Looking Toward 2014′s Salary Cap
With training camps just weeks away, the summer of 2013 is coming to a close. Nearly every team that came into the offseason with cap room spent. Stragglers remain (like the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns) but few free agents left on the board are worth more than the minimum salary.
Soon the focus will shift to actual game play. Of course with the season comes the trade deadline (February 20), then the NBA Draft (June 26) and once again it’s July — time for the next round of free agency.
The biggest free agent could be LeBron James, a certainty if he chooses to opt out of his contract with the Miami HEAT. Carmelo Anthony, of the New York Knicks, may be a lock to forgo the final year on his deal — although re-signing with New York is certainly not out of the question.
Indiana Pacers’ star Paul George is eligible for an extension until the 2013-14 season starts. If he doesn’t receive one, he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer.
Other big name free agents will likely include Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay (player option or PO), Chris Bosh (early termination option or ETO), Dwyane Wade (ETO), Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut, Paul Pierce, Greg Monroe (restricted or RFA), Zach Randolph (PO), DeMarcus Cousins (RFA), Kyle Lowry, Derrick Favors (RFA) and Gordon Hayward (RFA) — among many others.
The NBA’s early cap projection for the 2014-15 season is $62.1 million. The variables are many, including extensions, options, draft position, draft protections and the like.
Based on an early best estimate, which teams will be in a position to go shopping?
The following 14 teams project to have cap room next summer:
Los Angeles Lakers — $46-52 million
Philadelphia 76ers — $34 million
Dallas Mavericks — $31 million
Utah Jazz — $23-43 million
Phoenix Suns — $19.5 million
Charlotte Bobcats — $19 million
Orlando Magic — $19 million
Washington Wizards — $15 million
Atlanta Hawks — $12 million
Detroit Pistons — $12 million
Milwaukee Bucks — $12 million
Golden State Warriors — $10 million
Toronto Raptors — $8-26 million
San Antonio Spurs — $7 million
Cleveland Cavaliers — 6.5-$24 million
Note: A fixed salary of $1.25 million was used for 2014 draft picks. The actual range is $911k to $4.6 million.
If the Jazz were to win the lottery, their available cap space would drop by about $3.3 million. If they land the 10th pick in the draft, their space dips by just $854k.
Utah has a wide range based on the money they may tie up with restricted free agents Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward.
The Lakers are easily at the top of the list. The big question is Kobe Bryant and how much money the team will pay him to stay — and how much he’ll accept. The Lakers can increase their cap space by moving Steve Nash before next summer, either by trade or the waiver wire (via the stretch provision).
The Cavaliers may have their eyes on LeBron James but if he wants to come back to where he started, Cleveland would have to either waive Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao, or find other means to cut salary.
If Rudy Gay doesn’t opt out of his final year with the Toronto Raptors, he’ll eat up most of their cap room. If he leaves, Toronto will have a lot to spend.
The Wizards have to make decisions on players like Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor if they want cap room in 2014.
The Spurs might avoid going under the cap altogether.
The NBA has projected a tax threshold of $75.7 million for the 2014-15 season. Like the cap number, it can be only estimated with the actual figure announced in early July.
Brooklyn Nets – Even with Pierce’s $15.3 million contract coming off their books after this season, the Nets have $83 million in guaranteed contracts for 2014-15. Brooklyn could end up paying about $88 million in luxury tax for the coming season.
While it may not be quite as high for 2014-15, the Nets appear to be a willing spender.
New York Knicks – The Knicks are over the tax but if Carmelo Anthony opts out (and leaves), the team will drop under the tax threshold. They still won’t have cap room and if Anthony re-signs, New York could have well over $90 million in payroll — before tax.
Miami Heat – The HEAT are also a tax team, although if James, Wade and Bosh all opt out, Miami could have in the neighborhood of $45 million in cap space. In fact, technically Miami doesn’t have a single guaranteed dollar in place for next season.
A number of teams project to be over the cap but under the tax threshold including the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies.
If the Bulls chose to amnesty Carlos Boozer, suddenly they have about $12 million in cap space. If Randolph opts out and leaves Memphis, the Grizzlies could have nearly $18 million.
The Kings have to decide on players like DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Jimmer Fredette and Greivis Vasquez. If they let all go, the Kings have become a major cap team with about $20 million in spending power.
For some teams, getting under the cap just doesn’t make sense.
The Pacers would have to let both Danny Granger and Luis Scola go to get to about $6.5 million under. The Pelicans might be able to get $5 million under the cap but that’s less than the value of the Mid-Level Exception ($5.305 million) allotted for teams over the cap.
Finally, player movement through the trade deadline, at the draft and even next July could change the numbers for any and all teams.