Stop me if you've heard this before: J.R. Smith holds a player option for next season. The Knicks have made no secret of their desire to clear as much cap space as possible as we approach summer 2015, and getting Smith's contract off the books was a big step in that direction. Iman Shumpert, on the other hand, was a restricted free agent, so his contract would only have affected next year's cap had the team chosen to re-sign him. As such, it's clear that ridding the Knicks of J.R. Smith's contract was the main goal here for Phil Jackson.
With all that said, let's examine the Knicks' cap picture for next season now that Earl and Shump play for the Cavaliers.
Some notes on this:
- Almost all of this information comes from ShamSports, which is an awesome website that you should all check out. It hasn't been updated since late July, so I had to piece the roster together myself, but all of the info there is correct. I got a few other things from CBAFAQ, which is also an awesome site.
- At the beginning of free agency next summer, the Knicks will have either 6 or 7 people under contract, depending on what they do with Quincy Acy. Of course, they could re-sign Cole Aldrich, Larkin, and people like Langston Galloway or Thanasis Antetokounmpo (who may be joining the Knicks soon), but all we know as of now that they have 6 or 7 players under contract. During the free agency period, if a team has fewer than 12 people under contract, cap holds are placed on the books at the rookie minimum salary to bring the number of "players" to 12. I've included the necessary number of cap holds in my calculations.
- The Knicks will definitely renounce the Bird Rights to Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, and Jason Smith, so I didn't include any of them.
- Word is that the Knicks may keep Lance Thomas, but they're definitely waiving Lou Amundson and Alex Kirk. Regardless, Thomas is only under contract for this season, so he's not included.
- Quincy Acy has a Qualifying Offer, but if the Knicks decline to tender it, his cap hold will become $947,276. However, that would also make him an unrestricted FA, whereas if the team tenders the QO, he'll be a restricted FA and they'll have the ability to match any offer sheet he signs with another team.
- Speaking of Acy, I didn't include him when calculating the team's cap space, but if you'd like to, just decrease the amount of space by about $700,000, which is the difference between a cap hold for an empty slot and his QO.
- Pablo Prigioni's salary next season is only guaranteed for $290,000 at the moment. It would become guaranteed for $440,000 if the Knicks were to make the 2nd round of the playoff this year. What that means is that Pablo's salary will only be guaranteed for $290,000 next season.
- More on Pablo: I assumed the Knicks would hold onto him and allow his salary to become fully guaranteed in my cap room calculations. If you disagree (i.e. are a monster who hates Pablo), just add another $1 million in cap space for next summer. But again, don't do that unless you're a monster.
- Don't forget that while Samuel Dalembert is still owed about $1.9 million this season, he's not on the books at all for next year.
- In case you forgot: the Knicks declined to exercise Shane Larkin's third-year option. Therefore, he's not on the books for next season either.
- There's some confusion about whether Cleanthony Early's salary next year is guaranteed. I'm assuming it is for this exercise because I doubt he's going anywhere anyway.
- The Knicks technically have to pay J.R. Smith's trade kicker and owe Metta World Peace a bit of money due to waiving him using the stretch provision, but neither of those things will affect next year's cap so I left them out.
- It's a pretty easy assumption at this point that the Knicks will be getting a top draft pick. I may have tempted the basketball gods by including the salary for the 1st overall pick in 2015-16 and assigning it to Jahlil Okafor, but I wanted to leave the Knicks with the least cap space possible to be safe, so I had no choice. Forgive me, basketball gods.
Okay! So what we're seeing here is that the Knicks will probably have about $24.4 million in cap space next summer. If Marc Gasol is your cup of tea, the Knicks can only offer him $18.67 million in the first year of a max contract, so the Knicks could theoretically sign him and still have $6 million left over because the cap hold that Gasol will be taking the place of will slightly decrease the amount that the team's cap number goes up by.
If smaller contracts float your boat instead, there will be room for multiple medium-sized deals. And of course, there's always the possibility that the Knicks hold onto a good chunk of that space for future seasons, where the cap will probably rise exponentially as a result of the new TV deal. Whatever your preferred free agency plan, there's no denying that this trade opened up multiple possibilities for the Knicks, both next summer and in future years.