Barely a week before the February 19th trade deadline, the Knicks are keeping a low profile. Even though the team sits just 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, Donnie Walsh almost certainly won’t be bringing in reinforcements for the stretch run. In fact, the biggest speculation is over whether he’ll trade his best player for a draft pick. By all accounts, Walsh’s primary goal is to clear cap space in 2010. This is an update on where that stands.
A few things have combined to squeeze the Knicks’ options. One is the strong play of David Lee and Nate Robinson, which has likely made their extensions more expensive. Another is the collapsing economy. More teams than ever are desperately looking to dump salary, which makes moving Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries more of a pipe dream than ever. And it gets worse. Looking down the road, the salary cap has risen by $2-3 million each of the past two years, but some forecasters now predict it will stay flat or shrink. The headline here is that if the Knicks extend both Lee and Robinson, they may not have enough cap room for even one max free agent, much less two. Good as he’s been, that’s an argument for trading Robinson. However, even at a $6.5 million contract, he’s probably tradeable next year, so it’s not a make-or-break decision.
You can also see why it’s likely that the Knicks will try to move Harringon, Q and even Duhon – if not now, then by the 2010 trade deadline. When their contracts end in 2010, they linger as “cap holds” until the Knicks re-sign them or formally renounce them. Duhon’s cap hold, the smallest of the three, would still take up $7.8 million of that cap space. On the other hand, as trade chips, each of those guys could be worth a (late) first-round pick, although those rookie contracts would take up a few million dollars of cap room.
So… here goes. Since the last overview, I’ve modified my cap forecast, and my guesstimate on the cost of extending Lee & Robinson. Keep in mind that the Knicks can offer Lee a 6-year, $60 million contract by starting the deal around $8.5 millon and including maximum annual raises. I’m now projecting that the cap will stay flat this year, and grow by $1 million each of the following years. All this math involves a lot of estimates and guesswork. It also assumes that we don’t sign any new players between now and 2010. No mid-levels! These rosters include 12 players; that assumes we would reach the 13-player minimum by signing a (star) free agent. To find more cap space, our options include renouncing Lee and/or Robinson, trading them for picks or shorter contracts, trading Curry or Jeffries for players with shorter contracts or trading away the 2009 draft pick.
2010-2011 (summer of 2010)
- Eddy Curry 11,276,863
- David Lee 9,000,000 (est)
- Jared Jeffries 6,883,800
- Nate Robinson 6,500,000 (est)
- Wilson Chandler 2,130,482
- Danilo Gallinari 3,304,560
- 2009 1st rounder 1,845,400 (at current #11)
- 5 roster fillers 2,368,020 (absolute minimum – 5 rookie FAs, paid the minimum)
2011-2012 (summer of 2011)
- David Lee 9,500,000 (est)
- Nate Robinson 6,500,000 (est)
- Wilson Chandler 6,500,000 (est)
- Danilo Gallinari 4,190,182
- 2009 1st rounder 1,974,200 (est #11)
- 2011 1st rounder 1,100,000 (est # 20)
- 6 roster-fillers 2,841,624 (6 rookie FAs – absolute minimum)
projected cap 60,000,000
*all numbers from ShamSports