Knicks CANNOT Sign ‘Melo As A Free Agent Without Making Key Sacrifices To The Roster

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

31 comments

  1. Rich

    Great stuff.

    My thought is that the Nuggets are going to eventually turn up the dial as the trade deadline nears and trade ‘Melo to the Knicks just so they get something in return for him and not lose him to free agency for nothing. The package won’t be great, but it will be better than nothing. We’re still far away from the deadline so the heat isn’t fully on Denver to trade ‘Melo yet, but when the pressure starts building in the middle of February, the Nuggs will be forced to deal him.

    As much as it sucks and I’m very impatient, we’re going to be sitting here playing what if games and going over different scenarios until February 24th when everything will be cleared up. By that time, ‘Melo will either have been traded to the Knicks, traded and signed to an extension with another team (or extension w/ Denver), or still in Denver waiting for the summer.

    • Dan L

      I agree. The one wildcard is whether ‘Melo is going to cave and accept a trade somewhere else and sign an extension.

      Even if ‘Melo wont sign with the Nets, it’s possible that some other team would trump the Knicks offer even if all they’re offering is a rental deal.

      • Rich

        Yup, the rental deal could be a possibility. A team looking to go all out for a title run this year may gamble on acquiring ‘Melo, but it would be a hefty price.

  2. Dajuan

    I’d trade Gallo in a heartbeat to make room for Melo. A “small” line up of Felton, Fields, Chandler, Anthony, and Amare would be really nice. Swap in a real center in place of Fields or Chandler and you’d still have a nice line up. I’d do it in a heartbeat!

    • Dan L

      Hard to argue. That’s a good team. But again, it’s not just Gallo that you’d have to lose. Just getting rid of his contract for cap space will not create enough room.

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  4. Bryan

    Gallo is expendable for Melo. I know he’s young but I don’t think his ceiling is as high as Wil’s is. Gallo is a nasty shooter and that’s pretty much it. Wil has a nice J , is developing nice range and is better in every other facet of the game and is only about a year older. I even think he could eventually become a legit second go to guy, if groomed correctly. Bottom line to me is, Melo fills holes we don’t have. If we make a move, any move, it should be for things we need. We’re not “one star away” anymore. Let’s do this right, get the point guard and big man help we need.

  5. Duro_Sports

    At this point, I think any Knick fan can live without Gallo. The guys is too inconsistent. But even if you add Melo and keep Will, they need to add a starting C who can defend and rebound, let Amar’e go back to PF and let Will be the 6th man off the bench. The Knicks have gotten killed this year inside (Kevin Love 30-30, Ilgauskas 12 pts 9 rbs 1st quarter the other night, Bargnani 40 pt game, Amir Johnson 22 and 16).

    • Dan L

      I agree that ‘Melo alone will not address all of the Knicks’ problems. The team will still have to find a true center and back up point. If you sign Wil and move him to the bench, that’s going to be a lot to pay a bench player. Though other very good teams have very expensive bench players.

      • Duro_Sports

        Then again, maybe Will just becomes the starting 2 if and when you get Melo. Where does Fields fits in all of this? Do we assume he’s part of a package for Melo or is there anyway Donnie can make a deal in which you keep Will and Fields (Currys contract, Gallo, Randolph, etc.)?

  6. Jeff

    Great point here. There are deffinitely a bunch of Knicks fans out there that think if we wait to sign Melo in the offseason, we can keep everyone else. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the NBA works.

    I love Wil, but he is not worth $10 million/yr. The guy is a good player that can play multiple positions. And this year he is having a pretty good season. But his shot selection is miserable. I know D’Antoni’s offense encourages a lot of shots, but Chandler will jack up just about anything. Often his bad shots hurt the team much more than they help.

    I disagree with some of the other fans here that claim Gallo’s ceiling isn’t as high as Chandler’s. I think Gallo can actually be a much better player than Wil. He’s already a much better shooter (streaky but better) and he’s driving the lane much more often this season and getting to the FT line which is an excellent sign. IF he devotes himself to learning some post moves, he could move up to the upper echelon of NBA players. I’m not ready to give up on Gallo just to sign Melo in the summer. If we have to trade him to get Melo, that’s a different story.

    • Dan L

      You nailed it. It’s all about consistency with Gallinari. What we saw on the west coast trip in November was an unstoppable legit second option in Gallinari. He was aggressive and got to the foul line at will. That player is far more valuable than Wil even at the level Wil is playing now.

      The question is, will we see that Gallo on a consistent basis?

    • loki

      Jeff I respectfully disagree. Chandler is an all around better player than Gallo. Give Chandler a shot of confidence and he’d have a chance to be an elite player. If Chandler would have a more of a sore losser additude & pound his chest after every spectacular dunk people would probably take notice of how good he is. He would show up on sport center regularly. Keep Will he’s a home grown product. So is gallo but Will not 1 demensional.

  7. TobyKnight

    Really depressing to realize we can’t have Melo and Wil unless we gut the team.

    if you gut the team, you’d be looking at a starting lineup of:

    Felton
    Fields
    Melo
    Chandler
    Stat

    Both Chandler and Stat would be playing out of their natural positions, but it would be a formidable lineup, albeit small and tough to match up with Boston and Orlando. If the Knicks could sign Barron to a minimum contract it might help to have Wil as the sixth man and move Stat back to his natural position.
    The bench would be quite weak, and the full potential of the team would likely have to wait until the off season and the hope that veterans looking for a ring will sign with the Knicks, similar to the way some signed up with the Heat.

    One point of further confusion I have, due to some ignorance about cap rules, Bird rights and RFAs, is whether the Knicks can go over the cap to sign Wil if they trade for Melo. So, hypothetically, Denver is desperate, and they trade Melo to the Knicks for Curry Gallo and AR (or a pick for him). The Knicks are now over the cap, but can they still sign Wil since he is an RFA and/or they have his Bird Rights?

    Great blog btw. Thanks to Tommy Dee for telling me about it.

    • Dan L

      In the scenario you identified, yes they would be able to sign both Wil and Melo because they’re both already on your team. You can always go over the cap to sign your own guys. The problem arises when you attempt to sign free agents from other teams.

      And of course, you’re right the Knicks will still be small and it will be tough to contend with the big teams unless they get some size.

      Glad you found the blog. Tommy is great. He always hooks it up.

  8. Joe F

    I like Gallo and Chandler but Walsh has to do whatever it takes to get Melo.All three of them basically play the same position we have enough players already playing out of position.If the Knicks want to get what has been alluding since 1973 they have to get a real center.Amare and Melo will get them 55 to 60 wins but the goal is to win it all not to just get to the eastern conference finals.

  9. chris

    I am not a slary cap guru, but I think the Knicks could keep Chandler by using the Larry Bird exception which allows you to go over the cap to sign your own player. Am I wrong?

    • Dan L

      Unfortunately that isn’t the case. As I attempted to
      explain in the post, a team can go over the cap to sign their own
      players but that also limits their ability to sign other
      teams’ free agents because of cap holds. For example, the Knicks
      have roughly 14-16 million in cap space but Wilson’s cap hold will
      reduce that number by about 3 million (which is the difference
      between his 3 mil QO and his 6 mil cap hold). Also, if some other
      team offers Wil 10 mil as a free agent, Wil’s cap hold increases to
      10 million. So really the Knicks only have at most 11-13 million to
      sign Melo. So the only way they could get him would be if he were
      to take less than the max or if the Knicks renounce Wil.

  10. MeloMan

    good post Dan….theres deff lots of wishful thinking from us fans.. its been like that! i just wanted to comment on Gallo vs. Wil. I think Wil is better all around and at some point Gallo can ask for more because he was drafted higher. Wil plays way better D and loves covering the best player. The only reason hes not more known, as someone else mentioned, is because hes not flashy. Wil, Gallo n Melo all play the same position, so we have to get the best that we can for one of them. Donnie has worked wonders, and I cant believe he hasnt been extended on his contract. Maybe we should make some sort of petition for Mr. Dolan.. Whats he thinking is beyond me, and I pray Isaih is NOT in his plans. He had his shot, n we ended up with Marbury, Curry, J. James and a stockpile of bad free agent signings and trades. Crawford n Zebo were acceptable. His drafts were, overall, good. But, thats it!

  11. Dylan

    Very good article. It explained a lot. If the Knicks are able to trade for Melo while still keeping Chandler, would they be able to go over the cap in order to re-sign Chandler even if they didn’t have the cap space? I think that Chandler is the perfect sixth man on a contender. Also, assuming the Knicks did indeed trade for Melo and went over the cap to re-sign Chandler, would they have a MLE to spend in the off-season? I know that a lot of this depends on the new CBA agreement, but I’m asking these questions assuming that things remain relatively unchanged. Thanks!

    • Dan L

      Thanks for the compliment. The answer to your question is
      yes, the Knicks could go over the cap to sign their own players so
      they would be able to sign Chandler and Melo if they are both
      already on the team. Also, if the Melo
      extend and trade puts them over the cap, they would be over the cap before the offseason
      starts so they would have the MLE.

  12. eyerishyank

    I think one piece of the equation that we are overlooking is how these deals actually happen. They are almost always S+T scenarios, like amar’e, lebron, bost etc so the team that is losing the player gets at least a large trade exception and the player can sign for more $. Think that would significantly impact the scenarios and possibly allow the knicks to keep most of the core together. Would have to crunch the numbers to figure out the exact situation but just speaking in general here.

    • Dan L

      Yes you’re right that it’s likely that if ‘Melo will likely be traded rather than becoming a free agent. In the case of Amar’e, LeBron and Bosh, they were trade into open cap space for those exceptions. The Knicks could of course offer the space Curry and the other expirings on the roster will vacate as a large trade exception. Beyond that I’m unclear as to how a sign and trade would make too big of a difference because I believe the salaries will have to marry up on both sides (though I could be wrong).

      • Singer

        According to this page [http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=14923] written by Larry Coon, in a trade involving one player, salaries don’t matter. I believe this explains how LeBron and Bosh were sign-and-trade deals even though the salaries didn’t match up at all. The Nuggets should be able to do this with Melo and receive back a trade exception if they are forced into it. Right?

  13. Pinoy Prince

    People keep forgetting that Azubuike’s $3,364,000, Roger Mason’s $1,400,000, Shawne William’s $885,210 on top of Curry’s enormous $11,276,863 contract expires after this season, that should solve the Melo problem i think (: all we have to worry about is getting a real C player. As for me, keeping my eye on Camby as his contract also expires after this season not sure if the Knicks can pull all this off along with Melo during/after this season but things are certainly looking up :D

    • Dan L

      Thank you for your comment.

      The numbers in the post actually do account for all of the expiring contracts, not just Curry’s. Depending on the cap number (and the new CBA), the Knicks should have anywhere from 14-16 million available at the start of free agency but in practical terms, less if they want to keep Chandler.

      As for getting a Center, I fully agree it’s a desperate need. I do think that Camby has one more year after this one though.

  14. mark

    Not sure you said this quite right; or not sure I’m understanding it correctly:

    If we trade for ‘Melo during the season, and somehow Wil is not part of that deal, then we can keep Wil, because we will have Wil’s Bird rights, so we can go over the cap to keep him.

    If we wait until after the season, we’d have to sign ‘Melo before Wil’s contract expires on June 30. As long as we get ‘Melo before June 30, we can get ‘Melo and keep Wil – again assuming he’s not part of the extend-and-trade required to get ‘Melo in the first place.

    Just thought this fact, which is the bottom line result, was unclear from your write-up.

  15. Chris

    I have to disagree in the Gallo vs Wil. I think Gallo has still far more potential to grow. While I think Wil is as good as he is gonna get. I think the big decider is that Wil is likely to be far more expensive to keep around and I think could have some good trade value now.

    However I will admit there is one bigger issue. Wil can play 2-4 while gallo realy is just a 3 and melo is also really a 3. that to me is the biggest problem with keeping gallo.

    I think a good idea is to see what you can get for a package of A Randolph and Wil if Dtoni is never gonna play AR.

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