NBA's rising salary cap will help Knicks build around Porzingis

Although it’s difficult to project what the revolving-door Knicks will look like in four years, the latest salary cap projections suggest they’re going to have a lot of money to entice stars to play with Kristaps Porzingis.

The NBA’s cap is expected to jump to $120 million in 2020, rising dramatically from its current level at $94.1 million and an expected $103 million in 2017.

The summer of 2020 is when all of New York’s current players come off the books, including Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah’s ugly contract. It’s also when Porzingis could begin the first season of his long-term contract, which may follow his rookie deal that expires in 2019. Or the Knicks could get him on an extension before that. Either way, it’s a good bet that Porzingis will be around.

Everyone else — from the roster to the coach to the front office — is a toss-up.

Knicks would rather not use Kristaps Porzingis at center

The cap numbers, reported first by Yahoo!, are a projection from the NBA Players Association, which also included an estimated tax threshold of $143 million for the 2020-21 season — meaning James Dolan can pay that much without incurring luxury-tax penalties.

This is all a testament to the growing profitability of the NBA and its massive TV deal, worth a reported $24 billion from ESPN and TNT.

Of course, the increased cap benefits every NBA team, so the Knicks will have competition again in free agency. A similar jump occurred last summer, but Phil Jackson used most of its space to ink Noah on a four-year, $72 million deal. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Pacers, the 31-year-old center was averaging just 4.4 points and 21.2 minutes. At least the yearly cap rises make his contract less offensive. This season it represents 18 percent of the cap. Next season, it’s only 17 percent. And so on.

Joakim Noah.

Joakim Noah.

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Even when they have the space, however, the Knicks haven’t attracted marquee free agents — settling, for instance, for Amar’e Stoudemire instead of LeBron James; or Robin Lopez instead of Marc Gasol; or Noah instead of Kevin Durant.

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(They may have had a shot at Dwyane Wade last summer but had already committed to Noah when the former Heat star started holding meetings.)

But as the cap continues to rise to unprecedented levels, they’ll at least have a star on the roster to attract the big names.

“I think (I’ll recruit players), yeah,” Porzingis said last week. “Of course, you want to build a team around you so you can win, so you can go all the way and win the championship one day. Of course, that’s on everybody’s mind, I think, that’s in a position to do that.

“But right now, I’m not worried about who I can recruit. I’m just focusing on my team, being the best I can this year and then going forward, you know, stuff can happen.”

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nba
new york knicks
kristaps porzingis

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