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N.Y. Knicks: Guide to the Knicks' Offseason, Cap Space & 2013 NBA Draft Pick

Kristian WinfieldCorrespondent IIIJune 27, 2013

N.Y. Knicks: Guide to the Knicks' Offseason, Cap Space & 2013 NBA Draft Pick

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    The N.Y. Knicks were eliminated by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season, and for fans reading this story, the next two points will make your skin crawl:

    • New York has nearly $50 million tied up into three players—Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler
    • Teams in the East are getting better while the Knicks' current cap inflexibility has their roster on virtual standby

    I'm here to tell you that there are solutions to the Knicks' problems and (almost) all of them can be addressed through tactful free agency signings and their one pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

    But before we get to the fun stuff, there's some number crunching, defining terms and a whole bunch of information you'll need to learn about the Collective Bargaining Agreement so that you can understand why some teams can spend more, while the Knicks spend less.

    I've tried my hardest to make it as simple as possible for you.

Understanding the Knicks' Payroll

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    Multiple reports show the 2013-14 NBA Salary Cap has been set at $58.5 million, a slight rise but much lower than many anticipated. With only eight players on the roster heading into next season, the N.Y. Knicks' payroll already totals out to $70,381,805. Here's the breakdown:

    Pos.

    Player Contract PPG RPG APG

    PF

    Amare Stoudemire $21,679,893 14.2 5.0 0.72 (BPG)
    SF Carmelo Anthony $21,490,000 28.7* 6.9 2.6
    C Tyson Chandler $14,100,538 10.4 10.7 1.14 (BPG)
    PG Raymond Felton $4,180000 13.9 1.38 (SPG) 5.5
    C Marcus Camby $3,383,773 1.8 3.3 0.58 (BPG)
    SF Steve Novak $3,750,001 6.6 1.9 0.4
    SG Iman Shumpert $1,797,600 6.8 3.0 0.96 (SPG)
    PG Pablo Prigioni** $988,872 3.5 1.8 3.0

     

    The N.Y. Knicks also have a $997,300 cap hold for the 24th overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, which we will get into later. Therefore, the Knicks are currently on the books for $71,379,105.

    Here comes the confusing part:

    New York may very well reach $20 million over the NBA salary cap, and according to the new CBA, the luxury tax system will enforce a $3.75 penalty for every dollar over the cap the team spends.

    As Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap FAQ points out, once the Knicks reach $78.5 million on their payroll, or $20 million over the set $58.5 million NBA salary cap, their $20 million spent over the cap becomes $75 million ($20 million x 3.75 luxury tax). $58.5 million + $75 million  = $133.5 million. 

    Not so hard, right?

    To win championships, you have to spend money, but Knicks owner James Dolan has doled out the money to players who haven't lived up to their big contracts.

     

    Carmelo Anthony led the NBA with 28.7 points per game in the 2012-13 NBA Season
    ** The N.Y. Knicks extended Pablo Prigioni a $989,000 qualifying offer on Wednesday, making him a restricted free agent this off-season.
    *** Salary figures provided via HoopsHype.com 

Understanding Salary Cap Exceptions

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    NBA teams are allowed to exceed the $58.5 million salary cap for a variety of reasons, including going over the cap to keep their own players. These reasons are referred to in the CBA as "exceptions." Here's a look at a few of the different exceptions:

    LARRY BIRD EXCEPTION: Named after a Celtic legend, "This exception allows teams to exceed the cap in order to re-sign their own free agents, up to the player's maximum salary. Teams are said to have "Bird rights" to players who qualify. To qualify for this exception a player essentially must play for three seasons without clearing waivers or changing teams as a free agent..." (via Larry Coon's CBA FAQ)

    No player currently on the Knicks' roster qualifies for the Larry Bird Exception.

    EARLY BIRD EXCEPTIONThis is a lesser form of the Larry Bird Exception that allows teams to re-sign their own free agents. In order for a player to qualify for the Early Bird Exception, he must have played for two seasons without clearing waivers or changing teams. The team may re-sign the free agent for up to 175 percent of his salary in the previous season.

    J.R. Smith qualifies for this exception. The Knicks can offer him 175 percent of his $2,806,452 2012-13 contract, which equals out to a starting salary of $4,911,291 and increases over each season.

    NON-TAXPAYER MID-LEVEL EXCEPTIONA team below the "apron," or either below the salary cap or less than $4 million over the salary cap, may offer any free agent a contract of up to $5.150 million in the 2013-14 season. The team can also break the exception up to sign several free agents, so long as the contracts total up to $5.150 million.

    The Knicks, with a payroll upwards of $73 million, do not qualify for this exception.

    TAXPAYER (MINI) MID-LEVEL EXCEPTIONTeams that are above the apron, or $4 million or more above the salary cap, may sign a free agent for up to $3.183 million in 2013-14. Like the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, this can be broken up to sign multiple free agents, so long as the contracts add up to $3.183 million.

    The N.Y. Knicks can use this exception to retain the rights to SF Chris Copeland.

    And last but not least:

    MINIMUM PLAYER SALARY EXCEPTION: This exception allows teams to sign players at minimum contracts no matter how far over the cap they are.

    The Knicks will need to make full use of this exception. After using the Mini Mid-Level Exception and the Early Bird Exception, they will only have nine players on the payroll.

    There are nuances, stipulations and even more exceptions to each exception. For a more in-depth look at the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, check out Larry Coon's CBA FAQ.

First Thing's First: Re-Sign J.R. Smith

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    At just under $5 million, there's not a single free agent or group of free agents that the N.Y. Knicks can sign that would come remotely close to matching the level of production that J.R. Smith provides off the bench:

    Pos Player  MIN PPG RPG APG SPG PER
    SG J.R. Smith 33.5 18.1 5.3 2.7 1.25 17.7

    This one's a no-brainer—re-sign the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, ASAP. You can argue he takes awful shots; you can argue he sometimes looks lost on defense; you can even argue that he's immature and cares more about the social scene than he does his basketball game.

    What you can't argue, however, is that there is no better value at $5 million in the world (and I mean the whole, entire world) than J.R. Smith. He's easily the Knicks' second best scorer and, like it or not, he's come up big time and time again in late-game situations for NYK.

    Without Smith, the Knicks have absolutely no chance of getting out of the second round of the Eastern Conference, where many of the potential playoff teams (minus Boston) are getting better.

    • The Indiana Pacers are getting Danny Granger back next season.
    • The Chicago Bulls (hopefully) will see Derrick Rose next season.
    • The Brooklyn Nets hired Jason Kidd as head coach and showed promise in their first season as a team.

    The Knicks must retain their sixth man and more if they plan on advancing to the Conference Finals next season.

Convince Chris Copeland to Stay

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    Chris Copeland averaged 8.7 points in 15.4 minutes per game throughout the 2012-13 season. Now let's see if second-level high school math did us any justice.

    48 minutes / 15.4 minutes = 3.12
    8.7 points per game x 3.12 = 27.14 points per 48 minutes

    That puts him at number 9, ahead of Jamal Crawford, in scoring per 48 minutes.

    Odds are there are going to be many teams across the league looking to sign Cope to a deal bigger than the $3.183 million Taxpayer's Mid-Level Exception that the Knicks can offer, but if Woody can sell him on being part of the big picture—possibly (and I truly mean POSSIBLY) an NBA Finals appearance—it would all be worth taking a smaller payday for.

2013 NBA Draft: The N.Y. Knicks Must Draft Smart with the 24th Overall Pick

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    "With the 24th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select...," will be the words Commissioner David Stern will utter in the final draft of his illustrious career.

    Let's make it one to remember.

    With most of the talent likely off the board by pick 24, the New York Knicks must be smart and find a player that will be able to contribute immediately to the rotation. Even though they have a late pick, there are still a few prospects who can contribute right away:

    • Gorgui Dieng (C, Louisville) [6-11, 245 lbs]: After Tyson Chandler, the Knicks have virtually no one to patrol the paint and anchor the defense. Dieng averaged 9.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game in his second season for the Cardinals. NBADraft.net (NBD) has him going 20th to the Chicago Bulls, and DraftExpress (DX) has him going 25th to the Clippers, but one thing is for sure: the Knicks desperately need to get better on the defensive end, and Gorgui Dieng is a great way to start.
    • Isaiah Canaan (PG, Murray State) [6-1, 195 lbs]: Unless you consider Pablo Prigioni the ideal back-up to Raymond Felton, a second-tier PG in his own right, going with the scorer, Isaiah Canaan at No. 24 isn't a bad idea either. Canaan was sixth in the NCAA in scoring with 21.8 points per game for the Murray State Racers. His deadly perimeter game fits right into what Woody wants to do—pour in threes—and the Knicks could definitely use an extra, cheaper scoring punch from the bench. NBD has him going 34th to the Rockets, who don't need another PG on the roster between Lin, Beverley and yes, Toney Douglas, while DX has the Knicks selecting Canaan at 24.
    • Tony Snell (G/F, New Mexico) [6-7, 198 lbs]: For a team that prides itself on perimeter scoring, the Knicks lack pure shooters outside of Steve Novak. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, as elite of shooters as they are, are shooter-scorers. Raymond Felton is the same, and while Shump has come a long way with his perimeter offense (we've seen the three-point rating boost to an 85 in NBA 2K13), he's still not a shooter in his own right. Even though he only averaged 12.5 points per game with the Lobos, Snell is someone who can come right in as a perimeter three point specialist and light teams up with his beautiful, picture-perfect jumper. He isn't the best defender, and he'll probably get bullied at 198 pounds, but if they don't go with Gorgui Dieng, the Knicks obviously aren't looking to improve their defense through the draft.
    • The Knicks may also want to consider Allen Crabbe (SG, Cal), Ricardo Ledo (G, Providence) or Jeff Withey (C, Kansas) with the No. 24 overall pick.

Sign Some Minimum Salary Shooters

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    So far, the Knicks' payroll looks like this:

    pos.

    Player Contract PPG RPG APG

    PF

    Amar'e Stoudemire $21,679,893 14.2 5.0 0.72 (BPG)
    SF Carmelo Anthony $21,490,000 28.7* 6.9 2.6
    C Tyson Chandler $14,100,538 10.4 10.7 1.14 (BPG)
    SG J.R. Smith $4,911,291 18.1 5.3 2.7
    PG Raymond Felton $4,180,000 13.9 1.38 (SPG) 5.5
    C Marcus Camby $3,383,773 1.8 3.3 0.58 (BPG)
    SF Steve Novak $3,750,001 6.6 1.9 0.4
    SF Chris Copeland $3,183,000 8.7 2.1 0.5
    SG Iman Shumpert $1,797,600 6.8 3.0 0.96 (SPG)
    PG Pablo Prigioni** $988,872 3.5 1.8 3.0
    n/a Dieng/Snell/Canaan $997,300 n/a  n/a  n/a 

    Total Players: 11      Payroll: $85,612,266

    At this point, the Knicks cannot save themselves from the $0.50 luxury tax kicker. This kicker increases $0.50 for every $5 million spent over $20 million. For example, a team that spends $27 million over the $58.5 million salary cap ($85.5 million) would end up spending $164.25 million after the luxury tax ($58.5 million + $75 million ($20 million x 3.75 luxury tax) + $21.25 million ($5 million x 4.25 luxury tax) + $9.5 million ($2 million x 4.75 luxury tax)). It's confusing, I know, but it's one of those things you just have to get an understanding of to really crunch the numbers.

    Here's how it would look in the case of the Knicks:

    $58.5 million + $75 million ($20 million x 3.75 luxury tax) + $21.25 million ($5 million more than $20 million x 4.25) + $10,033,263.5 ($2.12 million more than $25 million x 4.75 luxury tax) = just about $164.8 million and the roster isn't even filled out.

    So frugality is paramount and, well, it's forced upon them. But one man's trash is another man's treasure, and there are a few free agents New York can sign for the minimum this season that can help in key areas:

    • Antawn Jamison (F, Previous Team: L.A. Lakers) [Previous Salary: $854,389]: Call him washed up, but Antawn Jamison is a proven veteran who has demonstrated the ability to shoot, score and make high IQ decisions and plays throughout his career. He would be a great mentor to Shump, J.R. Smith and the 24th overall pick. Jamison averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per game with the Lakers last season. The Knicks can offer him the 2013-14 10-plus-year veteran's minimum of $1,339,507.
    • DeJuan Blair (F/C, Previous Team: San Antonio Spurs) [Previous Salary: $1,054,000]: Here's a guy who Pop benched for reasons unknown after steady development throughout the first three years of his career. Blair brings energy and intensity to every play, and could have a Reggie Evans-esque effect off the bench for the Knicks. He has some growing up to do, but Woody did a decent job with J.R. Smith, and I'm sure he's up to the challenge of one more kid to raise. Blair averaged 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in very limited play time throughout last season with the Spurs. The Knicks can sign him for $947,907.
    • Tracy McGrady (SF, Previous Team: San Antonio Spurs) [Previous Contract: $10,052]: I'm not the only one who thinks one last go for T-Mac in a Knicks jersey is the only way for him to go out, am I? He had less playing time than DeJuan Blair this season, but in his few and far between minutes, he showed just a little pep in his step. He had a few dimes in the playoffs and made a couple of nice passes that teammates just didn't convert into points. I think he's got something left in the tank, or else he wouldn't have even wanted to play basketball again. New York can sign him for $1,339,507, and I suggest they explore him as an option.
    • DeShawn Stevenson (G, Previous Team: Atlanta Hawks) [Previous Contract: $2,240,450]: According to Hoopsworld, DeShawn Stevenson has a non-guaranteed contract through next season. I don't know what that means, but if he is truly a free agent as they have listed him, he could make an impact for the Knicks on both ends of the floor. Stevenson is known to be a staunch defender and a (sometimes) pretty consistent three-point shooter. He fits the mold of what the Knicks want to implement in their game plan. While he might not be the best influence around J.R. Smith, his game on the court is one that I've always been a fan of. Stevenson averaged 5.1 points with the Hawks last season, and the Knicks can also sign him to the 10-plus-year veteran's minimum of $1,339,507.

    Other Long-Shot Possibilities:

    • Andrew Goudelock (G, Lakers)
    • Elliot Williams (G, Blazers)
    • Anthony Morrow (G, Mavericks)

In the End... It Doesn't Even Matter

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    At the end of the day, nothing the Knicks do this off-season will be substantial enough to make them a better team on paper. At pick No. 24, unless Ben McLemore miraculously plummets all the way down to the the Knicks, no rookie can come in and make a real impact on the game. No free agents looking to sign for the league minimum can help that much either, and bringing back the same players from last season will only land them as far as they got last season.

    The 2013-14 N.Y. Knicks roster has a chance to look like this, at best:

    pos.

    Player Contract PPG RPG APG

    PF

    Amar'e Stoudemire $21,679,893 14.2 5.0 0.72 (BPG)
    SF Carmelo Anthony $21,490,000 28.7* 6.9 2.6
    C Tyson Chandler $14,100,538 10.4 10.7 1.14 (BPG)
    SG J.R. Smith $4,911,291 18.1 5.3 2.7
    PG Raymond Felton $4,180000 13.9 1.38 (SPG) 5.5
    C Marcus Camby $3,383,773 1.8 3.3 0.58 (BPG)
    SF Steve Novak $3,750,001 6.6 1.9 0.4
    SF Chris Copeland $3,183,000 8.7 2.1 0.5
    SG Iman Shumpert $1,797,600 6.8 3.0 0.96 (SPG)
    F Antawn Jamison $1,339,507 9.4  4.8  0.7  
    SG DeShawn Stevenson $1,339,507 5.1 2.2 0.9
    PG Pablo Prigioni** $988,872 3.5 1.8 3.0
    n/a Dieng/Snell/Canaan $997,300 n/a  n/a  n/a 
    C DeJuan Blair $947,907 5.4 3.8 0.2 (BPG)

    Comment with the correct N.Y. Knicks estimated payroll according to contracts listed above and you get a follow and a shout-out on Twitter. Challenge expires June 27 at midnight.

    I'm not going to sell you any false dreams or scenarios where the New York Knicks land Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, keep Carmelo and J.R. Smith and land the Bobcats first round picks for the next five years.

    I'm here to educate, and today, you learned why the Knicks don't have money to make the crazy acquisitions that we want them to make.

    All we can hope they do at this point is grow as a team, develop chemistry and, most importantly, that Amar'e Stoudemire comes back and plays like the guy who did this.

    Follow me on Twitter.

    Who do you think the Knicks should draft or sign?

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