Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
Trades and Claims
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
When the NBA and the players' union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement a year ago, many of the changes included in the CBA didn't take effect immediately. Teams were generally given a year or two to get their books in order before the increased spending restrictions and tax penalties became a reality.
The Knicks were one team that managed to take full advantage of that wrinkle this past offseason. With Carmelo Anthony ($20.46MM), Amare Stoudemire ($19.95MM), and Tyson Chandler ($13.6MM) practically taking up all the Knicks' cap room on their own, the team needed to explore avenues that allowed them to bring in talent without needing to use cap space.
One such tool? The sign-and-trade. Starting next offseason, teams that are over the luxury tax line will no longer be able to complete sign-and-trade deals, but that option was still available in the summer of 2012, and the Knicks made the most of it. After committing their taxpayer-sized mid-level exception to Jason Kidd, the Knicks managed to bring in two outside free agents who will earn more than the $3.09MM annual salary allotted to Kidd. Marcus Camby was acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Rockets, while the Knicks landed Raymond Felton, along with Kurt Thomas, in a sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers.
There are other ways for the taxpaying Knicks to add outside free agents, of course. A handful of players, including Ronnie Brewer and Rasheed Wallace, inked minimum-salary deals, and the mini MLE that was used on Kidd will be available annually to taxpayers. Additionally, taxpaying teams will still be able to retain their own free agents using the various Bird exceptions, as New York did with Steve Novak and J.R. Smith. But the value of those sign-and-trades shouldn't be overlooked. Knowing that the CBA's upcoming changes wouldn't afford them the same flexibility in future offseasons, the Knicks moved to acquire players while they could in any way possible, and Felton, at least, has been well worth the trouble in the early going.
Of course, the Knicks' offseason can't be discussed without mentioning the player that Felton essentially replaced in New York: Jeremy Lin. Lin's restricted free agency dominated headlines for much of July, with the Knicks declining to match the Rockets' backloaded offer sheet and letting him walk to Houston.
New York's decision here has been criticized, and rightly so. However, it's not quite as cut-and-dried an issue as it may seem on the surface. If the Knicks felt Lin wasn't a fit in their system and didn't want to take an increased tax hit, they could have attempted to work out a sign-and-trade -- but New York wouldn't have been able to offer him as much money as the Rockets did, providing little incentive for Lin to explore such a move. The Knicks didn't seem to have much interest in that sort of deal anyway, reportedly telling Lin to go out and get an offer sheet, indicating they'd match any offer he received.
Once Lin signed Houston's offer sheet, it wouldn't have been out of the question for the Knicks to match the offer to retain Lin as an asset, hoping to trade him down the road. But it also wouldn't necessarily be a lock that they'd find a taker. Lin wouldn't have been trade-eligible until a few weeks into the season, and if he got off to a rough start, shopping a contract that included a third-year cap hit worth about $15MM would have been no easy task.
The Knicks ultimately decided that Felton was a better fit for the team, and while the move was panned by many, it's worked out splendidly so far, with Felton looking like an entirely different player than the one who struggled in Portland last season. Losing Lin for nothing still wasn't the optimal move for the Knicks, but early in the season, it's easier to understand why the Knicks chose Felton.It remains to be seen whether the Knicks, as constructed, are a legit championship contender, but the front office certainly did its best to add all the reinforcements it could this summer. Knowing that the club wasn't likely to be a player for Chris Paul or other free agents next summer, considering all the money on the books already, New York made its moves this past offseason, while taxpaying teams still maintained some flexibility. With significant upgrades unlikely a year from now, the Knicks are hoping this collection of veterans is enough to make some noise in the East.