Melo and CP3 have wanted to play together for years, but the new CBA now stands in their way.
Three years later, STAT and Melo have already made it to New York, but with the Knicks over the salary cap, it's going to be virtually impossible for their dream to become a reality.
Though the Knicks are prepared to pay the heavy luxury tax that would welcome them if they land CP3, the big problem is the new CBA. Teams like New York, who are over the luxury tax threshold, will struggle to take part in sign-and-trades.
Couple that with the Knicks' lack of movable pieces, and you have a major obstacle standing in their way.
Still, if Paul really does want to play in New York, theoretically it could happen, though it would require him to take a pay cut, and the Knicks to find a way to cut salary.
As it stands, New York is down for $73.5 million in salary next season, which is $3.2 million over the luxury tax threshold of $70.3 million. To receive a player in a sign-and-trade, the Knicks would have to be under the tax "apron" of $74.3 million after the trade.
What that means is that New York can take part in a sign-and-trade, but the difficult part is finding a way to give the Clippers a package they want and get Paul the money he wants.
As the Clippers' own free agent, Paul can sign for a maximum of five years, $107.5 million with them. With another team he can only sign for four years, and with the Knicks, he'd likely have to take a huge pay cut on top of that.
New York is the perfect city for making money with off-the-court endorsements, so in that sense Paul may not be missing out too much if he forgoes some of his potential salary.
For the purposes of this article, let's assume he'd be happy with $14 million per year if it means he can play with Melo in NYC.
If that's the case, New York would have to trade away roughly the same amount of salary to Los Angeles.
The two players New York would most like to trade are Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, but the Clippers already have a lot of money committed to their frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
With that said, swapping Chandler and Jordan as part of the deal may make sense. It helps the salaries work out and gives the Clippers an upgrade at center.
For the salaries to match—and the Clippers to receive a decent package—the deal would have to look something like this:
Los Angeles Receives...
- Tyson Chandler—$14.1 million
- Raymond Felton—$4.2 million
- Steve Novak—$3.8 million
- Iman Shumpert—$1.8 million
- New York's 2016 first-round pick
New York Receives...
- Chris Paul—$14 million
- DeAndre Jordan—$10 million
Though it's unlikely, this could make sense. The Clippers get an upgrade at center, a cheap replacement point guard and a talented young player in Iman Shumpert. Meanwhile, they also get one of the league's best shooters as a throw-in, as well as a draft pick.
Following the trade, New York would still just about be under the apron, so the trade would work out legally. The big issue is that CP3 would have to accept only $14 million in salary, and the Clippers would have to believe this trade is their best option.
That would require Paul to demand a trade from the Clippers and make it absolutely clear that he has no intention to sign with anyone other than the Knicks. Then, the Clippers would be forced to choose between this package or cap space, with Paul shutting down the possibility of a sign-and-trade elsewhere,
This would leave New York without the ability to use the mid-level exception and would have to fill out the rest of their roster with just $3 million. The tax "apron" would become a hard cap that they absolutely have to be under.
Under those rules, you can forget about re-signing J.R. Smith, and probably Chris Copeland and Kenyon Martin as well. The Knicks would have to find a way to get rid of Marcus Camby or Jason Kidd to even have a chance of giving their new big three a solid supporting cast.
Though CP3 is the target, this trade has the potential to make the Knicks worse. They would completely lose all flexibility if it goes down, destroying the roster they've spent three years building.
As Glen Grunwald recently said to the NY Daily News, this offseason is about continuity. The Knicks need to add a few rotation pieces, rather than focusing on blowing up the roster for a pipe dream. It's unfortunate, but the CBA just won't let them get this deal done and field a deep team afterwards.
Ultimately, the trade is unlikely, but it's not impossible if Paul is intent on coming to New York.
This summer is going to be the ultimate test of whether or not this is truly a player-driven league, and he has the power to help make this happen. As it stands, though, the odds are strongly in favour of the CBA in this battle.