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The Knicks not using the bi-annual exception shows more subtle financial sense

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Another shrewd move from Scott Perry and Steve Mills to prep for 2019 free agency.

One of the best and worst feelings in life, to me, is the feeling of having some money burning a hole in my pocket.

Maybe it’s a tax return, or some money from the relatives that keep sending me birthday cash (even as I get closer and closer to 30 years old). But having an extra $100 that I wouldn’t really have otherwise just creates this undeniable urge to spend it on something stupid.

Usually, for me, a man of many vices, it’s a new pair of shoes, or a video game or two, or some electronic device that I don’t actually need but just kind of want. I buy it, I use it for a while, but ultimately, it’s not usually something fulfilling or something I’ll care about in a couple years’ time.

A smart person might throw that money in the bank, and preferably use it in a situation where it could benefit him or her down the line. I should probably try that sometime, too (maybe once I’m past 30).

Thankfully, the Knicks’ braintrust of General Manager Scott Perry and President of Basketball Operations Steve Mills (referred to from here on out singularly as “Pills” — thanks P&T comment section!) are nothing like me, and are more patient with their extra money.

What I’m specifically getting at is that Pills has not used the bi-annual exception (BAE) to this point in the offseason, and with the roster almost at capacity after a mostly-tame first month of free agency, it seems like the Knicks will just sit on that exception and not use it this year.

Unlike the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (used to sign Mario Hezonja and Mitchell Robinson), the BAE does not expire, so to speak. Here’s a basic rundown of what the BAE is, with some help from every amateur capologist’s favorite resource, CBAFAQ:

  • The BAE allows a team to go over the salary cap (but not the luxury tax apron) to sign a player to a contract up to two years in length
  • This year, the exception is worth $3.382 million, and will be worth incrementally more or less depending on the salary cap any given year
  • Most importantly, a team cannot use the BAE two years in a row (the bi-annual part of the equation)

So what does this all mean? Well, basically, if Pills and the Knicks become big free agency players next year, the BAE would give them just a little bit of extra financial wiggle room after the big dominos fall. And make no mistake, they plan on being players in free agency next season.

“We’re not going to be players this year (2018-19),’’ Mills said on ESPN Radio in June. “If we sign guys, it will be for one year. We feel it’ll put us in a position where stars are going to come to us (in 2019).

“KP is a magnet. We know he’ll make this attractive to players.”

Without getting too much into salary cap mumbo-jumbo, the Knicks could create as many as two max salary spots going into next season if they’re able to trade Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee and stretch Joakim Noah’s contract (along with waiting to re-sign Kristaps Porzingis in the 2019 offseason, rather than extending him prior to this season). But even just moving Lee and stretching Noah would create one max spot.

So, by saving the BAE, the Knicks have given themselves the possibility of having two exceptions next offseason — the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (again, the roughly $8.5-million chunk of change that the team used to sign Hezonja and Robinson this summer, which is available annually to teams over the salary cap but under the luxury tax threshold), and the BAE, potentially giving the team another $12 million to use over the salary cap to sign supplementary players to put around Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox and [Max contract star(s) TBD].

Puff pieces have come out left and right commending the Knicks for making smart moves under Pills, and I’m not here to buck that trend. It might seem like a small thing, but preserving the BAE is just another in a growing string of smart, stingy moves by what used to be a frivolous, spendy franchise.