- Carmelo Anthony ($22,407,474)
- Amar'e Stoudemire ($21,679,893)
- Tyson Chandler ($14,100,538)
- Marcus Camby ($4,383,773)
- Steve Novak ($3,750,000)
- Raymond Felton ($3,637,073)
- Iman Shumpert ($1,703,760)
- J.R. Smith ($2,932,742, Player)1
- James White ($916,099)2
Free Agents / Cap Holds
- No. 24 pick ($997,300)
- Chris Copeland ($988,872 – QO)
- Pablo Prigioni ($988,872 – QO)
- Earl Barron ($884,293)
- Kenyon Martin ($884,293)
- Quentin Richardson ($884,293)
- (Mike Bibby – $884,293)4
- (Baron Davis – $884,293)4
- 1st Round (24th overall)
- Guaranteed Salary: $71,662,5113
- Options: $2,932,742
- Non-Guaranteed Salary: $916,099
- Cap Holds: $7,396,509
- Total: $82,907,8613
When the second-seeded Knicks were knocked out of the postseason in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Pacers, it was viewed by some as the end of a disappointing 2012/13 campaign. While losing to a lesser seed in the playoffs is always frustrating, I'd argue it was a disappointing end to an otherwise successful season for the Knicks. As I noted when I revisited Hoops Rumors' preseason predictions last week, only two of our writers predicted New York would place higher than sixth in the East, while no one thought the team would be higher than a fourth seed. And we weren't the only ones — plenty of other pundits had the same outlook for the club.
The Knicks may have outperformed overall expectations this past year, but based on the team's current roster construction, that's not necessarily a reason for optimism going forward. Last summer, the Knicks took advantage of what might be their last chance to consummate sign-and-trade deals for several years by acquiring veteran players like Marcus Camby and Raymond Felton. When added to a team salary that already includes massive, eight-figure annual salaries for Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler, those deals don't leave a whole little of wiggle room to make further upgrades.
If any of those contracts were coming off the books this summer, there'd be reason to expect some roster overhaul, but Anthony, Stoudemire, Chandler, Felton, and Steve Novak are all under contract through 2015, while Camby has a small guarantee on his deal for 2014/15. The retirement of Jason Kidd helped the team's cap situation, particularly since the veteran point guard reportedly agreed to forgo his entire remaining salary, a more selfless gesture than you'll see from many other retiring players. But even with Kidd's $3.09MM salary off the books, the Knicks already have so much guaranteed money committed in '13/14 and '14/15 that they're over the tax threshold in both seasons.
For taxpaying teams, there are generally four ways to attempt to improve the roster, outside of simply signing players to minimum-salary deals: Drafting players, making trades (though sign-and-trades are no longer an option), using the taxpayer mid-level exception to sign free agents, and using some form of Bird exception to re-sign your own free agents.
The Knicks actually have a draft pick this season, albeit only a single first-rounder. At No. 24, the team could look to target a point guard, though the one they reportedly "really like" (Shane Larkin) is a good bet to be off the board by then. Whether they end up drafting a point guard or another player, it'd be nice to see New York add a little more youth to a roster whose 2012/13 rookies were 28 (Chris Copeland) and 35 (Pablo Prigioni).
The current lack of youth on the Knicks' roster means pulling off a trade will be tricky. Carmelo isn't going anywhere, and other big contracts like Stoudemire's and Chandler's would be difficult to move. Camby and Novak don't have much trade value, while Felton is more valuable to the Knicks than he would be in a trade. That leaves Iman Shumpert as the team's main trade asset, and I can't imagine he's going anywhere this summer, which means we shouldn't expect a blockbuster deal from New York.
The taxpayer's mid-level exception, which can be used to sign one or more players, may be the Knicks' greatest weapon this offseason. With a maximum value of three years and close to $10MM, the MLE certainly won't attract top-tier free agents, but we've seen in the past that solid veteran players are often willing to take a discount to play for a contending team, particularly when that team plays in New York. If the Knicks choose to shop for a point guard with their MLE, for instance, perhaps a player like Jarrett Jack or Mo Williams, who could otherwise earn more than $3MM+ annually, would consider signing in New York.
While using their MLE on an outside free agent may be the Knicks' best chance at bringing in another talented contributor, it could also compromise the team's ability to bring back those aforementioned rookies. Copeland and Prigioni are restricted free agents this summer, and because the Knicks only hold non-Bird rights on both players, the club may have to dip into its MLE to match offers on one or both guys, if it hopes to retain them.
Although the Knicks' lack of Bird rights for Copeland and Prigioni is problematic, the team has a little more flexibility when it comes to re-signing J.R. Smith. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year will decline his player option for next season, but hopes to re-sign with the club. Using Smith's Early Bird rights, the Knicks could bring him back for up to four years for an amount in excess of $20MM.
Considering all the long-term deals already on their books, I can't imagine the Knicks would be overly enthusiastic about handing out another one, but based on Smith's 2012/13 performance, getting him for between $5-6MM annually would be a very solid value. It also appears that Smith would be willing to turn down more lucrative offers to remain in New York, considering he signed a below-market contract last summer to stay with the Knicks. So a reunion between the two sides seems probable.
When the dust settles, the Knicks' 2013/14 roster figures to look fairly similar to the '12/13 team. New York's ability to attract veteran free agents at below-market prices may land the team an extra contributor or two, and perhaps the club can strike gold with the 24th overall pick in the draft. But for the most part, we should expect to see the same general core that led the team to a second-place finish in the East this past season.
It's hard to complain much about tweaking the edges of a 54-win team in hopes that a few minor changes will make a difference. But in New York, where expectations are always high, that may not be good enough. GM Glen Grunwald talked earlier this offseason about trying to come up with "creative" ways to improve the roster this summer, so we'll have to wait and see what he has up his sleeve to turn this roster into one capable of getting past the Heat and the Pacers next spring.
- To follow up on the Kidd point, retiring veteran players will often agree to a buyout on their contracts, so that they still receive part of their salaries and the team still takes a partial cap hit. Removing Kidd's salary from their books entirely is great for the Knicks, though unfortunately it will only reduce their tax bill, rather than creating any additional cap space or exceptions.
- The maximum first-year salary the Knicks will be able to offer Smith isn't yet known, but it will be equal to the estimated annual salary for 2013/14. Last year, that figure was $5.276MM, so Smith's maximum starting salary should be in that ballpark.
- Interestingly, while teams like the Rockets have a handful of players on non-guaranteed contracts for 2013/14, giving the club the flexibility to decide whether or not to bring players back, the Knicks didn't give a non-guaranteed second year to most of their 2012 free agent signings (Copeland, Prigioni, Kenyon Martin, Quentin Richardson, and Earl Barron). Only James White has that sort of option on his deal. It's very possible that those players were simply reluctant to agree to what essentially amounts to a team option, but it would definitely have made things easier for the Knicks if they had a non-guaranteed second year for Copeland and/or Prigioni.
- At least one report has already indicated Smith will decline this player option, making him a free agent. When that decision becomes official, his cap hold will be $3,648,388.
- White's contract is currently fully non-guaranteed. It becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before June 30th.
- The guaranteed and total salary amounts listed here don't take into account Jason Kidd's $3,090,000 salary, since multiple reports have suggested the retired Kidd has agreed to forgo the remaining money on his contract.
- Bibby's and Davis' cap holds remain on the Knicks' books since neither player has signed with a new team since finishing the 2011/12 season in New York, and the Knicks haven't renounced either player's rights.