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NBA Teams with the Worst Salary-Cap Problems: Post Trade Deadline Edition

Scott BurnsCorrespondent IIIOctober 9, 2016

NBA Teams with the Worst Salary-Cap Problems: Post Trade Deadline Edition

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    The NBA Trade Deadline used to be an exciting day with fans waiting to see which big-name player would get traded to a team that was contending for a championship.  This year, the league’s new tax system was the big winner as no true star was traded and financially cognizant deals were made.

    GMs are weary of the tax system in place under the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and those penalties go into effect at the start of next season.  Teams are going to be hit hard with penalties if they go over the tax threshold, and now there is an even stiffer penalty for the repeat offenders.

    Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap FAQ provides a chart that breaks down the penalties.

    Here is a quick summary of the rates applied to first-time violators:

    • $0 to $4.99 million over pays a rate of $1.50 for every dollar above the tax level
    • $5 million to $9.99 million over pays a rate of $1.75
    • $10 million to $14.99 million over pays a rate of $2.50
    • $15 million to $19.99 million over pays a rate of $3.25
    • $20 million and above pays $3.75 and an additional $0.50 for every additional $5 million

    Most of the deals that went down before the trade deadline were by teams that were sitting on the border of the $70.3 million tax level.  They want to escape the possibility of getting the “repeater” tag placed on them if they are even a dollar over the tax threshold going into next season.

Brooklyn Nets

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    2012-13 Team Salary After Trade Deadline: $83.1 million

    2013-14 Guaranteed Salary:
    $84.4 million

    The Brooklyn Nets are not afraid of the new salary cap and will spare no expense to build a team that can compete for an NBA title.  The Nets went big during last offseason by acquiring the services and heavy contract of guard Joe Johnson and re-signing free agents Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez.

    The Nets have the jazzy new arena and an owner in Mikhail Prokhorov who has enough stored away to ignore the tax penalty.  His main focus is on winning and winning quickly.  He clearly wants a return on his investment.

     

    Can They Escape Tax Purgatory?

    No, and they don’t want to.  They have a very good squad in place that is developing and I wouldn’t be surprised if they try and add a piece depending on their playoff outcome.

    They didn’t have enough assets at the trade deadline to make a deal, but with Kris Humphries’ trade value increasing after the season since he will have an expiring contract, they should try to acquire a legitimate power forward in order to make it to the next level.

New York Knicks

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    2012-13 Team Salary After Trade Deadline: $80.2 million

    2013-14 Guaranteed Salary: $74.8 million

    The New York Knicks held their core intact and did not add any payroll to their already over-the-cap figure.  They play in the biggest NBA market and are providing the Madison Square Garden fans a solid look by leading the Atlantic Division.

    Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler are the three most expensive players on the team and arguably the most talented, too. 

    They have used smaller salaries to fortify the rest of the key spots on the floor.  Perimeter players Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak will all ear less than $4 million next season.

     

    Can They Escape Tax Purgatory?

    The Knicks look like a guarantee to pay the luxury tax next year unless they can find a team that is willing to wipe the $21.7 million owed to Stoudemire off their hands. 

    He has played well since coming back from injury, but he is not at the level he was as a focal point of the D’Antoni offense with the Phoenix Suns. 

    The Knicks have the luxury of having a big TV deal, so they have a little freedom even if they have to pay the tax.  The Knicks can look for a dynamic perimeter player if they can unload some of their cheaper contracts this summer.

Chicago Bulls

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    2012-13 Team Salary After Trade Deadline: $74.1 million

    2013-14 Guaranteed Salary: $73.1 million

    The Chicago Bulls are a legitimate Eastern Conference power that lost their most dynamic star, Derrick Rose, to a torn ACL in the first game of last year’s playoffs.  He has yet to return to the court, but the Bulls are still in a playoff position in the East.

    This young squad is set to pay four players over $10 million next season: Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.  The Bulls have to make the decision whether to extend Deng, which would most definitely keep them over the tax threshold and probably put them on the repeater list.  

     

    Can They Escape Tax Purgatory?

    The Bulls still can amnesty one of their players since they have not done so since that provision was added after the last strike.  If the Bulls intend to use it, Carlos Boozer would be the best bet since he will make $15.3 million next season.

    That move would get them under the tax threshold and even put them under the salary cap.  The biggest problem with that move is that other teams in the Central Division would jump at the chance to acquire a talent like Boozer for minimum dollars.

    Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf might want to pay that tax for one year and use the amnesty when he really needs it. 

Los Angeles Lakers

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    2012-13 Team Salary After Trade Deadline: $99.9 million

    2013-14 Guaranteed Salary: $68.1 million

    The Los Angeles Lakers went for it all this year by trading for Dwight Howard and signing Steve Nash in order to give the Kobe Bryant-led team one more realistic shot at an NBA title.  The Lakers have completely underperformed so far, but they are starting to flick the switch.

    Dwight Howard remains an enigma, especially with his relationship with Kobe, but GM Mitch Kupchak intends on re-signing Howard.  The guaranteed money for the 2013-14 season, as shown above, does not include Howard.  With Kobe entering the final year of his current contract next season, I would expect Lakers management to do everything in its power to stay relevant.

     

    Can They Escape Tax Purgatory?

    The Lakers have a thin bench that surrounds the highly paid starting five.  I expect the Lakers to make sure they keep Howard and find a quality sixth man to make the team whole.  By keeping Howard, the Lakers will no doubt be paying the luxury tax.

    The only move they might make during the summer time is finding a new home for Pau Gasol.  Gasol will be paid $19.3 million next season, but he will have an expiring contract that will make him a lot more marketable.  Expect the Lakers to find a younger, more athletic player or players in exchange for his services.

    The loss of legendary owner Jerry Buss hurts. There might be a power struggle and at least a year to transition the team back to the style it was known for with Buss at the helm.  The big television contract with Time Warner will buffer the changeover and give the kids some extra padding while management figures out what is next for the legendary franchise.

Boston Celtics

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    2012-13 Team Salary After Trade Deadline: $71 million

    2013-14 Guaranteed Salary: $62.6 million

    The Boston Celtics took a big hit when they lost guard Rajon Rondo for the season.  Many people thought the Celtics core was too old and would just fold.  Surprisingly to everyone outside of Boston, the Celtics grouped together and started a winning streak of seven games.

    The core, including Rondo, is set for at least one more year together, and the team can add a dynamic playmaker on the cheaper side.  The Celtics are just barely over the cap and look to make one final run with their mainstays, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

     

    Can They Escape Tax Purgatory?

    Boston should be clear at the start of next season and will have a little room to add another playmaker.  The Celtics also hold their amnesty, so if they crave someone with a very high salary, they can let go of someone who is making $5-6 million.

    The Celtics just have to decide if they have enough to make one final run and let their players retire in the green and white. 

    Or is it time for massive changes?

Miami Heat

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    2012-13 Team Salary After Trade Deadline: $82.6 million

    2013-14 Guaranteed Salary: $75.5 million

    The Miami Heat struck when they had the chance and built the super team nicknamed the "Heatles."  LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh comprise most of the money owed to the players, and with salaries between $18-19 million, there is not much left under the tax threshold. 

    After flaming out in their first attempt against the Dallas Mavericks, the Heat corrected the trend with their first of potentially many championships with their win against the Oklahoma City Thunder last season.

    Former Celtic Ray Allen was signed to the mid-level exception with a second-year option, and almost all of this team is scheduled to return next season.

     

    Can They Escape Tax Purgatory?

    The Heat look like the most dominant team in the NBA again this season with LeBron having probably his best season.  His counterparts of Bosh and Wade are having solid years with less fanfare.

    The team is set for this season and next.  If no significant moves are made this offseason, the Heat will be paying taxes in the first year of the new CBA. 

    The key to the future of this franchise and whether it turns up on the repeater list is the early termination option in the three contracts that occurs after next season. 

    Will these three want to continue their dominance and see if they can continue to win titles, or will LeBron become too big for Wade's and Bosh’s egos to handle?

    Follow me @ScottInTheBay

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