Salary Cap Best/Worst Case Scenarios: The West
Now, 2012 NBA free agency begins in just 69 days. Last week, we took a look at the best and worst case salary cap scenarios for the Eastern Conference. It’s time to do the same for all 15 teams in the West.
First, a reminder of the parameters:
The best case below describes the maximum amount of cap space the team could have if all options are declined.
The worst case describes the maximum amount of space the team could have if all options are invoked (the deadline is no later than June 30th).
Cap holds are the amount each team’s free agents count against their cap. This does not include draft picks, but to get an idea you can see which picks have been traded here and what the 2012 rookie scale is for first-round picks. Cap holds stay in place until the player is re-signed by his current team, signed by another team, or the rights to that player are renounced. These count against the cap and reduce a team’s available cap space. The numbers listed can change depending on if Qualifying Offers are issued by June 30th or not to eligible players. The dollar amount of cap holds listed assumes QOs will be issued to players finishing up their rookie scale contracts (first-round picks) and not issued to other eligible players, neither of which are guarantees.
Some of these teams also have the option available to use the amnesty provision. Click here for more discussion on that and to see which players are eligible.
Contracts signed under the new collective bargaining agreement (anything after 12/7/2011) can also be waived using the stretch provision. This allows teams to waive the entire contract but stretch the cap hit out over double the amount of years left on the deal plus one. For example, if a player has two years and $5 million left on his contract, a team could use stretch and have a $1 million cap hit for each of the next five seasons.
Click on each team name to see their detailed salary page.
Best Case: $45.6 million (5)
Worst Case: $53.4 million (8)
Cap Holds: $33.2 million (7)
The Variables: Dallas gets to their best case scenario by waiving Lamar Odom ($2.4 million of $8.2 million guaranteed), Vince Carter ($2 million of $3.1 million guaranteed), and Brandan Wright (fully unguaranteed minimum salary). If they so desire, they also have amnesty they can use on Shawn Marion or Brendan Haywood, which is very possible if they truly do want to go after Deron Williams in free agency. (That topic was explored in detail here.) If Dallas went all-in and signed Williams they would be very, very limited as to how they could fill out their roster. The better choice, from a team-building standpoint, would still be to walk away from Odom and consider amnesty for Haywood, then decide how to spend the cap room that creates.
Best Case: $48.9 million (10)
Worst Case: $51.4 million (12)
Cap Holds: $25.6 million (3)
The Variables: The Nuggets get to their max cap room number by waiving Timofey Mozgov ($1.4 million guaranteed) and Julyan Stone. While it seems the Nuggets may have money to spend, they also have center JaVale McGee who will likely be a restricted free agent. Considering they traded Nene away for McGee, it seems likely they do what it takes to re-sign him. Add him back to the roster, plus a first-round pick and a veteran free agent point guard to replace Andre Miller (or re-sign Miller) and the Nuggets will be done with their offseason business. They could use amnesty on Chris Andersen, but it won’t clear much space with McGee being a priority.
Best Case: $56.2 million (8)
Worst Case: $56.7 million (9)
Cap Holds: $12.7 million (6)
The Variables: Charles Jenkins’ 2012-13 salary is only guaranteed for $200,000, which makes the difference between Golden State’s best and worst case. The Warriors will look to add another body in free agency via the Mid-Level Exception and possibly retain Brandon Rush (eligible for restricted free agency), but they made their big move already when they traded Monta Ellis to get Andrew Bogut. If the Warriors’ first-round pick ends up in the top seven they don’t have to give it to the Utah Jazz, so adding that to the one they received from the San Antonio Spurs for taking Richard Jefferson and the Warriors will put a very different look on the floor in the fall.
Best Case: $34.0 million (6)
Worst Case: $40.8 million (9)
Cap Holds: $30.0 million (5)
The Variables: Only $1.5 million of Samuel Dalembert’s $6.7 million contract is guaranteed. The Rockets are going to be buyers this summer, especially if they decide to trade Kevin Martin or sign-and-trade Courtney Lee (or Goran Dragic?). Regardless of what they do with both of those players or with Dalembert, they will be very, very busy. Their first order of business will be to either re-sign Marcus Camby to a much, much smaller contract or to renounce his rights; that $19.3 million cap hold will stop them from doing anything else.
Best Case: $49.2 million (6)
Worst Case: $57.7 million (7)
Cap Holds: $18.2 million (8)
The Variables: If Mo Williams declines his $8.5 million Player Option, he will be doing the Clippers a huge favor. While he is productive, he is also replaceable and the Clips would be better off using that money to fill multiple holes off the bench. With Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler already under contract, bench depth – especially in the frontcourt – will be their focus.
Best Case: $62.4 million (6)
Worst Case: $83.8 million (9)
Cap Holds: $10.5 million (5)
The Variables: The Lakers only get to their best case scenario if they decline their $16.1 million Team Option on Andrew Bynum. That’s not going to happen. Ramon Sessions may well decline his $4.6 million Player Option, but the Lakers will be almost obligated to re-sign him just to have a second point guard on the roster. The only other way the Lakers can add talent is via the $3 million mini-MLE, so keeping Sessions – even at a higher rate than many be optimal – is something they have to do. Los Angeles can’t replace their starting point guard for $3 million or with a minimum contract. When September rolls around, expect the Lakers’ payroll to be in the $90 million range again.
Best Case: $62.5 million (9)
Worst Case: $62.5 million (9)
Cap Holds: $32.2 million (5)
The Variables: The Grizzlies are an anomaly among NBA teams with no difference between their best and worst case (only the Oklahoma City Thunder join that group). All nine of their deals for next season are guaranteed. Up to this point, the Grizzlies have refused to pay the luxury tax, which means what they do this offseason will be limited. If they spend the full MLE they are set at $67.5 million, and that doesn’t even take into account sixth man O.J. Mayo’s status as a likely restricted free agent with a $7.4 million Qualifying Offer. In addition, they have two other possible Qualifying Offers (Marreese Speights at $3.8 million and Darrell Arthur at $3.0 million) they can make. Memphis will have to make some tough decisions which could result in them losing a talented young player (or two) for nothing.
Best Case: $50.2 million (10)
Worst Case: $59.6 million (12)
Cap Holds: $25.7 million (3)
The Variables: Minnesota gets to their best case by waiving Martell Webster and Brad Miller (Only $1.5 million of $10.8 million guaranteed). However, if they decide to issue Qualifying Offers to Michael Beasley ($8.2 million) and/or Anthony Randolph ($4.0 million), then they only have exceptions left available to add to the roster. Whether or not to issue those offers is a difficult decision because the Wolves are in a position to not need either player, but will they be willing to lose them for nothing? Minnesota could also clear a little more room by using amnesty on Darko Milicic, but this franchise isn’t likely to pay players to not play.
Best Case: $35.1 million (7)
Worst Case: $36.6 million (8)
Cap Holds: $51.2 million (6)
The Variables: Gustavo Ayon’s $1.5 million contract is fully unguaranteed and they don’t have to make that decision until July 25th, after all the big free agents will be signed up. Speaking of big free agents, guard Eric Gordon will be one of the most in-demand players on the entire market, but with a new owner now paying the bills instead of the league, the Hornets will likely try to keep the young scoring star. If they really wanted to start over, New Orleans could use amnesty on the final two years and $28 million of Emeka Okafor’s contract.
Best Case: $63.8 million (12)
Worst Case: $63.8 million (12)
Cap Holds: $9.8 million (3)
The Variables: There’s not much to say about the Thunder. They have 12 fully guaranteed contracts, are well under the tax, have their own first-round pick, are a top team in the Western Conference, have no key (starter) free agents and really may only look to add a player with the MLE. They could simply use that money to re-sign Derek Fisher or Nazr Mohammed, both who have filled needed roles. About all the Thunder will have to think about this summer is whether or not they want to offer early extensions to James Harden, Serge Ibaka or Eric Maynor.
Best Case: $30.8 million (6)
Worst Case: $31.8 million (7)
Cap Holds: $47.8 million (7)
The Variables: The Suns can shave off $1 million by waiving Sebastian Telfair. They could also clear another $6.5 million if they use amnesty on Josh Childress, but that means writing a check to a non-contributor, something the Suns don’t have a history of doing under Robert Sarver (until this year, when they paid roughly $6.7 million to Mickael Pietrus and Vince Carter to play elsewhere). They sit at a turning point, too. With veterans Grant Hill and Steve Nash counting for $27.3 million in cap holds, do they keep them or let them go? Is keeping them good for the long-term growth of the franchise? Or does it make more sense to keep a player like Aaron Brooks and spend the rest of the cap space on younger free agents? If the Suns are sentimental, they will keep the veterans, but sentimentality isn’t going to make them better in the win/loss column. Losing players like Nash and Hill will hurt, but the Suns will be better for it. This team will be very different in the fall.
Best Case: $27.1 million (7)
Worst Case: $35.5 million (9)
Cap Holds: $40.6 million (6)
The Variables: Portland gets to their best case if Jamal Crawford (likely) and Shawne Williams (unlikely) decline to invoke their Player Options. Crawford is practically a given, but coming off a bad start to the season and then injury, $3.1 million is probably the best Williams can do. He declined buyout talks, but the Blazers could use the stretch provision and turn that $3,135,000 salary into a $1.045 million cap hit for each of the next three seasons, opening up $2 million more in cap space. That’s important because barring a draft lottery surprise, the Blazers will have two lottery picks (their own and New Jersey’s) to use for building around All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. They want to add a top-tier point guard to Aldridge and are willing to do whatever it takes to bring Deron Williams into the mix, plus they want to keep Nic Batum. Batum will be a restricted free agent with a $3.2 million Qualifying Offer and a $6.5 million cap hold. Expect the Blazers to allow Batum to sign an offer sheet (which they will match), because when he does sign it will be for more than $6.5 million. J.J. Hickson can be a restricted free agent as well, but the Blazers may not make him the offer because of how much money it could tie up, keeping them from making other free agent signings.
Best Case: $42.5 million (9)
Worst Case: $44.1 million (11)
Cap Holds: $15.9 million (3)
The Variables: Sacramento gets to their best case by waiving Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas, the latter of which will absolutely not happen. They have plenty of money to spend and could make Qualifying Offers to Jason Thompson ($4.3 million) and Donte’ Greene ($3.0 million). Thompson will probably see his, but Greene likely won’t. Maybe if they hadn’t spent the money to claim Travis Outlaw off amnesty waivers… The Kings also could be big players in the trade market. Tyreke Evans is a fantastic player, but he’s not a point guard and the Kings paid Marcus Thornton very handsomely last December, so where does Evans fit? The Kings are not in a position to pay players to off and so would seem unlikely to use amnesty, but John Salmons or Francisco Garcia would seem to be excellent candidates.
Best Case: $47.2 million (7)
Worst Case: $49.1 million (9)
Cap Holds: $26.5 million (5)
The Variables: DeJuan Blair and Gary Neal could be waived to save the Spurs $1.9 million, but that’s very unlikely. Their first order of business will be what to do with Tim Duncan because his $22.2 million cap hold has to be dealt with. Even if they re-signed him for $10 million (a giant pay cut from $21.2 million), that still puts them back over the cap. Expect Duncan to be re-signed and the 2012-13 Spurs to look a lot like this year’s version. Their MLE could be used to keep Boris Diaw and Danny Green.
Best Case: $51.7 million (9)
Worst Case: $53.1 million (10)
Cap Holds: $11.7 million (4)
The Variables: The only variable for the Jazz is Jamaal Tinsley’s Player Option for a minimum salary. There is a lot of speculation around the Jazz when it comes to talking trades (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Devin Harris), but as far as spending money goes they will be limited to using exceptions because cap holds will keep them from having actual cap space. That could change if they use amnesty, but the only player it makes sense to use it on is Raja Bell, who only makes $3.5 million and wouldn’t clear enough. Their biggest free agent decision may be whether or not to re-sign C.J. Miles.