Almost immediately after David Stern and Billy Hunter announced an agreement in principle on a deal to end the lockout, the free agency questions came pouring into my inbox, Twitter mentions column and the Fix Facebook page.
But before you all get back into your giddy froth of considering using all of the tools in the new agreement to sign every 7-footer with a beating heart to fill a need at center, let's get the reset on the Knicks' payroll situation for the impending 2011-12 season.
[Feels good to get back to talking about this stuff, doesn't it?]
From what I've been told, the NBA will maintain last season's salary cap setttings, with a $58.044 million cap and a $70.4 million luxury tax threshold.
The Knicks have seven players signed to guaranteed contracts (though they won't see all of this money as a result of the truncated schedule, the league will use their original totals to determine cap space).
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2011-12:
Carmelo Anthony: $18,518,574
Amar'e Stoudemire: $18,217,705
Chauncey Billups: $14,200,000
Ronny Turiaf: $4,360,000 (NOTE: already picked up his player option)
Renaldo Balkman: $1,675,000
Toney Douglas: $1,145,640
Bill Walker: $916,000
*- (After CBA is finalized, Knicks will have window to waive either without penalty)
Landry Fields: $788,872
Andy Rautins: $788,872
UNSIGNED DRAFT PICKS:
Iman Shumpert (2011 first round pick)
Josh Harrellson (2011 second round pick)
Jerome Jordan (2010 second round pick)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Derrick Brown $1,059,293 (qualifying offer)
The Knicks will be slightly over the cap, but well under the luxury tax threshold, which means they will have the full Mid-Level Exception (four years, $5 million per) at their disposal if they want to use it. Smart thinking here says they will NOT use it because they will not want to do anything that cuts into their salary cap space for 2012. The Knicks have just over $42 million in guaranteed contracts for three players in 2012, which means they'll have just about $16 million to spend on an entire roster. And that doesn't include Shumpert's rookie salary. So they will need to preserve every single penny if they hope to be in the game for Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard.
Expect the Knicks to focus on recruiting veteran's minimum-type players this year, which means they probably won't come away with any true impact players. However, it will be interesting to watch what players may become available with the Amnesty provision, as those players may be looking to for big profile opportunities. The most intriguing name to watch here is Brandon Roy, whose knee issues have reduced him to a role player and may motivate the Trail Blazers to get cap relief for the $70 million left on his deal over the next four years. Would Roy, who will be paid his entire salary from the Blazers, consider a one-year, veterans minimum to come to New York and fill the two-guard position next to Billups and alongside Anthony and Stoudemire?
As for the Knicks, don't expect them to use the Amnesty right now. Though some might feel using it to dump Balkman would save small change on a relatively useless player, the Knicks are better served pocketing this as insurance. Teams can use the Amnesty provision once over the life of the new CBA, but it can only be used for contracts that were signed under the old CBA by the current team.
For those anticipating an extend-and-trade for Chris Paul, you first have to consider that the Knicks have very little to offer the New Orleans Hornets and, unlike the Carmelo trade, there is no urgency here for either side. The new CBA says a player will lose his Bird Rights as part of a sign-and-trade or an extend-and-trade, which means there is no financial benefit for Paul to push for this the way Carmelo did. Plus, the new CBA now limits extensions to a total of three years (two if there is an option year left in the current contract) when done as part of a trade. Paul can sign for a maximum of four years as a free agent.
And for the Knicks, they shouldn't give up the few assets you have -- especially Shumpert -- for a player you can sign in the summer.
But that's assuming the Knicks have their entire focus on Paul. There is the option of wooing Patrick Ewing's star pupil, Dwight Howard, to New York to form what might be the greatest frontcourt trio since Bird, McHale and Parrish. Then the Knicks could fill the point guard position by either re-signing Billups to an affordable number or by signing Steve Nash -- at a heavy discount -- to run the point.
So, yes, the new CBA provides the Knicks some options for 2012 if they are smart with their money in 2011. So, now that you have all the information, what would you do?