Breaking Down Every NBA Team's Salary-Cap Situation Ahead of 2017 OffseasonApril 19, 2017
Breaking Down Every NBA Team's Salary-Cap Situation Ahead of 2017 Offseason
Another round of NBA free agency is coming. Before you know it, a champion will be crowned, the draft will have unfolded on Adrian Wojnarowski's Twitter timeline and July 1 will be here.
Will your favorite team be in the thick of the action? Let's find out together.
Salary-cap projections can change between now and the start of free agency. Players get the urge to leave. Teams pivot based on what did or didn't happen during the playoffs. Trades alter the buyer and seller landscape.
Since the Association's ever-fluid disposition is always intent on moving the goal posts (baskets?) on us anyway, this is going to be a predictive crash course in armchair general manager-ing. Cap forecasts will seek to pick out which players teams will ditch and try to keep.
Brave souls are encouraged to take these calculations as gospel. Everyone else should view them as accurate ballpark figures—a telltale estimate of what, if anything, every team has at stake entering the summertime spending craze.
Guaranteed Salaries: Taken from Basketball Insiders, this consists of all contracts guaranteed to be on the books in 2017-18. It also includes money from any partially guaranteed deals on the ledger.
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Player options, team options and pre-contract holds of expiring deals that incumbents will want to keep. If a player is projected to opt in, his 2017-18 salary will be included. Pre-contract holds for free agents on expiring deals will be taken from Basketball Insiders. Holds for those anticipated to opt out will be calculated using the guidelines from Larry Coon's CBA FAQ. Pending free agents who don't make this list are those expected to be renounced.
Notable Non-Guarantees: Any non-guaranteed deals expected to stick with a team into free agency. Contracts that have partial guarantees included in the "Guaranteed Salaries" section will be listed with the balance owed. For example, $1,662,500 of Mike Dunleavy's $5,175,000 salary next season is guaranteed. If he makes this cut, the remaining $3,512,500 will be what counts toward calculations. Non-guaranteed players who don't make this list are expected to be waived.
First-Round Pick Holds: Based on draft positioning before lottery. Projected salaries come courtesy of RealGM.
Empty Roster Charges: Teams will be assessed a $815,615 roster charge for each open spot below 12 players. These are rare at this stage of the game, so they'll be listed only where applicable.
All-Inclusive Total: Sum of all the above categories.
Projected Starting Cap Space: Subtracting the "All-Inclusive Total" from the projected $101 million salary cap. (The luxury tax is supposed to hit $121 million.) Trade exceptions and mid-level exceptions count against commitments for teams under the salary cap. For our purposes, we'll assume every team with cap space is renouncing both. We'll discuss whether they ultimately should, or if they're able to carve out even more room, in the text.
Guaranteed Salaries: $64,062,373
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Tim Hardaway Jr. ($5,704,014); Paul Millsap ($30,108,050); Mike Muscala ($1,471,382); Thabo Sefolosha ($7,315,000)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Mike Dunleavy ($3,512,500)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 19 ($1,614,100)
All-Inclusive Total: $113,787,419
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$12,787,419
If the Atlanta Hawks want to run it back, they must do so without making any major additions. They won't have to operate as a luxury-tax team, giving them access to the full mid-level exception, which is projected to jump past $8 million per year, according to Basketball Insiders' Eric Pincus. But that'll be the extent of their spending power.
Letting Paul Millsap (player option) walk is the only play that provides the Hawks with impactful breathing room. They can dip below the cap by renouncing Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha, but just barely. And they would have to cut ties with their Mike Scott and Mo Williams trade exceptions to stay there.
Showing Millsap the door becomes a possibility if the Hawks are looking to rebuild. But Kent Bazemore, Dwight Howard and Dennis Schroder will combine to earn more than $55.9 million next season. They don't make for a good core on a transitioning team.
Initiating a reset demands a fire sale. And even if that's the plan, it doesn't make much sense to do away with Millsap—unless he leaves under his own volition. The Hawks lost one top-25 player for nothing last summer in Al Horford, and they passed on the chance to deal Millsap at the February trade deadline. If he wants to stay, they must re-sign him with the intention of moving him later.
Guaranteed Salaries: $61,733,926
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Kelly Olynyk ($7,735,034)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Demetrius Jackson ($784,750); Jordan Mickey ($1,471,382); Tyler Zeller ($8,000,000)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 1 ($5,855,200)
All-Inclusive Total: $85,580,292
Projected Starting Cap Space: $15,419,708
Put down the pitchforks. The Boston Celtics can get the money to chase a superstar. They carve out $15.5 million just by renouncing cap holds for Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson.
Pull the rip cord on Kelly Olynyk's hold and Tyler Zeller's non-guaranteed deal, and Boston has more than $30 million to throw around. But team president Danny Ainge isn't likely to clear the decks unless he knows someone like Gordon Hayward is in play. He'll keep valuable holds as long as possible.
Zeller's money becomes fully guaranteed on July 2, which poses some problems. Whereas the Celtics can wait to ditch Olynyk until he signs another offer sheet, they'll need to render a quicker verdict on Zeller. Waiving him doesn't qualify as a huge loss, but his $8 million salary is good matching material for potential blockbuster trades—say, for Paul Geroge or Jimmy Butler.
Boston can always replace Zeller with Jerebko's $9.5 million hold. Ainge can still finagle a $30 million purse, and the 30-year-old Swede will probably sign for cheaper than his hit.
Either way, the Celtics are sitting pretty. They can stand relatively pat and have enough cash to land an impact player, but the path to grander pursuits is at their disposal as well.
Guaranteed Salaries: $63,021,608
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Randy Foye ($3,000,000); K.J. McDaniels' team option ($3,476,873)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Quincy Acy ($1,709,538); Spencer Dinwiddie ($1,524,305); Joe Harris ($1,524,305); Sean Kilpatrick ($1,524,305)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 22 ($1,428,100); No. 27 ($1,186,300)
All-Inclusive Total: $78,395,334
Projected Starting Cap Space: $22,604,666
The Brooklyn Nets have more cap space than roster spots. Do nothing, and they're wielding more than $20 million in free agency. They'll also have 15 players on the depth chart after factoring in first-round picks—16 if they want to keep Randy Foye around for the culture.
Drafting and stashing players overseas is an option general manager Sean Marks will consider to keep personnel in check, but the Nets won't have any qualms about creating a surplus. They have enough cap space to eat the full amount on non-guaranteed deals later on, and Marks hasn't even decided how aggressive he'll be with his rainy-day fund, per Newsday's Greg Logan:
If you go after one of the top-tier guys, you obviously would hope to get him, but does that really make you better? Does it get you to 30 wins, 35 wins? The objective here is for us to be in the playoffs.
But you don't want to go and sign free agents, and next thing you know, your payroll is capped out and you're a 25-win team. So we're going to have to build this strategically, have patience with it...We're going to have a big-picture view on this looking down the road.
As of March, according to the New York Post's Brian Lewis, Brooklyn was expected to try poaching Detroit Pistons 2-guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in restricted free agency. That, or a pursuit like it, is probably still the plan—invest in a younger wing, even if it's an overpay.
Whatever their designs, the Nets have the money and flexibility to execute them.
Guaranteed Salaries: $102,141,463
Notable Free-Agent Holds: None
Notable Non-Guarantees: Treveon Graham ($1,312,611); Briante Weber ($1,471,382)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 11 ($2,420,400)
All-Inclusive Total: $107,345,856
Projected Cap Space: -$6,345,856
Any substantial changes the Charlotte Hornets wish to make must come via the trade market. They can bait free agents with the mid-level exception, but even after declining Ramon Sessions' team option, they won't have real cap space to burn through without multiple salary dumps.
A full-scale garage sale is unlikely. The Hornets have contracts appealing enough to offload without taking back salary in return, but Charlotte isn't a free-agent hotspot.
Look instead for them to work the phones in search of upgrades.
Kemba Walker isn't going anywhere, and the remaining $99.1 million on Nicolas Batum's pact will be tough to deal. But some combination of Marco Belinelli, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lamb and Marvin Williams has the makings of a blockbusterish offer.
Guaranteed Salaries: $44,618,029
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Cristiano Felicio ($1,671,382); Joffrey Lauvergne ($3,248,466); Nikola Mirotic ($8,673,675); Dwyane Wade's player option ($23,800,000)
Notable Non-Guarantees: None
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 16 ($1,872,900)
All-Inclusive Total: $86,197,432
Projected Starting Cap Space: $14,802,568
Few teams have more fluid cap situations than the Chicago Bulls—hence the number of limbs on which this forecast steps.
Dwyane Wade's player option is the first leap of faith. It'll take him two, maybe three, years to recoup the $23.8 million he's owed next season, so the assumption should be he opts in. But if the Bulls make it clear they're angling for a teardown, Wade has earned enough money to chase rings in Cleveland elsewhere at a discount—much to the benefit of Chicago's cap room, which blows past $40 million without him.
Rajon Rondo is the next big what if. Just $3 million of his $13.4 million salary is guaranteed, making it easy for the Bulls to escort him out the back. But these are the Bulls. They might fancy him midseason trade fodder and refuse to "waste" $3 million. His return would eat into their projected cap space.
After that, the Bulls have to figure out whether they'll carry Michael Carter-Williams' restricted free-agent cap hold. (We're presuming they won't, because that would be the logical play. But again, Bulls.) Cristiano Felicio, Joffrey Lauvergne and Nikola Mirotic will all be due for raises as well.
Play it smart, and Chicago won't lack cap space, even if Wade returns. Keep Rondo, and there's an uncomfortably high chance next season's squad doesn't look much different than this year's seesawing faction.
Guaranteed Salaries: $125,671,205
Notable Free-Agent Holds: James Jones ($1,471,382); Kyle Korver ($9,954,930); Deron Williams ($1,471,382)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Kay Felder ($856,082)
First-Round Pick Holds: None
All-Inclusive Total: $139,424,981
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$38,424,981
Here's a quick cap-space decoder, free of charge.
Does your team have LeBron James? If no, it might have cap space. If yes, then no, there is no cap space. Nor will there be any cap space until he retires or pulls the dip.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are no exception. There could be a natural pivot point in 2019, when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have player options and J.R. Smith's salary is partially guaranteed.
Until then, and most likely well after, the Cavaliers will lean on the draw of playing with James reeling in serviceable free agents at clearance-rack prices.
This summer, then, will be like any other offseason. Cleveland must worry about filling the backup point guard role if Deron Williams bolts and figure out how much it'll take to keep a 36-year-old Kyle Korver—champagne problems (aka luxury-tax problems).
Guaranteed Salaries: $59,899,646
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Nerlens Noel ($10,961,225); Yogi Ferrell's team option ($1,312,611)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Nicolas Brussino ($1,312,611); Dorian Finney-Smith ($1,312,611); Salah Mejri ($1,471,382)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 9 ($2,681,900)
All-Inclusive Total: $78,951,986
Projected Starting Cap Space: $22,048,014
Dirk Nowitzki's $25 million team option is the key to the Dallas Mavericks' offseason. If they decline it and re-sign him at a stark discount, they'll have the money necessary to chase a big name or simply flesh out the rest of the roster.
Granted, this approach only works if the Mavericks have Nowitzki's cooperation. But that's a non-issue. Owner Mark Cuban relayed as much last summer while appearing on CBS Sports Radio's Brown and Scoop podcast:
We wanted to make it a two-year deal with a team option so that people wouldn't speculate that he was going to retire because Dirk is the type of guy, he's just a good guy. He would hate going city to city to city and everyone asking him if he was going to retire because he has no intention of retiring after this year and, with the team option that we have, he gave us the flexibility that said "if we find somebody that we can send the money to that he likes, we all like, then let's do it and if not, let's give the money to Dirk again which I'm fine with too."
Adding a pass-first point guard is something Cuban wants the Mavericks to look at, per the Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko. With J.J. Barea, Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell on the books, this doesn't bode well for Devin Harris' future; it's safe to strike his non-guaranteed deal from the record.
Upward of $20 million in cap space puts the Mavericks in a room with George Hill and Jeff Teague. Carving out a little more than that allows them to enter the Jrue Holiday sweepstakes.
Guaranteed Salaries: $55,208,214
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Danilo Gallinari ($22,575,000); Mason Plumlee ($5,821,325)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Mike Miller ($3,500,000)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 13 ($2,184,400)
All-Inclusive Total: $89,288,939
Projected Starting Cap Space: $11,711,061
Danilo Gallinari's player option will ultimately determine the extent of the Denver Nuggets' offseason cash flow. Scenarios abound, but he hasn't made up his mind.
"It's not time right now to make the decision," he said in mid-April, per the Denver Post's Nick Kosmider. "Right now it's time to digest the fact that we were not able to accomplish the goal that I had and we had at the beginning of the season. After that, it's time to go on vacation a little bit, rest the body—and after that I'm going to make a decision."
Opt in at $16.1 million for next year, and he helps the Nuggets eke out $18 million in cap space if they keep Mike Miller—the Udonis Haslem of Denver. Opt out, and both sides will have some soul-searching to do.
Carrying Gallinari's subsequent cap hold cuts into the Nuggets' spending capacity a great deal. But if they're resigned to losing him or don't want to bankroll his next contract, they can streak past $34 million in space by renouncing his rights.
Do the same for Miller, and Denver has the money to sign any free agent it dreams of—including 10-plus-year veterans eligible for max deals that start at 35 percent of next year's cap (howdoyado, Chris Paul?).
Guaranteed Salaries: $94,983,154
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Aron Baynes ($9,750,000); Reggie Bullock ($5,639,111); Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($9,195,797)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Michael Gbinije ($812,611); Darrun Hilliard ($1,471,382)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 12 ($2,299,400)
All-Inclusive Total: $124,151,455
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$23,151,455
Forget cap space. The Detroit Pistons will be lucky to avoid cannonballing into the luxury tax.
Aron Baynes is a goner if he opts out of his deal. The Pistons will pay Andre Drummond, Jon Leuer and Boban Marjanovic nearly $41.3 million combined next season and cannot justify using Bird rights to retain another expensive big. Baynes' cap hold is only here to cover all bases. Head coach and president Stan Van Gundy loves him, and Detroit can't spend that money on anyone else.
Wipe Baynes' and Reggie Bullock's holds from the ledger, and yes, the Pistons evade the $121 million luxury-tax threshold, granting them access to the full mid-level exception. But Caldwell-Pope's 2017-18 salary will more than double his pre-contract hit, almost completely negating the room spared by Baynes' and Bullock's theoretical departures.
All of which puts the Pistons on blow-up watch. They shopped Caldwell-Pope, Drummond and Reggie Jackson ahead of the trade deadline, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, and others will join that carousel over the offseason.
Van Gundy may decide the prospect of a healthy Jackson is enough to remain idle. But diving into the luxury tax for a team that didn't make the playoffs and imploded down the stretch is a questionable play at best. Detroit is in for an interesting summer.
Golden State Warriors
Guaranteed Salaries: $39,267,880
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Ian Clark ($1,471,382); Stephen Curry ($18,168,539); Kevin Durant ($31,848,120); Andre Igudoala ($16,697,052); Shaun Livingston ($10,986,655); JaVale McGee ($1,471,382); James McAdoo ($1,724,305); Zaza Pachulia ($3,477,600); David West ($1,471,382)
Notable Non-Guarantees: None
First-Round Pick Holds: None
All-Inclusive Total: $126,584,297
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$25,584,297
Kevin Durant has the ability to turn these projections into mush once he opts out of his contract.
If he wants a full max that pays him 35 percent of next year's cap, the Golden State Warriors must sign him using space. Coming up with that much coin while accounting for Stephen Curry's elevated hold wouldn't allow them to carry placeholders for all their other free agents—namely Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
Durant can quash the drama by agreeing to a non-Bird max, which would let the Warriors re-sign him for 120 percent of this year's salary without plunging into their cap space. This forecast bets on him sucking up what would be a roughly $3.5 million pay cut, but is he feeling that charitable?
"We'll figure that out when the time comes," he said, per the Bay Area New Group's Anthony Slater.
Sounds like a plan. And hey! Maybe Iguodala and Livingston are ready to enter ring-chasing mode, in which case they'd accept (way) below-market deals to prolong this dynastic party. Regardless, any flexibility the Warriors conjure will be in the name of their own.
Guaranteed Salaries: $87,668,421
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Nene ($3,477,600); Troy Williams ($1,512,611)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Isaiah Taylor ($1,312,611); Kyle Wiltjer ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: None
All-Inclusive Total: $95,283,854
Projected Starting Cap Space: $5,716,146
Two of the league's top-12 teams will enter the summer in the green. The Houston Rockets, owners of the third-best record for 2016-17, are one of them. That's a pretty darn good place to be.
Less than $10 million of cap space doesn't get general manager Daryl Morey far. But he can up the ante rather easily.
Ditch the cap holds on Nene and Troy Williams, plus the non-guarantees on Isaiah Taylor and Kyle Wiltjer, and the Rockets forge another $6 million in space after subsequent empty roster charges. Attach that to the $5.7 million already in play, and they'll have nearly $12 million to shell out for another player.
That's still not a lot this side of the salary-cap spike. And Nene, relative to his pay grade, has been a beast. Losing him would sting if he's not willing to stick around for less than his hold. Houston might be better off standing pat and playing the exceptions game.
Still, if the goal is to pitch a higher-end free agent (Joe Ingles!), the Rockets have the option of chiseling out some extra space.
Guaranteed Salaries: $58,122,047
Notable Free-Agent Holds: C.J. Miles ($8,708,555); Jeff Teague ($13,200,000)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Rakeem Christmas ($1,421,382); Georges Niang ($1,212,611); Glenn Robinson III ($1,524,305); Joseph Young ($1,471,382)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 18 ($1,690,300)
All-Inclusive Total: $87,350,582
Projected Starting Cap Space: $13,649,418
It's unclear if the Indiana Pacers will seek to produce as much cap space as possible. They flirt with $13.7 million if they say farewell to Lavoy Allen, Aaron Brooks and Kevin Seraphin, and they can considerably drive up that number.
C.J. Miles will cost a pretty penny to re-sign. Taking away his hold gets the Pacers more than $20 million in room—enough to peruse the fringe-star ranks without losing Jeff Teague. But that's only if they're prepared to rise above the salary cap.
"I have a budget," team president Larry Bird told ESPN.com's Zach Lowe. "Whatever that budget is, I'll spend it. Sometimes, we can't go after max guys, or players we really think could help us, because of our budget."
The depth of Indiana's pockets is directly tied to Paul George. If he doesn't make an All-NBA team and becomes ineligible for a five-year extension worth in excess of $200 million, they'll have to spend elsewhere to keep the Los Angeles Lakers out of his mind. If they're not willing to break open the piggy bank in this scenario, then they'll have to consider moving him before he can reach free agency in 2018 by declining his player option.
Things are only slightly less complicated if George qualifies for that five-year mega-extension. Assuming he signs it—and make no mistake, it'll be hard to turn down—the Pacers must account for it to kick in during the 2018-19 crusade. That, in turn, could dissuade them from making any remarkable overtures this summer.
Los Angeles Clippers
Guaranteed Salaries: $58,652,333 (if Paul Pierce retires)
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Blake Griffin ($30,211,259); Luc Mbah a Moute ($2,863,900); Chris Paul ($34,303,241); J.J. Redick ($11,066,250)
Notable Non-Guarantees: None
First-Round Pick Holds: None
Empty Roster Charges: Two ($1,631,230)
All-Inclusive Total: $138,728,212
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$37,728,212
Welcome to Salary-Cap Purgatory Tower, Floor No. 287. Population: Los Angeles Clippers.
Sitting nearly $20 million above the luxury-tax line doesn't imply an optimistic projection. But that's exactly what this is for the Clippers. Full-blown maxes for Blake Griffin and Chris Paul will cost slightly more than their cap holds, and J.J. Redick's sweet outside shooting should earn him a salary north of $11.1 million per year.
Sprinkle in luxury-tax penalties, and it's understandable if the Clippers think twice about keeping the band together. As USA Today's Sam Amick wrote:
The 31-year-old Paul and the 28-year-old Griffin will be seeking maximum-salary contracts, deals that would respectively start at approximately $35 million and $30 million annually. Redick, the 32-year-old who was recruited by Rivers not long after he arrived from the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2013, is sure to land a massive payday as well. Working projections peg the total at approximately $196 million in all, with $140 million in salaries and $56 million in luxury tax (and Redick, in that scenario, having a starting salary of approximately $18 million).
Once again, this is a favorable forecast. It doesn't include what the Clippers will pay other free agents. Every cent drums up their tax bill. Marreese Speights could opt in or re-sign on a non-Bird deal. Luc Mbah a Moute would be as good as gone. The Clippers own his Early Bird rights, but that only permits them to pay him 104.5 percent of the average annual salary—which is estimated at $6.2 million for 2016-17—before needing cap space. He should get much more than they can offer.
These financial ramifications won't, per Amick, stop head coach and president Doc Rivers from keeping the core intact. In a vacuum, this is fine. Letting two top-20 players, in Griffin and Paul, peace out for nothing is taboo. At the same time, there's hardly comfort in spending $200 million (or more) on a nucleus this inferior to the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
Los Angeles Lakers
Guaranteed Salaries: $69,626,861
Notable Free-Agent Holds: David Nwaba's team option ($1,312,611)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Tarik Black ($6,655,325)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 3 ($4,704,500); No. 28 ($1,179,100)
All-Inclusive Total: $83,478,397
Projected Starting Cap Space: $17,521,603
Nick Young's player option, or resulting cap hold, is deliberately excluded from these projections—in large part because he didn't sound like someone planning to be back with the Lakers after his exit interview.
"I'll see y'all when I come back and play y'all next year," he said, laughing, per NBC Los Angeles' Shahan Ahmed.
Sir Swags-a-Lot can barge his way into the Lakers' 2017-18 plans by opting into the final year of his deal. He is undecided on that front, per the Los Angeles Times' Lindsey Thiry. His agent will have to get a handle on the market before anything is final.
But even a tepid pool of suitors should coax Young into free agency. If he doesn't match his $5.7 million salary for next season, he'll at least be able to parlay his 40.4 percent three-point clip—the second-highest of his career—into more money over the long haul.
Truth be told, Young's decision won't impact the Lakers that much. They can regain the cap space he takes up by waiving Tarik Black, and their hold on the third overall pick isn't a sure thing. Someone could jump them in the lottery order, forcing them to send it to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Draft picks are more important to the Lakers than any amount of cap space this summer. Team president Magic Johnson wants a superstar, but going hard this year constricts them in 2018, when Paul George is ticketed for free agency. Unless they figure out a way to offload one or both of Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, developing prospects or surfing the chopping block for blockbuster acquisitions will be the Lakers' most notable path toward improvement.
Guaranteed Salaries: $92,811,952
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Tony Allen ($10,460,674); Vince Carter ($8,101,708); JaMychal Green ($3,384,596); Zach Randolph ($15,542,168)
Notable Non-Guarantees: None
First-Round Pick Holds: None
All-Inclusive Total: $130,301,098
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$29,301,098
Feel free to worry about the Memphis Grizzlies' cap situation.
Tony Allen, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph should all cost less than their actual holds, so the Grizzlies aren't going to become the small-market version of the Clippers. But they'll have a hard time sidestepping the luxury tax.
Because JaMychal Green, a restricted free agent, is about to get all kinds of paid.
Power forwards who switch pick-and-rolls, defend in space, provide a second layer of rim protection and shoot at above-average rates from deep are hot commodities around these parts. Memphis will count itself as lucky if a rival general manager doesn't fling four years and $60 million at Green.
Renouncing Allen, Carter and Randolph won't remedy the situation. The Grizzlies would slip under the cap before re-signing Green, but only by $1 million and change. Short of finding a taker to absorb Chandler Parsons' deal (not happening), they won't have anything beyond some form of the mid-level exception to spend.
Guaranteed Salaries: $49,362,256
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Luke Babbitt ($1,471,382)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Wayne Ellington ($6,270,000); Rodney McGruder ($1,312,611); Josh McRoberts' player option ($6,021,175); Josh Richardson ($1,471,382); Okaro White ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 14 ($2,075,300)
Empty Roster Charges: One ($815,615)
All-Inclusive Total: $70,112,332
Projected Starting Cap Space: $30,887,668
The Miami Heat's cap situation is conditional upon the final two years and $52.1 million of Chris Bosh's pact getting bounced from the bottom line. Barring any surprise developments, the expectation is that it will be, per the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson.
From there, the road to max space is fairly clear. But it's not without collateral damage.
James Johnson, Willie Reed (player option) and Dion Waiters (player option) aren't a part of the Heat's projections. Each played well enough to earn a sizable raise in free agency. Including their non-Bird holds is pointless. All three will command more than the 20 percent increases those would reflect.
Convincing a superstar to join the cause won't allow the Heat to retain any of them. They'll have to waive Wayne Ellington just to enter the discussion for Gordon Hayward, one of their primary targets, according to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola.
Resident free-agent whisperer/team president Pat Riley may decide to set his sights lower. Fixating on second-tier possibilities such as Danilo Gallinari, Joe Ingles and C.J. Miles probably leaves the Heat with enough leftover green to re-sign one of Johnson and Waiters in addition to Reed. This feels like the better, more plausible route in many respects, but Miami will be a team to watch either way.
Guaranteed Salaries: $82,635,697
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Spencer Hawes' player option ($6,021,175); Greg Monroe's player option ($17,884,176); Tony Snell ($5,920,817)
Notable Non-Guarantees: None
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 17 ($1,779,200)
All-Inclusive Total: $114,241,065
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$13,241,065
Everything about the Milwaukee Bucks' financial outlook hinges on Spencer Hawes and Greg Monroe. If both decline their player options, the team can hammer out almost $11 million in space by renouncing their rights.
Two months ago, this would have profiled as the ideal scenario. Now, it's more inconsequential.
Close to $11 million in buying power won't be enough to get the Bucks an upgrade over Tony Snell (restricted). They can get rid of his hold and gain even more flexibility, but he's been good for them. So, too, has Greg Monroe, who will get some residual Sixth Man of the Year love.
Milwaukee also doesn't know what it has in this full-strength roster. Jabari Parker needs to return from his latest ACL injury before the higher-ups seek out another Monroe-type splash.
Getting another season from Hawes and Monroe brings the Bucks to an organic fork in the road next summer. They get one more year to grade their current core before the pair reaches the open market and Parker becomes a restricted free agent.
Besides, between the mid-level and Roy Hibbert trade exceptions, the Bucks enjoy comparable resources without losing Hawes and Monroe.
Guaranteed Salaries: $75,084,187
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Shabazz Muhammad ($7,615,746); Brandon Rush ($4,200,000)
Notable Non-Guarantees: None
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 6 ($3,488,600)
All-Inclusive Total: $90,388,533
Projected Starting Cap Space: $10,611,467
Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins are extension-eligible this summer, and Karl-Anthony Towns will be right behind them in 2018. The Minnesota Timberwolves must prep for these salary surges, which may curtail how much they spend now.
It's nevertheless harrowing to think that one of the most promising cores in basketball will have the dinero to land another meaningful contributor. Discard the $11.8 million in holds on Shabazz Muhammad and Brandon Rush, and they're looking at more than $20 million in offseason riches.
Pressed about the Timberwolves' plans for their cap space at his end-of-season press conference, head coach and president Tom Thibodeau was non-committal, but also cryptic, per Canis Hoopus' John Meyer and Dane Moore:
I think [it's about adding] the right players. I do think experience is important. I also feel you have to look at the age of the three young guys in Karl, Wigg, and Zach, and make sure that the windows match up. And so I think that's an important part of this. Last summer we had the money. We didn't get the guys we had targeted, but we also didn't misuse that money so we have great flexibility going forward. But it's also important for everyone to understand that we do have to improve this summer.
Loosely translated: Minnesota won't be haphazardly doling out megadeals, but its cap space isn't just for show.
New Orleans Pelicans
Guaranteed Salaries: $84,755,298
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Dante Cunningham ($5,658,575); Jrue Holiday ($16,929,777)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Jordan Crawford ($1,709,538)
First-Round Pick Holds: None
All-Inclusive Total: $109,053,188
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$8,053,188
Sources told Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler back in February the New Orleans Pelicans are "prepared to do a max or near-max deal" for Jrue Holiday. Nothing from the team's exit interviews points to that changing.
"Jrue's been with us for four years," general manager Dell Demps said, per ESPN.com's Justin Verrier. "We love Jrue. We love his family. Obviously we'd like to have him back. He's got a tough decision to make. We're going to let that process play out. He's one of my favorite players. He's a two-way player and he's a phenomenal person. We really enjoyed having him here."
Ignoring the past tense use of "enjoy," there's not much else the Pelicans can do if they re-sign Holiday. Their draft pick is being sent to the Sacramento Kings if it lands outside of the top three, and they don't have enough secondary contract holds to drop below the cap.
Stretching Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik—which entails spreading out the remainder of their deals over the next five seasons—cuts $9.3 million from the Pelicans' docket. Renouncing Jordan Crawford and Dante Cunningham (if he opts out) in conjunction with those moves pulls them $8.6 million under the cap—minus resulting roster charges.
Renouncing and stretching anyone is futile at that point. The Pelicans get more value out of the mid-level exception. They might as well be happy they're functioning as a non-taxpayer. Cap-cleaning hypotheticals can be revisited if Holiday acts on the itch to bolt.
New York Knicks
Guaranteed Salaries: $75,463,860
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Ron Baker ($1,512,611); Justin Holiday ($1,471,382); Sasha Vujacic ($1,471,382)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Maurice Ndour ($1,312,611); Marshall Plumlee ($1,312,611); Chasson Randle ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 7 ($3,184,700)
All-Inclusive Total: $87,041,768
Projected Starting Cap Space: $13,958,232
Yes, Sasha Vujacic's hold is sticking with the New York Knicks. They own his early Bird rights, and so long as Phil Jackson is team president, the assumption is they'll want to sign him for a third consecutive season to get his full Bird rights—you know, just in case a general manager who hates his organization has the urge to pay him big-time bucks in 2018.
Vujacic shouldn't be getting more than the minimum, so he technically doesn't have to be part of the projection. But it's better to keep him in the fold. He is a triangle-offense veteran, and we can't rule out Jackson paying him money he doesn't deserve.
Fear not, though. The Knicks are getting some credit.
Derrick Rose's $31,984,878 hold would be included if we really wanted to insult their intelligence. Jackson spoke highly of the oft-injured point guard, who's currently nursing a torn left meniscus, during his end-of-season lecture/sermon/media-scolding. But he can window-shop as if he's renouncing Rose, even if he wants to keep him. Other offers won't be rolling in, and Rose isn't negotiating anything close to his max.
New York can exceed $20 million in funds by shedding all of its other free-agent holds and non-guaranteed deals. It's just too early to tell whether this matters—because it's too early tell who, if anyone, wants to sign with a franchise that embarrassed a team legend (Charles Oakley), voluntarily destroyed the trade value of its only All-Star (Carmelo Anthony) and drove its future cornerstone (Kristaps Porzingis) into silent rebellion.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Guaranteed Salaries: $110,037,026
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Taj Gibson ($13,425,000); Jerami Grant's team option ($1,524,305); Andre Roberson ($5,457,681)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Semaj Christon ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 21 ($1,487,500)
All-Inclusive Total: $133,244,123
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$32,244,123
The Oklahoma City Thunder are not in an enviable position. Indeed, they have Russell Westbrook, who could probably drag a cast of middle-schoolers to the No. 8 seed. But life is about to get expensive—untenably expensive for a 47-win team that doesn't have the firepower to knock off any of the Western Conference's Goliaths.
Hold serve, and the Thunder fly over the cap. Keep pre-contract hits for Taj Gibson and Andre Roberson, and they rocket into the luxury tax. And their spending wouldn't necessarily stop at $133.2 million. That's actually a generous projection.
Gibson's hold could be right around his market value. Pushing 32 with an offensive game that borders on obsolete, he might cost less. But with the Nets and Sixers likely to shower every half-competent restricted free-agent wing in big bucks, Roberson should end up costing around three times more than his cap hold.
Oklahoma City can taper costs by moving on from Gibson, but that doesn't keep it out of the tax. That'll take a demonstrative salary dump or bidding Roberson adieu.
General manager Sam Presti always seems to have something up his sleeve, but even a magician like himself will be hard-pressed to pull a reasonably priced roster out of his hat this offseason.
Guaranteed Salaries: $77,915,080
Notable Free-Agent Holds: None
Notable Non-Guarantees: Stephen Zimmerman ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 5 ($3,841,000); No. 25 ($1,263,500)
Empty Roster Charges: One ($815,615)
All-Inclusive Total: $85,147,806
Projected Starting Cap Space: $15,852,194
Good news: The Orlando Magic have the cap space necessary to turn some of their whiteboard dreams into reality.
Bad news: This isn't exactly good news.
Orlando lacks direction. Heck, it lacks a permanent general manager. Matt Lloyd is the acting successor for the fired Rob Hennigan, but the team's search for an indefinite replacement is barely underway, according to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler.
Certain small-ball lineups worked out well for the Magic following the Serge Ibaka trade, but will they embrace that model with both Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic in tow? Can they be trusted to move on from Jeff Green and C.J. Watson (non-guaranteed) and actually hit their cap-space ceiling? If they do, will they be able to net quality free agents who fit their ambiguous timeline without overpaying them?
And most importantly: With Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton up for extensions, will they even use their cap space, or will they get pocket shy amid the thought of having to reinvest in the current roster before 2018-19?
Guaranteed Salaries: $35,959,973
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Robert Covington's team option ($1,577,230); Sergio Rodriguez ($9,600,000)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Richaun Holmes ($1,471,382); T.J. McConnell ($1,471,382)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 4 ($4,241,700)
All-Inclusive Total: $54,321,667
Projected Starting Cap Space: $46,678,333
Philly can effortlessly etch out $46.7 million in space by the time free agency begins, which is, without question, ridiculous. More absurd: This includes a $9.6 million hold on Sergio Rodriguez for which the Sixers may have no use.
Former No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons should be ready to rock next season, and head coach Brett Brown is bent on testing him out at point guard. As he told Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast with Woj (via Liberty Ballers' Xylon Dimoff):
When I say "point guard," I mean "point guard." You know, who takes the ball out of bounds, who receives the ball when the ball goes in the basket, who brings it up the floor after a free throw. I'm not talking about Draymond, I'm not talking about LeBron, you know, I'm talking about a point guard. And so I intend on trying this.
T.J. McConnell has proved to be a worthy backup, so Rodriguez becomes nonessential if Simmons is playing the 1. Purge his cap hit from the register, and the Sixers are looking at more than $55 million in space. For context, this leaves them less than $6 million shy of offering a max deal to a pair of seven-to-nine-year veterans—say, Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward.
This number is subject to change. The Sixers could win the Lakers' top-three-protected pick. They could re-sign Rodriguez at a lower rate. They could bring back Gerald Henderson. They can do all that and still have the wiggle room to pitch whomever will take their calls.
Guaranteed Salaries: $65,946,252
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Alex Len ($12,059,053); Alan Williams ($1,671,382)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Leandro Barbosa ($3,500,000); Derrick Jones Jr. ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 2 ($5,238,800)
All-Inclusive Total: $89,728,098
Projected Starting Cap Space: $11,271,902
Few teams match the Phoenix Suns' offseason flexibility. They don't possess star-level money, but they have the ability to get there.
That ability's name is Alex Len.
Deep-sixing top-five prospects isn't a celebrated practice. Len isn't exactly a bust, and he's still only 23. But his development has stalled. He doesn't space the floor and hasn't progressed as a rim-runner. He's made strides as a stationary paint protector but isn't someone you want switching assignments mid-possession.
Phoenix can re-sign him and sort through his future later. He'll probably cost less than his cap hold, and a small-market rebuilding team doesn't need to dredge up $20-plus million in cap space. But the frontcourt rotation isn't conducive to prolonging this marriage.
Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Tyson Chandler all warrant playing time, and the Suns like to dabble Jared Dudley and T.J. Warren as small-ball 4s. Alan Williams, another restricted free agent, also basically moved ahead of Len in the rotation by season's end.
Fortunately for the Suns, they have the financial plasticity to float in this gray area a while longer. Just don't rule out them first trying to expedite their rebuild by leveraging significant cap space into high-profile free-agent meetings.
Portland Trail Blazers
Guaranteed Salaries: $132,928,775
Notable Free-Agent Holds: None
Notable Non-Guarantees: Pat Connaughton ($1,471,382); Tim Quarterman ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 15 ($1,971,300); No. 20 ($1,549,500); No. 26 ($1,221,600)
All-Inclusive Total: $140,455,168
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$39,455,168
So, yeah. The Portland Trail Blazers need to make some trades.
Including their three first-rounders, Pat Connaughton and Tim Quarterman, they'll have 17 players on next season's books after, presumably, eating the $1 million in guaranteed money owed to Festus Ezeli. Waiving Quarterman still leaves them one player over the league maximum of 15.
Burning a pick or two on an overseas prospect helps ease the burden, but a roster shakeup is inevitable. The Blazers must offload swathes of salary or align themselves with a win-now window after spending into the luxury tax. Either they use first-round goodies to grease the wheels of a contract dump, or they pair picks with anyone not named Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to consolidate assets into a bigger name.
Trimming some odds and ends from the cap sheet and plowing forward with an identical roster is also an option. But after Portland almost missed the playoffs this year, it's not a good one.
Guaranteed Salaries: $35,041,933
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Darren Collison ($9,935,963); Langston Galloway's player option ($5,434,000); Rudy Gay's player option ($14,263,566); Ben McLemore ($10,022,205)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Anthony Tolliver ($6,000,000)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 8 ($2,917,600); No. 10 ($2,547,700)
All-Inclusive Total: $86,162,967
Projected Starting Cap Space: $14,837,033
Rudy Gay is no longer a lock to opt out of his contract after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury. Though he can bank on recovering his $14.3 million salary (and then some) over the long haul, the Kings want him around, per the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones. And if they're willing to play him, he'll get the opportunity to pad his stat totals and restore his market value on a team with few go-to options.
Ben McLemore, a restricted free agent, looks out of place with Buddy Hield and Malachi Richardson in town, but head coach Dave Joerger wants him to stay, per Sactown Royalty's Greg Wissinger.
Anthony Tolliver also doesn't appear to be going anywhere. About $2 million of his $8 million salary is guaranteed, and he's reveling in his mentorship role. He told Skal Labissiere that "My job is to teach you how to take my job," per Hoop-Ball's Aaron Bruski.
Langston Galloway might have enough juice to opt out of his contract. He shot 47.5 percent from beyond the arc after arriving in Sacramento and could be a good second-string combo guard on a playoff team. His salary is included as a precautionary measure.
Ditto for Darren Collison. He should be a wanted man, and the Kings have no business handing long-term money to a soon-to-be 30-year-old point guard. But, well, they still need a point guard, and Collison can play off the ball enough to complement whatever floor general they might draft with one of their two first-rounders.
Depending on how all this unfolds, the Kings will go from $14.8 million in cap space (assuming they waive Afflalo) to $60-plus million in room (if everyone is waived, opts out or gets renounced)—money that should be allocated to young flyers who can grow with the rest of the Kinglets.
San Antonio Spurs
Guaranteed Salaries: $73,476,137
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Pau Gasol's player option ($16,197,500); David Lee's player option ($2,328,652); Patty Mills ($6,800,001); Jonathon Simmons ($1,671,382)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Bryn Forbes ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 29 ($1,170,500)
All-Inclusive Total: $102,956,783
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$1,956,783
Dewyane Dedmon's exclusion should immediately jump out at you. He has morphed into one of the Spurs' most valuable defenders—a paint protector who switches pick-and-rolls and locks down in isolation. If they buck their recent trend of falling to more explosive units, he'll be a big reason why.
Except, San Antonio is at risk of becoming a victim to its own savvy.
Dedmon is going to opt out of his deal, and the Spurs don't own his Bird rights. They can pay him 120 percent of his 2016-17 salary using his non-Bird rights, but that doesn't even amount to $3 million. They'll need to re-sign him into cap space, making it relatively pointless to carry his hold.
Rid the books of Patty Mills, Jonathon Simmons (restricted) and Bryn Forbes, and the Spurs can duck the cap. They'll have more money if David Lee opts out. But completely clearing the decks won't even give them $10 million. As promising as Dedmon has been, he isn't worth quasi-decimation.
Pau Gasol has the power to alter the complexion of San Antonio's free agency. He creates more than $14 million worth of room by opting out. But he's not Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili. He isn't taking pennies on the dollar for a team with which he's played only one year. If he opts out, it's because he's leaving. But he's not leaving. He has 16.2 million reasons to stay.
Unless the Spurs usher in a new era with a Tony Parker salary dump (very unlikely), they'll more or less look the same. Ginobili may retire. He might return (for much less). Maybe the Spurs figure out a way to fit Dedmon into the picture. Perhaps Mills leaves. Too much needs to happen, though, for them to look drastically different from the team that took the court this season.
Guaranteed Salaries: $76,812,631
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Serge Ibaka ($18,375,000); Kyle Lowry ($18,000,000); Patrick Patterson ($9,075,000); P.J. Tucker ($10,070,000)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Norman Powell ($1,471,382); Fred VanVleet ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 23 ($1,371,000)
All-Inclusive Total: $136,487,624
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$35,487,624
Never before has spending into oblivion been so simple.
Cap holds for Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker ferry the Toronto Raptors way past the luxury-tax entrance. And if they want to keep the foundation intact, their all-inclusive total will only rise.
Ibaka's placeholder might be around his eventual sticker price, though aggressive buyers could push him into max-contract territory. Lowry, however, will cost close to twice as much if he's not giving out discounts. He's eligible for the 35 percent max, which would start him at $35.4 million—more than $17 million above his cap hold.
Tack that onto the current projection, and Toronto is on the hook for more than $153 million in salary before taxes. And that's if Ibaka, Patterson and Tucker don't combine to make more than $37.1 million.
Expect the Raptors to balk at bringing everyone back. Ibaka and Lowry aren't going anywhere, but Patterson and Tucker are fair game if general manager Masai Ujiri doesn't sell off some mix of DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph and Jonas Valanciunas.
Guaranteed Salaries: $65,708,485
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Gordon Hayward ($24,109,710); George Hill ($12,000,000); Joe Ingles ($4,085,000); Shelvin Mack ($4,623,335); Jeff Withey ($1,471,382)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Boris Diaw ($7,500,000); Raul Neto ($1,471,382)
First-Round Pick Holds: No. 24 ($1,316,200); No. 30 ($1,162,100)
All-Inclusive Total: $123,447,594
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$22,447,594
Rudy Gobert told HoopsHype's Alex Kennedy that he'll convince Gordon Hayward to stay with the Utah Jazz by promising him championships. We might as well pencil him in for a return now, right?
That remains the preferred scenario. It's also the most wildly expensive one—and Utah's cap commitments will explode accordingly.
Hayward's max deal pays him more than $30 million in 2017-18. That's about $6 million more than his cap hold. If he comes back, the Jazz have no reason to pass on George Hill and Joe Ingles, both of whom will command more than their own pre-contract hits.
Hill shouldn't enter the max-deal discussion after cooling off to end the regular season, but Utah will be lucky to get him for under $20 million per year. Ingles is rapidly transforming into one of the NBA's worst-kept secrets. His three-point shooting, on-ball playmaking and switchability on defense should garner offers worth in excess of $12 million.
Are the Jazz prepared to pay $145 million (or more) before taxes to give this exact group another go? Will they look to dump Alec Burks and Derrick Favors while handing the backup point guard reins to Dante Exum and Raul Neto to save money? Assuming Hayward returns, we're about to find out.
Guaranteed Salaries: $91,906,361
Notable Free-Agent Holds: Bojan Bogdanovic ($7,088,241); Otto Porter ($11,787,963)
Notable Non-Guarantees: Sheldon McClellan ($1,312,611); Daniel Ochefu ($1,312,611)
First-Round Pick Holds: None
All-Inclusive Total: $113,407,787
Projected Starting Cap Space: -$12,407,787
It won't get any easier for the Washington Wizards to fill out their bench in the offseason. They are miles over the cap before actually paying the bill on Bojan Bogdanovic's and Otto Porter's new deals. They'll be in the hole for even more if they consider Trey Burke a part of their future.
Bogdanovic's next contract will probably come from somewhere else. Keeping Porter will be that expensive. Front-office execs told ESPN.com's Zach Lowe in December that Porter will get max offers in restricted free agency, and his value has only increased since.
Paying Porter the max will run around $25.3 million in Year 1—approximately 25 percent of the cap and more than double his hold. The Wizards can skirt the tax by renouncing Bogdanvoic but only if they don't make any other noteworthy acquisitions with the mid-level exception.
That puts them in a precarious situation. They were one of the hottest squads after Christmas, but their defense faded during the stretch run, and the starting lineup was, to put it kindly, overused. Paying a boatload more money for the same shallow (albeit oft-effective) product doesn't have that nice of a ring to it.
Thin on alternatives, the Wizards can either commit more to look the same or pay even more than that to hopefully look slightly different.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference or NBA.com. Team salary and player contract information via Basketball Insiders. Draft-pick projections from RealGM.