I’ve written a similar post about this same topic previously but a misconception exists among many Knicks fans so
I’d like to keep addressing it:
Whether the Knicks trade for ‘Melo, or sign him outright as a free agent, they still have to make a choice between him, and the guys on the roster now. They CANNOT sit back and simply sign him as a free agent, adding him to the players already on the roster.
Here is why (and this assumes the CBA maintains its current format or a similar one):
SCENARIO 1. IT’S WIL OR ‘MELO.
The Knicks have roughly $14-$16 million in cap space as it stands now, which is enough, I think, to fit the first year of a max contract, which ‘Melo will command. But the Knicks will ONLY have that much cap space IF they renounce Wilson Chandler. This is because Wilson Chandler will be a Restricted Free Agent. His salary will count against the Knicks’ cap in one of three ways (courtesy of Larry Coon):
A restricted free agent counts against his team’s salary cap by the greatest of:
- His free agent amount…
- The amount of his qualifying offer…
- The first year salary from any offer sheet the player signs with another team…
His “free agent amount” (see Coon’s FAQ for more info) will be $6,391,443 (if I did it right), which is more than his qualifying offer (roughly $3 million), so $6,391,443 is the minimum that Wil will count against the Knicks’ cap. Thus, the $3 million difference between Wil’s QO and his “free agent amount” is removed from the $14-$16 million of available cap space. So there will most likely NOT be enough room for the Knicks to sign ‘Melo first and then exceed the cap to resign Wil and keep everyone else on the roster (there will be between $11-$13 million left). BUT, I would say it is a pretty safe bet that Coon’s third bullet-point is going to be implicated because a) some team is going to want to run interference on the Knicks’ pursuit of ‘Melo, but more likely b) some team is going to offer Wil a contract based on his fair market value which, based on the salaries of comparators such as Rudy Gay, Loul Deng, Andre Igoudala, and even Corey Maggette, will be much higher than even Wil’s “free agent amount”. This would force the Knicks to renounce Wil if they want to sign ‘Melo outright.
SCENARIO 2. IT’S WIL AND ‘MELO, BUT SAY GOODBYE TO GALLO
As you can see from scenario one, the Knicks are likely going to sacrifice Wil in order to sign ‘Melo if he makes it to the summer as a free agent, UNLESS they make room for both of them somehow. How though?
The only way is to sacrifice some players current players who have contracts extending past this summer in favor of players with expiring salaries, much as the team did over the last two years in its pursuit LeBron James. Let’s assume Wil is going to make $10 million this summer based on the salaries of some of his previously identified comparators. Since the Knicks will have $14-$16 million this summer but all of that is going to have to go to ‘Melo, the Knicks are going to have to clear another $10 million to be able to sign Wil as well. Which means some combination of players on the roster (likely not named Amar’e or Raymond) are going to have to be traded for cap space before the offseason. The only way to keep Gallo in the fold would be to trade Randolph AND Walker AND Douglas AND Mozgov AND Turiaf, all for expiring deals.
In the unlikely event that ‘Melo makes it to the summer (or fall, or next year) as a free agent, if you think the Knicks are going to add him to the current core of players, it saddens me to say that you are wrong. The Knicks don’t have as much leverage as some people seem to think they have to just sit back and wait for ‘Melo to become a free agent and sign him in the offseason to play with Amar’e, Felton, Gallo and Wil. It ain’t gonna happen that way.
The Knicks are faced with some tough choices and if ‘Melo is in the plans (as a free agent instead of before the trade deadline) then some of the Knicks young players are not. The following are the Knicks’ choices over the next several months: Stick with this group; stick with everyone in this group except for Wil; trade some of this group besides Wil for expiring deals to be able to sign ‘Melo and keep Wil; forget about ‘Melo and trade for another player or players; use their $14-$16 in cap space in the summer, but not on ‘Melo.