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Mar 19, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) controls the ball against Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) during the third quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks defeated the Pacers 92-86. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Nightmare: What Knicks Look Like Without Carmelo Anthony

Even with the excitement of Phil Jackson coming in to take over the New York Knicks, it remains a real possibility that Carmelo Anthony will walk this summer. When we look objectively at the situation, the only reason for Anthony to stay is money…which is also the problem.

You see, the Knicks are financially screwed until 2015-16, when they’ll have a ton of cap space. Next season, they’re already on the hook for $90.7 million in salaries, if Amar’e Stoudemire ($23.4), Anthony ($23.3) and Andrea Bargnani ($11.5) pick up their options.

There’s no crazy scenario in any dream world where Stoudemire and Bargnani don’t pick up their options. Not gonna happen. Might as well write that down in pen. If Anthony decided to test free agency and opt-out (which would still leave the Knicks in the bidding, mind you), they’re still at $67.4 million, with only nine players soaking up all of that money.

YEAH, BUT THE DRAFT WILL HELP (pick info courtesy of RealGM.com)

So about that — for those of you living under a rock, the Knicks don’t have a first-round draft pick this season (it’s going to Denver or Orlando). They’ve also sent their second-round pick to the Houston Rockets.

They are owed a second-round pick from Sacramento, but it’s protected from 31-55. If that pick doesn’t fall outside the protected range, the Kings will no longer owe anything to the Knicks.

2015 will bring a first-round pick but then 2016 will be another year without one.

THEY COULD BRING IN FREE AGENTS

Mar 12, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; New York Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni (9) brings the ball up court during the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. The New York Knicks won 116-92. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

So about that — the 2013-14 salary cap was set at $58.679 million, with the luxury tax set at $71.748 million. As I showed you previously, the lowest the Knicks are going to likely get to would be $67.4 million…but that number could be important.

The mid-level exception allows teams to sign a free agent regardless of their cap/tax positions. For the 2013-14 season, non-taxpaying teams over the cap could sign a player to a one-year, $5.15 million deal. Taxpayers could sign a player to a one-year, $3.09 million contract.

But here’s the problem — the Knicks would have to convince a free agent to take a smaller salary for a year, with the idea that the cap situation would be much better in 2015-16. That’s a leap of faith for a player who could potentially get more on the open market.

The Knicks would have to sell their team (minus Anthony, mind you) and sell the history and prestige of the organization. They’d also have to sell the merits of playing with Tyson Chandler, Bargnani, J.R. Smith, Stoudemire and Raymond Felton.

While they could bring in one player that could be of value, they could also end up bringing in a player that doesn’t pan out and just ends up filling a spot (see: Pablo Prigioni).

WHAT WOULD THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE

Mar 15, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (5) reacts after making a three point shot in the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Felton, Iman Shumpert, Bargnani, Stoudemire and Chandler could be a potential starting lineup, unless they’d rather go small and bring Bargnani off the bench and insert J.R. Smith in there. Could that team make the playoffs? If they had a good bench, in the Eastern Conference, they could sneak in. Remember what I said about that cap space though — you’re not filling the roster with minimum guys and expecting good performance.

Continued development from Tim Hardaway Jr. would help, but that’s a crapshoot. The bottom line is, with Melo, they’re an underachieving team with a lot of holes. Losing their best player obviously isn’t going to help those problems, nor would it free up any space to do anything about it in 2014-15.

The Knicks current seven-game winning streak will help, as will making the playoffs (if they get there), but the Knicks have some serious competition. Both the Houston Rockets and the Chicago Bulls have been making the rounds as rumored landing places for Melo. He’d have to give up some money, but he’d be in a much better situation in either place.

It’s not too early to start praying, Knicks fans. If you lose Melo, you’re gonna bottom out and have to start over. That could work with some young talent and a litany of picks — but you’ve got neither.


Tags: New York Knicks

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