2010: LeBron, Bosh, Eddy Curry AND Lee?

<abbr class="updated" title="2009-01-30T20:12:46-0800">Jan 30th, 2009</abbr> <address class="author vcard">by [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]. </address> [[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]]
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Most of us are keenly aware of the challenge facing Donnie Walsh as he tries to clean up the mess Isiah Thomas made of the Knicks’ cap so that the team can sign two marquee free agents, and then some, in 2010.
Walsh has already put the Knicks into position to sign two max free agents by trading away Jamal Crawford, and Zach Randolph, with their long term contracts. However, [Only registered and activated users can see links. ], the ability to sign those max players is still conditioned on trading David Lee and probably Nate Robinson, or letting them walk. The Knicks simply cannot add any salary as things stand and still execute their 2010 plan. That is, of course, unless they can get rid of Jared Jeffries. That’s right, I said Jeffries, not Curry.
I’m assuming that trading Curry will be impossible, so the only way to get him off the books is if he takes a medical retirement, which Jon says just isn’t gonna happen.
But if the Knicks could trade Jeffries for an expiring deal, they could keep Curry on the books, sign two max free agents AND re-sign David Lee.
The collective bargaining agreement typically disallows teams from signing outside free agents prior to signing their own if it would bring them over the cap to do so. In order to sign the outside free agent under such a scenario, the team must first “[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]” their own player. Until they do, he stays on their cap, in what is called a “cap hold”, and the team is prevented from using his salary on another player, even though he is now a free agent. Once that player is renounced, his team loses his “Bird rights”, but will then have free space to sign an outside player. For example, when the Magic wanted to give Rashard Lewis a max deal, they couldn’t [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]. At that point the Magic had max money available for Lewis, though they could no longer go over the cap to bring back Milicic. [Only registered and activated users can see links. ].
So, one way for the Knicks to re-sign David Lee while also signing two marquee free agents and not somehow getting rid of Eddy Curry would be the to have enough space left under the cap, notwithstanding Lee’s cap hold, to sign two free agents and then Lee, who I’m assuming in this exercise will take the Knicks one year qualifying offer this summer.
What’s that you say? David Lee’s cap hold would have to be pretty thin to fit under the cap after signing two max players and still having Curry eat the cap like so many big-macs? Well, I’m here to tell you that Lee’s cap hold under this scenario will be just $6,973,329.
David Lee’s cap hold is calculated by applying the [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] and multiplying by the “[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]“, which for Lee will be 300% of his salary. As the 30th pick in the 2005 draft, [Only registered and activated users can see links. ], his fourth year option year, as mandated by the [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]. [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] than this years’ salary. The cap hold is 300% of your expiring players’ salary (if that salary is less than the league average). In this case, Lee’s salary under the qualifying offer is $2,324,443. 300% of that is $6,973,329.
And what is Jared Jeffries scheduled to make in 2010? The answer is $6,883,400. Clearly, then, the key in this scenario is to trade Jeffries for an expiring deal. Doing that, combined with the expected relief of losing Stephon, Q, Jerome, Harrington, Thomas, Malik, Duhon, and Roberson should create the space necessary to sign 2 max free agents despite Lee’s cap hold.
So, here is how the scenario plays out:
1. The Knicks trade Jeffries for an expiring deal.
2. David Lee does not sign an extension this summer, nor does he sign as a restricted free agent with another team. This would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2010.
3. The Knicks sign two marquee free agents in 2010, preferably LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
4. Under a conservative estimate, the Knicks have between $9-$10 million left under the cap, enough to fit Lee’s salary cap hold so that they can go over the cap to sign him. Heck, they could even give him the max!
5. The Knicks sign a RJ or a Rudy Gay or a Mike Miller or Randy Foye to the full mid-level.
6. The Knicks sign Steve Nash to the veterans’ minimum.
7. The Knicks sign Ray Allen to the bi-annual exception.
8. The Knicks field a team of Stephon Curry, Mike Miller, LeBron James, David Lee, Chris Bosh, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Eddy Curry (the new Jerome) and maybe Nate Robinson or whoever he is traded for.
Now, this assumes that Lee will play along by not demanding an extension this summer and not sign an offer sheet with another team. It’s unlikely, bit it does happen, as with Ben Gordon this past summer (though Gordon did not [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]). Nor can Lee pull a Boozer on the Knicks and flee the scene when he’s unrestricted after entering into a wink wink deal.
But anyway, that’s how you keep Lee without having to trade Curry.
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