Some of you may have read about the thrilling buzzer-beating championship won by Olympiacos this weekend in the Euroleague. Scrolling through the story, the name of the player who sunk the last-second shot jumped off the page at me – Georgios Printezis. Rabid Knicks fans might remember that Printezis (hereinafter, “The Big Fish” because Wikipedia says that’s his nickname and I’m less likely to misspell that) was a throw-in the Tyson Chandler trade this winter.
With the Knicks looking to fill out a roster on the cheap this offseason, at least one commenter (shout out to EuroKnick, wherever you are) questioned whether the Knicks could bring the Big Fish over for a look in the 2012-2013 season. On paper, a 6’9″ stretch 4 who can play a little bit of small forward seems like a perfect fit for a Knicks roster that will look to fill out its corps of swingmen in the offseason, following the probable departures of Steve Novak, J.R. Smith, and Landry Fields. Unfortunately, I’d say it’s unlikely the Big Fish will be in the Big Apple any time soon. Find out why after the jump.
Although hefty buyouts with club teams usually snag European players attempting to leave their clubs across the pond to join the NBA, that won’t be a problem for Printezis. Before being loaned to Olympiacos, the Big Fish signed a 3-year deal with ACB stalwart Unicaja Malaga in 2009, which (if my math is right) is expiring after this season. As a result, he is a free agent and can be signed by the Knicks without having to dole out a hefty chunk of euros to release him from his contract.
Moreover, the Knicks could theoretically pay Printezis as much as they want. The big Greek was drafted by the Spurs (who else?) late in the second round of the 2007 draft. His draft rights were subsequently traded to the Mavs and then the Knicks. According to this chat with Larry Coon on hoopsworld from late 2011, second round picks are not subject to the same rookie salary scale as first round picks and, hypothetically, teams can pay a second round pick any salary they choose up the maximum. Of course, we live in the real world, not Hypotheticalania (where, incidentally, dogs walk people and Taco Bell makes a taco with a Cool Ranch Dorito shell).
Unfortunately, the Knicks are over the salary cap and can only sign players who fall into one of the limited number of salary cap exceptions. While capped out teams are allowed to sign their first-round picks using the Rookie Exception, no such exception is available for second round picks. Assuming the ‘Bockers use their Mid-Level Exception on Jeremy Lin or some other NBA veteran, the only exception available for the Big Fish is the Minimum Salary Exception.
The minimum salary for players with 0 years of NBA experience in the 2012-2013 season is ~$473,000. This past season, Printezis made approximately 1.15 million euros (~$1.48 million). At just 27 years old and coming off a championship season in the Euroleague, Printezis stands to make significantly more money by staying at home in the Greek League, even if he doesn’t get a raise in his next deal. I cannot speak to the motivations of a guy who I’ve never even seen play, let alone spoken to, but he would have to be utterly desperate to play in the NBA to sign with the Knicks next year. I’m sure he is an ultra competitive guy if he plays in one of the best leagues in the world outside the NBA, and I can see how he would want to test his mettle against the best competition in the world. Even then, taking 1/3 of the salary to travel 5,000+ miles away from your homeland and then be buried on the bench behind Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony and glared at by Mike Woodson and his exquisite goatee cannot be an enticing offer. Perhaps the Knicks can use the Big Fish’s draft rights as a trade sweetener on draft night if they want to move Toney Douglas or something, but it’s a fairly safe bet we won’t see the guy at the Mecca wearing Blue and Orange before 2015, if ever.