Great Free Agency News For Knicks!

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As ESPN reported today:

The New York Knicks and other teams hoarding salary-cap space got some good news Friday when they were told at the league’s Board of Governors meeting that the projected 2010-11 salary cap will be $56.1 million.

That figure was $2 million to $3 million more than most teams had been expecting, and for the Knicks it ensures they have enough cap space this summer to sign two maximum-salary free agents.

Just yesterday Chris Sheridan was reporting that people were expecting the salary cap to be between $52.5 and $54 million, and that anything less than that upper end would make it tough for us to sign two max free agents.  In other words, wipe away that sweat, we’re sitting pretty now.  A few other interesting things gleaned from his article:

1. When I remarked that Bill Walker was a free agent yesterday, I was wrong.  Apparently the Knicks have a team option on him for next year at the relatively low rate of $854,389.  For us working stiffs that may sound like a bunch of cash, but the minimum you can pay a player is $473,604.  And that’s only if they’re a rookie.  The more years you’ve been in the league, the higher your minimum is.  However, in the competitive race to get LeBron and others, we might’ve had to decline the option on Walker just to ensure we had as much salary cap space as possible.  Now with the salary cap up at $56.1, it should be pretty much a done deal that we keep a young stud like Walker at such a reasonable price.

2. If you look at the quote above, it doesn’t quite say that the salary cap will be $56.1 million, instead it says the “projected” salary cap will be $56.1 million.  So it ain’t set in stone just yet.  What remaining things could effect it?  Sheridan reveals this:

Another important note: Gate receipts help determine where the salary cap is set, so Knicks fans should be rooting for every single playoff series to go seven games, which would mean there would be ticket revenue from 105 postseason games added to the cap calculation equation. Conversely, if every series were to end in a four-game sweep, there would be only 60 games worth of gate receipts.

3. Sheridan also reveals a loophole that would enable the Knicks to offer a non-max player $2 million more money than we have cap space available.  Like say LeBron & Wade give us the finger, but Bosh agrees to come for the max.  That’d leave us with around (I believe) $18 million left to offer other free agents.  Rather than go all in on say Joe Johnson, both David Lee and Rudy Gay seem like they’d take less than the max, but they probably wouldn’t be that into taking $9 million a year.  The thing is we could sweeten that offer by giving them a $2 million bonus if the Knicks make the playoffs, which would pretty much be a sure thing.  Why don’t teams regularly do this to get around the cap?

In salary cap parlance, those are known as “unlikely” bonuses — unlikely because the Knicks did not make the playoffs this season. And it is to the Knicks’ benefit that two of the other likely heavy hitters in free agency, Chicago and Miami, cannot offer playoff bonuses because that money would be considered “likely” to be earned, and thus would count against those teams’ caps.

What’s unclear to me though is if things would change for the second year of the players’ contracts.  Meaning let’s say we take in that free agent haul above and make the playoffs next season.  For the summer of 2011 we’ll be losing Eddy Curry’s $11 million salary.  Can those bonuses change from “unlikely” to “likely” mid-contract?  If so, it’d add $4 million to our cap space in 2011, leaving us with only $7 million to spend on a free agent when Curry leaves.  Then again, if we could get all three of those guys and STILL have $7 million to play with next summer, I’m betting most of us Knicks fans would be pretty darn happy.

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Tags: Bill Walker Chris Bosh Chris Sheridan David Lee Eddy Curry Joe Johnson LeBron James Rudy Gay Salary Cap

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