As a result of the new CBA and Tyson Chandler signing with the Knicks in December of 2011, proverbial wisdom suggested Chris Paul’s infamous toast at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding was just another Knick pipedream. In an effort to curb super-teams, the new CBA forbids sign & trade transactions for teams whose total team salaries are higher than $74,000,000. This number, known as the luxury tax apron is crucial in determining a franchise’s flexibility and its ability to change its roster.
According to ShamSports.com, this year’s New York Knicks have salary commitments of $79,289,785 which obviously puts them well over the apron. However, the same cannot be said about next year’s team when looking at certain salary cap commitments. According to cap Guru Larry Coon’s CBAFAQ.com, team salary is calculated differently for determining a team’s ability to use its exceptions and make sign & trade transactions. In these calculations, cap holds for draft picks and free agents are excluded. Based upon my interpretation of the FAQ, so are cap holds for open roster spots. As a result, the toast lives on.
Using Sham Sports’ numbers once again, the Knicks next year have $73,831,215 million committed to the following eight players: Anthony, Camby, Chandler, Felton, Kidd, Novak, Shumpert and Stoudemire. Copeland and Prigioni are both fully unguaranteed and James White has a team option that needs to be determined before June 30th. If it’s not picked up, he is a free agent. Additionally, JR Smith has a player option for 2.9 million for next season. Now if Smith picks up that option, this dream is dead unless the Knicks find a way to trade one of their players for no money coming back so that they remain below $74 million.
Smith however is unlikely to pick up his player option for a variety of reasons. While it’s debatable if his play has improved, what isn’t debatable is how little he made last year and this year compared to what he was making in Denver. Additionally, this projects to be a players’ free agent market with more teams having cap space than desirable big money free agents. Much like Ben Gordon got overpaid by Joe Dumars in 2009; Smith could catch the same fortuitous break this summer.
Given what we know now, the Knicks being at $73.8 million puts them below the apron, making a sign & trade acquisition of Chris Paul not impossible. Again, don’t misinterpret what is being said here. A sign and trade for Chris Paul would be highly improbable. The Clippers would have to take back salary commitments equaling I believe to be 80% of Paul’s new outgoing max contract, which would mean for example Tyson Chandler and either Iman Shumpert or Ray Felton. Or perhaps the Clippers would want all five of Camby, Felton, Kidd, Novak and Shumpert. If you ran the Clippers, why you would help facilitate the exit of the best player to ever put on your uniform is unlikely. Of course, it’s also unlikely the Clippers would accept Chandler in a trade when they already pay DeAndre Jordan an eight figure annual salary.
Furthermore, there is no definitive mainstream media sourced evidence out there that this is even the Knicks line of thinking. In an effort not to deal in rumors and hearsay, the point here is to just show that the Knicks are still legally able to facilitate a trade for Chris Paul and fulfill the destiny of the toast. It should be noted that given current salary commitments, the same possibility cannot be said for the Brooklyn Nets and their lengthy ill fated pursuit of Dwight Howard. The Nets currently have $85.55 million committed to 2013-2014, including a $1.1 million dollar player option for CJ Watson. For the Nets to move under the luxury tax apron, they would have to shed $11.55 million dollars in salary at the draft or during free agency without taking back a single dollar.
To speak to the impossibility of that compared to the Knicks situation, this means Billy King would need to find a taker for Gerald Wallace and one or two filler pieces (depending on who the player is), or trade Kris Humphries 12 million dollar expiring contract. Either package would have to go to a team willing to absorb them into cap space or a trade exception while not expecting the Nets to take any salary back on in return. In my opinion, there’s a better chance I’m playing in the final group on Sunday with Tiger at Augusta as a 5 handicap than the Nets finding a taker for either one of those packages.
Nevertheless, the NBA rumor mill is about to start churning at full throttle once again. As it occurs, no matter what you read and what sources you doubt or believe, keep in mind that Chris Paul to the Knicks via a sign and trade is currently only improbable, but not impossible.