UPDATE (2/23 5:00 PM EST): Multiple reports have confirmed that the Nets have traded for Deron Williams, sending Devin Harris & Derrick Favors and other considerations to the Utah Jazz. That makes the Knicks’ plans to acquire a point guard in the future slightly difficult, as you can see why when you read.
So, after a three-month game of chicken, the Knicks stopped three feet short of the cliff (read: three days before the NBA’s Thursday trade deadline) and pulled the trigger to bring Carmelo Anthony to New York. The trade is as follows:
Denver trades Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman to the Knicks for Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a first-round draft pick (2014 or later) and cash. Knicks also send Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry to Minnesota for Corey Brewer. Minnesota also acquired a future second-round draft selection from Denver and Denver acquired Kosta Koufos from Minnesota.
While most New Yorkers are giddy with delight that the Knicks now have two top-15 players, I am slightly guarded, to say the least.
In fact, I think they gave up too much for ‘Melo.
(And this is coming from someone who a) has been a Knick fan since 1992 and b) is forever grateful to Carmelo for bringing my school, Syracuse, its only national championship in 111 seasons.)
And this is because, simply put, I don’t believe this team, as currently constructed, can win the NBA title. Ever.
Since the trade was first reported, I’ve read a lot of fan comments about this trade that are similar to, “At least the team will be more exciting and can make a deep playoff run!”
Well, I spent nearly a decade watching the Knicks “make a deep playoff run!” That includes two Finals appearances, four Conference Finals appearances and reaching the second round every year from 1992 through 2000. It’s time to start thinking about championships.
(Side note: Do you think the Yankees would be 27-time World Series champions by just thinking about making “a deep playoff run?”)
Now, to be fair, at the outset of the season, I saw New York as a 42-win team, good enough for a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, which I could accept after nine straight losing seasons and, more importantly, the assurance that the front office would build the team into a legitimate championship contender in a year or two.
And, unfortunately, this looks to be easier said than done. A LOT easier said.
If and when this trade becomes official, here are the salaries for the players under contract through their entireties (this includes Carmelo signing the three-year, $65 million extension he so coveted). (click here to view)
As of right now, the Knicks are $9.3 million over the current salary cap of $58.044 million. After this season, they’ll have $60 million in salary with 10 players, plus whoever they draft in 2011 (teams can go over the cap to sign their drafted players, which have slotted salaries). If we agree that the team as currently assembled will not win a title, then the key here is not the summer of 2011, but the summer of 2012, when guys like Chris Paul and Deron Williams are free agents. Acquiring either point guard, two of the three best in the Association, would give the Knicks a formidable 1-2-3 combination that would challenge any other team.
However, looking at the first chart, after the 2012 season, the Knicks have about $42 million committed to only four players (plus $2 million for their 2011 draft picks). At a projected salary cap of $61 million, (on average, the cap has increased 3% since 2005-06)
The Knicks would have about $18 million in cap space. Listed above are Paul’s & Williams’ salaries through 2012 (they both make the same amount), along with projected salaries if they get a max contract. (Under the current collective bargaining agreement, a player with their tenure can receive up to 30% of the cap, or $11 million, whichever is greater). The cap space should be enough to sign either Williams or Paul… except for two issues.
First, after signing another max player, the Knicks would be just at the salary cap ceiling with eight players under contract at most. Count them. Amar’e, Melo, Renaldo Balkman, Toney Douglas, Paul/Williams, the two rookies they drafted in 2011 and maybe a third in 2012 (the Knicks only have a second-round pick 2012). I know Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni likes an eight-man rotation, but that’s with having more than eight guys (out of a possible 15) on the roster. They possibly could sign two more players with a mid-level exception and a veteran’s exception, but that’s it.
Second – and more importantly – the current CBA expires after this season. The owners are said to have asked for a 30% rollback in salaries or they will lock the players out. Let’s assume that they meet in the middle and agree to a 15% rollback. The salary chart would then look like this: (click here to view)
Unless either Paul or Williams takes a 50% pay cut, neither will be coming to New York.
And if the owners get their way (which they really might, because the players always cave), then it looks even worse with a 30% rollback: (click here to view)
The Knicks couldn’t even beg either point guard to take a pay cut, because they would be over the cap by close to $1 million. And in all three CBA scenarios, the Knicks would have, at most, ten players under contract. And under a new CBA, those two salary cap exceptions may not even exist.
I am sure one of you intelligent people looking at these charts said, “But hey, Chauncey Billups is an expiring contract at $14 million after 2012! Surely the Knicks could do something with that!”
They could do something… but it probably won’t help them get CP or Williams. For New Orleans or Utah to trade their respective star point guard to the Knicks, they would want a package of young players and picks in return, something the Knicks will have very few of when the summer of 2012 rolls around
Now, of course, there are a lot of factors than can tilt in the Knicks’ favor. They could hit the jackpot on one of their draft picks; a guy we don’t look at as a star now could become one in 2012 and cost less money (hello, Kelenna Azibuke?); a CBA may provide a loophole the Knicks could exploit, and so on. At the same time, a lot of factors could tilt away from the Knicks, excluding all the scenarios previously mentioned earlier, but including the one question everyone many have failed to ask:
What have we seen that tells you that Carmelo and Amar’e even co-exist?
I’m not saying they cannot…but no one can definitely say they can.
This is going to be interesting.