Reality Check: Jeremy Lin Will Stay with the New York Knicks


Nobody can accept that anything surrounding the Knicks can ever be straightforward and simple, so observers have continued to incubate outlandish Jeremy Lin scenarios even though the ONLY realistic Jeremy Lin scenario is the one in which he remains a Knick.

Jeremy Lin will remain with the Knicks. Steve Nash will not usurp him. Nor will some other team blow the Knicks away with an offer that the Knicks will be unwilling or unable to match as Alex Kennedy posited today. Such ruminations are good for generating page hits but that is about all that they are good for.

The Knicks will keep Jeremy Lin. This is the only sensible conclusion.

Let’s indulge the line of thought propounded in Kennedy’s piece – certainly, he is not the only pundit advancing it. The Knicks can offer Lin a four year, approximately $20 million contract: approximately $5 million in each year. Other teams, assuming they have the cap space, can offer Lin the same money in each of the first two years and up to about $12.5 million in year 3 and $13.5 million in year 4. All told, another team with the cap space can offer Lin at most a 4 year contract worth roughly $36 million.

The Knicks of course can match. And this is where many pundits’ analysis goes off the rails. Just because another team CAN offer Lin 4 years and $36 million, it doesn’t mean they should, or would. In fact, Kennedy (for whom I have great respect), suggests that the Knicks would have a difficult decision to make if another team forced the Knicks to match a prohibitively large contract offer. But if this kind of money is so outlandish for the Knicks to pay Lin, then why isn’t the same offer similarly outlandish for another team?

Let’s pull the thread and see where it takes us: if 4/$36 is a ridiculous amount for the Knicks to pay Lin, then 4/$36 is a ridiculous amount for another team to pay Lin. If 4/$36 is a ridiculous amount for another team to pay Lin, another team will not offer Lin 4/$36. If another team does not offer Lin 4/$36, the Knicks will not have to match an offer of 4/$36.

(Of course, it is likely that the inverse is also true: If another team offers Lin 4/$36 then that demonstrates that there is a perception that he is worth that amount.)

It is true, as Kennedy points out, that if the Knicks matched such an offer they would pay Lin the approximate 5, 5, 12.5, 13.5 figures in each respective year and the cap hit would match his salary. Any other team would have to pay Lin these amounts in each of the 4 years but the cap hit would be spread evenly across each year, or 9, 9, 9, 9. This amounts to $4 million more against the cap than the team would actually be paying Lin in each of the first two years and 3.5 and 4.5 less in each respective subsequent year. This is still a lot of money to tie up for someone who the Knicks should, as the argument often goes, think twice about signing, since he’s only played a few dozen games.

And it’s a lot of money both in real terms and with respect to cap flexibility, which teams that are under the cap covet as perhaps their primary asset but one which the Knicks needn’t be concerned with at all. This is because the Knicks are capped out through the 2014/15 season, which would be the second to last year of Lin’s hypothetical monstrous contract. The Knicks could pay Lin $5 million that year or they could pay him $50 million and it would likely have little to no impact on their ability to make a single roster move in free agency. Can a team like the Nets or Raptors or Blazers say the same thing about a $9 million salary 3 and 4 years from now for an allegedly unproven player?

Let’s just stop the madness, ok?

Get more great New York Knicks analysis over at KnicksFan.


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