New York Knicks: Why Amar'e Stoudemire's Contract Isn't as Bad as It Seems
I'm not here to argue that Stoudemire is worth the $21.7 million he's going to be paid next season. Clearly someone who can't stay healthy and produced career-low numbers last season isn't worth anywhere near that money.
Instead, my real point is that as overpaid as STAT is, his contract has nowhere near the impact on the Knicks people think it does.
Let's imagine a situation where the Knicks could magically get rid of Stoudemire's contract; a second amnesty clause, if you will.
In that case, the Knicks' 2014 payroll would go down from $76.4 million to $54.7 million.
That would put the Knicks under the salary cap of $58 million, but you have to bear in mind that only eight players are under contract for next season.
After re-signing key players like J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin, the Knicks would still be over the salary cap, even after getting rid of STAT's monster deal.
They would, however, be under the luxury tax threshold, allowing them to utilize sign-and-trades, the bi-annual exception ($2 million) and spend the full $5 million mid-level exception rather than the $3 million taxpayers' exception.
With that said, even if they had the option to make sign-and-trades, it would be very tough for the Knicks to do so. They don't really have too many assets they'd want to trade away.
Besides Marcus Camby and James White—who would be impossible to get rid of—the players New York has under contract for next season are too important to let go.
The list consists of Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and Raymond Felton, all of whom have been key rotation players.
Essentially, then, the only difference having Stoudemire makes is that the Knicks can spend $4 million less in free agency than if they were under the luxury tax threshold. That's not a huge price to pay for a guy who can still be en elite bench player when healthy.
On the surface, it doesn't seem to add up, but it's all about timing.
It's very easy for NBA front offices—especially in big markets that have no trouble paying the luxury tax—to go over the salary cap to add role players. Using Bird exceptions, the draft and by finding hidden gems like Steve Novak, the Knicks have been able to make moves as if Stoudemire wasn't there.
Had they done it the other way, and signed the role players first and Stoudemire second, it wouldn't have been possible. The CBA is set up to allow teams to make incremental moves over the cap, but not to make big moves like signing a $100 million contract.
It was a long process, but with smart moves the Knicks have built one of the strongest teams in the conference, despite the majority of the elite 2010 free-agent class wanting to play elsewhere.
The Knicks needed a star there and then to convince 'Melo to come to New York, and they had the money to spend. Theoretically, that money could have gone to a better player, but LeBron James and Chris Bosh chose the Miami Heat, and Chris Paul wasn't yet a free agent.
Stoudemire was the only option.
It can be argued that Stoudemire is a problem because he is untradable, which is true—the Knicks have tried and failed to trade him on multiple occasions.
But, in reply to that I'd ask you this: Would you rather have a productive-yet-injury-prone bench player who you can't trade, or $4 million more to spend on a lesser player and the ability to potentially use sign-and-trades?
There's an argument to be made for both sides, but based on what he did off the bench this season, having Stoudemire would be my choice.
The bottom line is that James Dolan is the only person who should be worried about Stoudemire's disproportionate salary. He's the one who has to pay it, and who's going to be taxed until the majority of the roster hits free agency in 2015.
For everyone else, however (and that includes everyone from the front office to the fans) we only need to be worried about how his contract impacts the team's ability to make changes to the roster.
Judging by the depth of this Knicks team, it hasn't impacted them very badly at all.
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