The State of the Knicks Salary Cap Entering the 2015 Free Agent Season

The NBA free agency period begins at midnight tonight, so I figured I’d let everyone know where the Knicks’ cap room stands heading into free agency.

Teams are technically not allowed to sign deals until July 8th, but can negotiate and basically agree to deals starting July 1st (teams are allowed to agree in principle with their own free agents before then, like the Phoenix Suns agreeing in principle on a 5 year/$70 million deal). The reason for this moratorium is because the league isn’t actually sure about the salary cap figures until July 8th, as they perform an audit during the week (why they can’t do the audit before then is beyond me). Teams can sign their own draft picks in the moratorium period, plus players can be signed to minimum contracts (plus players can accept qualifying offers). These deals rarely take place during the moratorium, but they are possible. In any event, this is a long way of telling you all that we don’t actually know for absolute certainty what the cap will be. We will know for sure on July 8th. That said, the league gives the teams an idea of what they think the cap will be, and it tends to be pretty darn accurate, so let’s go with the figure that the league told teams back in April – $67.4 million.

The maximum initial salary that a free agent can sign for is based on how many years of service they have in the league, 1-6 years, 7-9 years and 10 years plus. They are 25% of the cap, 30% of the cap and 35% of the cap, respectively. Oddly enough, though, the league uses different math to figure out these percentages, so they tend to be less than actual percentages of the cap.

Players with 1-6 years experience can sign an initial contract of $15.76 million
Players with 7-9 years experience can sign an initial contract of $18.91 million
Players with 10 years plus experience can sign an initial contract of $22.06 million.

Okay, with that out of the way, where do the Knicks currently stand?

The Knicks currently have only three players already under contract for 2015-16: Carmelo Anthony, Cleanthony Early and Jose Calderon.

Anthony – $22,875,000
Early – $845,059
Calderon – $7,402,812

However, they also own a very cheap team option for Langston Galloway of $845,059. Let’s assume that they are going to use that option (it is a pretty safe assumption).

The Knicks also have qualifying options for the following three players:

Alexey Shved $3,998,408
Quincy Acy $1,181,348
Travis Wear $1,045,059

While all three of these players theoretically might return to the Knicks next season, I would imagine that none of the three will actually receive qualifying offers, so let’s ignore them (EDITED TO ADD: The Knicks have officially declined their qualifying offer to Acy).

The Knicks will have cap holds on their cap for their other free agents, like Andrea Bargnani, but let’s assume that they are going to renounce all of those cap holds.

In addition, the Knicks have cap holds for their two first round picks, Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant. The Knicks are allowed to sign Porzingis and Grant for 80% of these figures or 120% of them (most teams give their rookies closer to 120%), but either way, the cap holds will apply (this is to keep teams from signing free agents and then signing their own draft picks).

Here are the cap holds for their two picks:
Kristaps Porzingis $3,443,100.
Jerian Grant $1,310,300 (Oddly enough, Grant will make more money this year than Tim Hardaway was due in his third year in the league, so the Knicks actually added salary with the Grant/Hardaway deal)

Okay, so the three under contract players, the almost certain to be picked up Galloway option and the two rookies. That gives the Knicks six players, and a total of: $36,721,330

However, you also need to take into account the fact that the Knicks have to have cap holds for their remaining six roster spots (each team has to have a minimum of twelve roster spots. The Knicks can, and will, add three players later on to get to fifteen spots, but that’s not going to matter for this exercise, so ignore that). Each cap hold is the minimum, so $525,093 per slot. For every free agent you sign, however, you fill in one of those slots. So for the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume Phil Jackson signs three free agents, so we’ll only have to account for three minimum slots. So it is $525,093 times three, or $1,575,279.

So $36,721,330 plus $1,575,279 equals $38,296,609.

$38,296,609 from $67,400,000 gives the Knicks $29,103,391 to spend on three free agents.

If the Knicks sign less than three free agents with their cap room or more than three free agents with their cap room, here is what they will have in cap room:

$28,578,298 to spend on two free agents.

$29,628,484 to spend on four free agents

$30,153,577 to spend on five free agents

$30,678,670 to spend on six free agents

The $28,578,298 and the $29,103,391 figures are probably the most important ones. This is because the Knicks also have access to what is called the room exception. This is an exception given to teams who use up almost all or all of their cap room (but are not over the cap). It allows them to go over the cap, but only for $2,732,000 for one player (I believe that’s half the current mid-level). So the Knicks can spend the full $28,578,298 on two players and then use the room exception to sign a third player. Or $29,103,391 on three players and then use the room exception to sign a fourth player. Some decent players have signed for the room exception the last few years, including Vince Carter with Dallas in 2013 and Josh McRoberts with Charlotte that same year. The last time the Knicks had access to their room exception was in 2011-12 (after they went under the cap to sign Tyson Chandler). They used it in on JR Smith that year.

I used to note the figures in case the Knicks were to use the stretch provision on Jose Calderon, but that now does not appear to be even a consideration. If it were, they would open up $3,855,590 in cap room (but then have to pay Calderon $3,000,000 a year for five years).

$28,578,298 is not enough to sign two max players, but it is still a decent chunk of money. It’ll be fascinating to see how the Knicks spend it!

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