If the last NBA offseason was dubbed “The Summer of Lebron”, then without a doubt, the first half of this year has offered us the slightly watered down, made for the Internet “Melo-Drama”. I don’t know one person who doesn’t want this story to end. It’s made a joke of the seasons of at least 3 teams (Denver, New Jersey, and New York), and it’s painful to watch Melo bend to the requests of his wife Lala – who seemingly wants to revive TRL.
That being said, the rumors are back in full swing. ESPN yesterday reported on the next 3 team tradewinds du jour involving the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, and Minnesota Timberwolves (one sucker is required to make these deals work – hello, Chris Kahn). As part of the deal, the Knicks would give up the large, expiring contract of the human garbage disposal, Eddy Curry, as well as promising talent Wilson Chandler (as well as probably a couple of high draft picks). So, that got us thinking – what if this trade went through? What does the 2012 Knicks team look like? What do the salary cap restrictions look like? Is this a team that could compete in the East over the next five years?
Below is a view of what the Knicks roster would look like next year with the addition of Melo and subtraction of Curry and Chandler:
New York Knicks Players Under Contract in 2011-12 and Beyond
|Player||2011-12 Salary||2012-13 Salary||Years left on contract (after 2011)||Total Guaranteed Salary owed|
|Patrick Ewing Jr.||$0||$0||0|
* team option ** player option *** non-guaranteed
This assumes Melo signs the much discussed 3 year “extend and trade”. Under the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement, Melo would then be eligible to receive a maximum of 8% raises for each subsequent year of his contract. So, if Melo opted into the last year of his contract in 2011-12, he would make $20.0M in 2012-13, $21.6 in 2013-14, and a hefty $23.3M in 2014-15. If instead he were to try and sign as a Knick at the end of this season as an opted out free agent, he would only be eligible to start at $15.5M under the current CBA. (which is why a trade appears imminent)
Next year then, 2011-12, the Melo-led Knicks would have $59M in committed contracts (assuming Turiaf and Rautins choose to exercise their player options). Given that the 2010-11 salary cap was $58.0M and does not look like it will rise, it is safe to say that barring another trade to dump salary, next year’s Knicks will be limited to signing a mid-level exception player. This will leave a lineup that features a Big 3 of Melo, Amare, and Felton, with a few decent role players (Gallinari, Walker, Fields). With the Celtics aging and the not-quite-there-yet Bulls still up and coming, this seems to leave an opening for the Knicks to jump up to a no. 2 or no.3 seed in 2011-12.
So how do things look past next year? The Knicks would have placed 2 big bets on Melo and Amare over the next 4 years as their franchise cornerstones, tying up over $145M in contract value. With the genius that is Donnie Walsh, the Knicks would enter the 2012-13 season with only 5 players under contract (assuming the Knicks would want to exercise the Gallinari option at a reasonable $5.5M). Let’s assume the salary cap in that year is $60-63M. This would give the Knicks $11-13M of salary cap space to play with. The choice here would be to resign Raymond Felton, or sign the 3rd all-star that has always seemed to characterize championship teams. That will a tall task, and it remains to be seen if it’s enough to land the player that would complete the Knicks’ master plans, Chris Paul. Another option would be to try and trade Felton and Turiaf’s expiring contracts in 2011-12 for a player of Paul’s caliber.
Which brings us to the real key question we should be asking: even if the Knicks can execute on their plan, bring in Melo, and upgrade the Felton position – will they be in a position to compete with the Heat? (which of course, if really the only goal for any die-hard Madison Square garden ticket holder).
Unfortunately, from this writer’s perspective, the answer is a seemingly no. Couple of reasons why: (1) Melo + Amare +
The Knicks with Carmelo seemed destined to fall into the trap many NBA teams with talent fall into: not being quite good enough, and being too saddled with expensive contracts to get much better. .(for more on this, please see: Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks).