Training camp is still a few weeks away. Opening night is nearly two months away. So there’s plenty of time to talk about pertinent issues surrounding the 2016-17 New York Knicks.
Among them: Will Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings stay healthy? How much of the triangle offense will Jeff Hornacek implement -- and how much will he tweak? Do the Knicks have enough in the second unit to contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference?
Answers to all of these questions, of course, will arrive in the coming months.
But before we dive into all of the different elements of the 2016-17 season, it’s worthwhile to take a big-picture view of what lies ahead. For the Knicks, who are in win-now mode, this means taking a look at the finances heading into the summer of 2017.
The salary cap is expected to increase by $8 million to $102 million next summer. So there will be plenty of teams with enough cap space to land a max-salary free agent.
Will the Knicks be among those teams? That depends largely on what happens with Rose and, to a lesser degree, free-agent-to-be Jennings.
The Knicks currently have about $75 million in guaranteed salary for the 2017-18 season. That would put them in great position to land a max player, but the $75 million doesn’t account for free-agent cap holds, which total $43 million.
The $75 million also doesn’t include the non-guaranteed money in contracts for Marshall Plumlee and Maurice Ndour, but let’s deal solely with the cap holds -- for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume the Knicks opt against guaranteeing Plumlee's and Ndour's contracts for the 2017-18 season.
The big cap hold for the Knicks next summer belongs, obviously, to Rose. Rose’s cap hold is projected to be nearly $29 million (which is his projected max salary for 2017-18).
So if you take Rose’s cap hold and add it to the total guaranteed money the Knicks have already committed to 2017, you get to around $104 million.
In other words, with Rose’s hold on the books, the Knicks have zero available cap space in the summer of 2017.
So to create significant space, the Knicks would have to renounce Rose. Doing so would provide about $19 million in cap space, a number that includes their remaining free-agent holds of Jennings ($6 million), Sasha Vujacic ($1 million), Justin Holiday ($1 million) and one cap hold of approximately $500,000.
$19 million won't be enough to land a max free agent, but it would likely give New York enough cap space to re-sign Jennings.
The Knicks can also clear the point guard position altogether by renouncing both Jennings and Rose, which would leave them with approximately $24 million in cap space. In this instance, it would take only a minor move for the Knicks to put themselves in position to offer a max contract to a veteran with as many as six seasons of experience -- a deal that's projected to start at around $25.5 million in 2017.
New York also currently owns its 2017 first-round draft pick, which will likely impact its cap space in 2017 free agency. Assuming the Knicks keep the pick, it will count against the cap. The 2017-18 first overall pick’s rookie-scale deal will start at roughly $5 million.
The Knicks can create extra cap space via a roster move prior to July 1, 2017. We saw that play out this summer when they traded Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant for Rose and Holiday, a move that shed $14 million in salary. But that increase in 2017 cap space was negated by signing Noah and Courtney Lee to deals that pay the two a total of nearly $30 million for the 2017-18 season.
One more aspect worth noting: Since Rose signed his contract more than three years ago, the Knicks can sign him to an extension during the season. If the Knicks and Rose agree to an extension prior to Dec. 22, the club can offer Rose raises of 4.5 percent and as many as two extra seasons. If an extension is agreed to after Dec. 22, it can be for as many as three seasons with raises of 7.5 percent.
Of course, Rose will likely be able to make more money on the open market in 2017. So it’s unlikely that Rose would choose to extend.