Today's discussion on free agency, specific to the Suns's situation, centers on cap space and the use of exceptions to exceed the salary cap.
We talk about Amare, Lou and what the Suns can do this summer through next spring to bring in more top-level talent. The Suns are now a team with one star (Nash) and whole bunch of winner-type role players. This type of team gets into the playoffs, but doesn't go far because there's not enough high-end talent to finish off four wins before the other team does.
So, what can the Suns do now?
Higher Salary Cap
The new salary cap has come in higher than expected, at $58.04 million. The luxury tax line (where the team has to pay dollar-for-dollar tax for every dollar spent over this line) in about $70 mil.
This gives every team that was under the cap another $2 million to play with.
However, because of the next item on my list, this higher cap has NO IMPACT on the Suns.
Amare's $16.5 million Traded Player Exception (or TPE)
With the news that the Suns will sign-and-trade Amare to the Knicks today, we know that the Suns will receive a $16.5 million "traded player exception," or TPE, in return.
This TPE can be used to acquire talent via trade while giving LESS or nothing back to the other team. Kinda like the beloved Kurt Thomas trade, except in reverse this time. Teams use this (or equivalent cap space) a lot.
But now that the Suns have this TPE, they are considered "over the cap" for NBA free agency purposes. An excerpt from Larry Coon's FAQ on the salary cap.
If a team is below the cap, then their Disabled Player, Bi-Annual, Mid-Level and/or Traded Player exceptions are added to their team salary, and the league treats the team as though they are over the cap.
So, contrary to what's been reported lately, the Suns DO NOT have $4 million (instead of $2 million) to spend in free agency after counting Frye and Warrick's deals. The Suns can only use EXCEPTIONS to the cap.
BUT THIS IS A GOOD THING! A very good thing.
First, Frye will be signed using the Mid-Level-Exception (MLE). Second, Warrick will be acquired via his own sign-and-trade from Chicago using a portion of the massive Amare TPE.
That leaves about $12.5 million left from Amare's TPE to use on any combination of players via trade.
There's yet another benefit to the Suns being "over the cap" thanks to the Amare TPE.
Since Lou Amundson has played for the Suns for two consecutive seasons, he qualifies for the Early-Bird Exception. This means the Suns are allowed to sign Lou to a contract up to mid-level ($5.8 mil), with 10.5% raises. This is in addition to Frye's MLE and Warricks' TPE.
This does not mean the Suns want Lou for themselves anymore. They've already committed to Warrick, Frye, Clark, Lawal and Collins to spend some time at PF. There's simply no room for Lou. But if something happens to one of them (in summer league?), Lou is still a fallback option.
But even so, this is yet another bargaining chip for the Suns. Lou's been contacted by a dozen teams already. He is in demand.
Option 1: Re-sign Lou for any value up to $5.8 mil a year and keep him (like, 3 mill?).
Option 2: If he wants to sign with another team who does not have the cap space available, the Suns can do another sign-and-trade with him and acquire equal-paid talent in return (like, Ronnie Brewer from the Griz in a mutual sign-and-trade?).
Option 3: Package him in a trade along with LB and get someone back at higher salary (up to 12 mil?) and not even use Amare's TPE yet.
Option 4: Sign-and-trade him to a team who is "below the cap," take back lower-paid or no talent, and get yet another TPE to use at a later date.
Lots and lots of options...