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Free Agents NY Knicks Are Most Worried to Lose in 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27:  J.R. Smith #8 of the New York Knicks takes the foul shot against the Memphis Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden on March 27, 2013 in New York City.  The Knicks defeated the Grizzlies 108-101. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Ciaran GowanContributor IIIApril 2, 2013

NBA Free Agency offers most teams a chance to bolster their roster for the season ahead, but for the New York Knicks their lack of cap space could make things a lot tougher.

In 2013, seven Knicks will be hitting free agency, and the cap situation may make it hard to re-sign them all.

Most of the players in question are only on veteran's minimum contracts this season, but there are a few who'll be looking for a lot more on the open market after playing key roles in New York.

Here are the top-three players New York should be most worried about losing in free agency this summer.

 

J.R. Smith

He isn't a free agent per se, but J.R. Smith is clearly the player the Knicks should be most worried about losing in the offseason.

Smith has a player option for $2.9 million next season, but as a prime candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award, he can make much more if he opts out and hits the open market.

There are plenty of teams around the league with cap space who could be interested in a player as talented as Smith, and this could cause some serious problems for New York.

On the bright side, Smith's loyalty could come into play here. Last summer, he could have made a lot more in free agency, but instead opted out of his player option and re-signed for the maximum the Knicks could offer.

Now that he's played two years in New York, the Knicks will be able to use the early-Bird exception on Smith.

What this means is that they can offer him a maximum of 175 percent of his current salary regardless of the cap situation, with the contract having to last a minimum of two years.

The ideal situation would be to re-sign Smith for a two-year, $10.2 million deal. He's worth more than that, but by the time the contract is up New York will have his full Bird rights.

These are given out when a player has played at least three years with a team, and they give the team an opportunity to pay him up to his maximum salary, again regardless of the cap situation.

Smith will have played 11 years in the league by that point, making his maximum salary $19.1 million. That's a lot more than he'll be offered on the open market this summer.

If he signs elsewhere this summer, his new team won't have his Bird rights in 2015, so it might actually work out a lot better for Smith financially if he stays in New York and takes a pay cut for the next two years.

He'll make reasonable money for the next couple of seasons, and will then get his big payday when the contract is over. 

 

Chris Copeland

Unlike most rookies, Chris Copeland isn't tied down long-term for the Knicks, primarily because he went undrafted and spent six years in Europe before joining the team.

He's not going to make huge money on the open market—you certainly won't see a team using their mid-level exception on him—but if a team offers him more than the veteran's minimum it will be tough for New York to match.

Copeland is a player that clearly has offensive talent, which makes him important to the Knicks' bench, but also an intriguing option for other teams in the league.

Losing Copeland wouldn't destroy the Knicks by any means, but having cheap offense off the bench is a luxury that has really helped when injuries have hit this season.

The non-Bird exception will help the Knicks out when it comes to re-signing Copeland. They have the right to offer him 120 percent of the veteran's minimum regardless of the salary cap, which could be enough to bring him back for another year.

For Copeland, after one year of experience in the NBA, that would be a maximum of $0.9 million the Knicks can offer. 

 

Kenyon Martin

Since coming over as a free agent at the NBA Trade Deadline, Kenyon Martin has emerged as a key part of the Knicks' rotation, rebooting his career in the process.

His return to form has really boosted the Knicks, but when free agency comes he could suddenly become a coveted player again.

Martin had to wait until February until being signed this season, but now that he's proved himself, another team could offer him significant money to come off the bench.

At age 35, no one's going to offer him too much, but it's not impossible to see someone throw him a one-year, $3 million deal based on his production this season.

Again, it will come down to the non-Bird exception for the Knicks. They'll be able to offer $1.7 million, and will just have to hope that's enough.

If it's not, they will have the option to use their taxpayer's mid-level exception to re-sign him, but in turn that will inhibit their ability to add to the team.

All salary information is from HoopsHype and Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ.

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