“I don’t know,” he said.
Everyone assumes, of course, that Paul will re-sign with the Clippers. But no one, Anthony included, knows for sure.
The one thing we do know is, it will be extremely difficult for Paul to end up on the Knicks next season.
With the help of ESPN salary cap guru Larry Coon, we will take you through the scenarios involving Paul and the Knicks.
THE SITUATION: Paul will be a free agent this summer. He can sign a max contract for five years and a total of $107.5 million with the Clippers. He can sign a four-year deal worth nearly $30 million dollars less with another team. He will be seeking $18.7 million in the first year of his new contract.
It’s highly improbable that the Knicks can acquire Paul via free agency. Here’s why:
The Knicks are currently committed to $77.6 million in payroll. Their payroll would have to be less than $41.3 to have enough room to pay Paul $18.7 million in the first year. Trimming that much payroll is nearly impossible given the Knicks’ salary structure.
So that leaves the possibility of a sign-and-trade.
In order to complete a sign-and-trade, the Knicks will need to be below the collective bargaining agreement's “apron” after the trade. The apron, per the terms of the 2011 CBA, is set at $4 million above the luxury tax threshold. For the purposes of this blog, let’s put the luxury tax level at $71.5 million. (It was $70.3 this season.) That means the apron would be $75.5 million.
If the Knicks re-sign J.R. Smith to a $5.6 million contract, as expected, that raises their salary commitment in 2013-14 to $80.3 million. Coon suggests that we bump the payroll up to $82 million for the purposes of this exercise to account for other cap holds that factor in.
Again, Paul can sign for $18.7 million.
So the Knicks need to be under the apron -- $75.5 million – after the sign-and-trade for Paul to make it work. If you take the $82 million we assume the Knicks will be committed to for 2013-14 and add another $18.7 million, you get $100.7 million. Again, the Knicks need to be under $75.5 million after the Paul trade to make it work. So they’d have to send out $25.2 million to make it work.
Let’s say they send Amar’e Stoudemire ($21.7 million) and Raymond Felton ($3.6 million) to the Clippers. They could then take back Paul.
But why would the Clippers do that deal? The only way they’d agree to a sign-and-trade involving Paul is if he said there’s no way he’d re-sign in Los Angeles. He'd also probably have to demand a trade to the Knicks.
Also worth noting: Paul would also only be able to sign a four-year deal with the Knicks if he agreed to a sign-and-trade. So he’d have to be willing to forfeit around $30 million to come to New York -- assuming the Clippers would take back what the Knicks offered.
That’s why it’s highly improbable that Paul ends up in New York.