noah outright, having failed to reach a buyout agreement that could have potentially saved them some cap money in the future.
Let’s break down what Noah’s contract means to their future cap space.
How does the stretch provision work?
In short: It stretches the remaining salary owed to Noah over a longer period of time.
More: By waiving Joakim Noah, the Knicks are allowed to stretch the remaining salary that is guaranteed in his contract over twice the remaining term plus one year.
Since they waited until Noah’s 2018-19 salary was set in the books before waiving him (more on this in the next question), they are able to stretch the final year of his contract over three years (take the 1 year remaining on his contract, multiply it by two, then add one year).
How will Noah’s cap hit impact the Knicks going forward?
In short: The Knicks gain close to $13 million in extra cap space in 2019 at the cost of losing $6.4 million in cap space the following two seasons.
More: Nothing changes about Joakim Noah’s guaranteed salary this season. Since the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a buyout agreement, the Knicks owe Noah the full $18.5 million in 2018-19.
The reason the Knicks waited until after August 31 to waive Noah is because they aren’t interested in cap saving for this upcoming season, so they will absorb his entire salary for 2018-19 and only stretch the final season on his contract over three years. Had Noah been waived before September 1, the Knicks would have stretched the final two years of his contract over five years.
The final season of Noah’s contract will be stretched over three seasons with a cap hit of $6.4 million per season.
By creating extra cap space in 2019, the Knicks can essentially create max space for a 7-9 year veteran free agent (ie Kyrie Irving type) without needing to move any other contracts in trade. They will need to create approximately $7 million more in space to have enough room to offer a 10+ year veteran (ie Kevin Durant) a max contract.
Can the Knicks wait to see if they land a free agent in 2019 before stretching his cap hit?
No. The Knicks must notify the league whether or not they plan on stretching his remaining salary by 11:59 PM on the day following when the player clears waivers. Once the decision is made, it is set in stone.