Now that the Knicks season has come to an end, the talk about where they are headed has to begin.
The first thing that we have to look at is what the Salary Cap situation will be for them next season. As you can see, the Cap is basically tied up with the big money contracts of Melo, Amar'e and Chandler.
It was for this reason, among many others, that the Knicks allowed Jeremy Lin to go to Houston instead of matching the offer sheet he got and accepted.
One of the biggest questions this off-season will be about the status of J.R. Smith. He has a player option that we all know he wont accept because he can make more money in Free Agency.
The Knicks have J.R's Early Bird Rights and can offer him a four-year contract starting at around five million with "standard raises".
The Early Bird rights (According to Wikipedia) means "A team can re-sign its own free agent for either 175% of his salary the previous season, or the NBA's average salary, whichever is greater. Early Bird contracts must be for at least two seasons, but can last no longer than four seasons."
This of course is a good thing considering the Knicks cap situation. The problem is that teams like the Hawks, Suns and Mavericks for example, could sign him to a much bigger deal.
Smith had a great season this year but followed it up with a very poor post-season. It will be interesting to see how his contract situation works out.
The other players that could get themselves substantial raises this summer are Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland.
The Knicks could make both Copeland and Prigioni restricted free agents by giving them qualifying offers before June 30. The qualifying offer for next season would be for $988,872, which is a combination of the second-year veteran's amount of $788,872 along with a "non-Bird" exception of $200,000.
If they do not accept the offer, they remain RFA's and the Knicks can match any offer they are given. I would be surprised if both, especially Copeland, accepted them. They have both been said to love New York, but Money talks and some team could offer more than what the Knicks want to pay.
The Knicks do have the "taxpayer mid-level exception" of $3.18 million to spend on a free agent. I would think that if/when Copeland declines the qualifying offer, he could be inline to receive that. It would put him on par with what Novak is making and we all know he is the better and more versatile player.
Kenyon Martin and James White will be unrestricted free agents and could come back on veteran's minimum deals. Other than that and the 1st Round Pick the Knicks will bring in, any major changes for the team will come from trades.
One thing that would really work in the Knicks favor would be if Kidd and Camby walk away from the last two years of their deals and retire. That would save the Knicks seven million and give them the chance to use the full midlevel exception ($5.15 million) and the biannual exception ($2.02 million) this year.
The front office will have to do a lot to improve the team substantially from the group we saw this year. They did a good job last year and it will be interesting to see what they do this time around.
If you were the Knicks GM, how would you handle the Cap and the players that will be Free Agents?
(A hat tip to ESPN-NY's Jared Zwerling and Ian Begley for the Salary Cap information used in this article.)