The NBA Draft is complete, with the Philadelphia 76ers landing LSU forward Ben Simmons with the top overall pick.
Free agency begins shortly, with negotiations starting on July 1 and signings, after the moratorium, on July 7.
The current salary cap projection for the 2016-17 season includes an unprecedented leap to $94 million, up from the current $70 million.
Max contracts project to start at $22.2 million for players with up to six years of experience, $26.6 million for those with seven to nine years, and $31 million with 10 or more years in the league.
The top free agents include players like Kevin Durant, Mike Conley, Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, DeMar DeRozan, Nicolas Batum, Andre Drummond (restricted), Harrison Barnes (restricted), Bradley Beal (restricted), Jordan Clarkson (Arenas rule restricted), Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Bismack Biyombo, Arron Afflalo, Ryan Anderson, Jeremy Lin and Rajon Rondo among others.
Player options could add to the free-agent pool with names like LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
Teams can also shuffle their books via trade or player buy-outs. Some deals have already been agreed to (Jeff Teague, George Hill, Marco Belinelli, Thaddeus Young, etc. will be on the move), but the trades won’t execute until after the NBA’s moratorium. The projections are post-trade, with estimates based on reports.
The following details the best- and worst-case scenario for cap room this summer, noting that many teams can choose to go under or stay over. Player options, team options, non-guaranteed contracts, trades, the draft and free agent decisions once July hits will determine exactly how much each team has to spend.
|Los Angeles Lakers||$66.4 mil||$0||The Lakers can max out their cap room once they renounce Kobe Bryant and Roy Hibbert. The team may choose to stretch out the contract of Nick Young. A $2.7 mil qualifying offer to Clarkson is likely to reduce their max salary position to $64.3 mil.|
|Dallas Mavericks||$61.2 mil||$0||The Mavericks are in a tremendous position to spend, but might need to account for any players they want to bring back (Deron Williams, Zaza Pachulia, Nowitzki and/or Parsons).|
|Philadelphia 76ers||$59.9 mil||$48.4 mil||Now that the franchise has changed management, the team may try to be more aggressive in free agency or trade to add established veterans.|
|Brooklyn Nets||$55.2 mil||$41.4 mil||Jarrett Jack’s $6.3 mil salary is only $500,000 guaranteed.|
|Boston Celtics||$55.0 mil||$16.5 mil||The Celtics have a wide-range of options, with multiple tradable assets and non-guaranteed players.|
|Orlando Magic||$50.1 mil||$19.2 mil||The Magic made a big play already, adding Serge Ibaka in trade. Ibaka’s salary can be restructured up, if both sides are willing.|
|Houston Rockets||$46.2 mil||$0||Howard’s $23.3 mil player option (or cap hold) has a significant impact on the Rockets’ cap space.|
|Atlanta Hawks||$45.5 mil||$0||The Hawks have early Bird rights on Kent Bazemore. Al Horford’s cap hold takes up $18 million of the team’s cap space.|
|Washington Wizards||$45.1 mil||$0||Beal takes up $14.2 mil in cap room unsigned, but the Wizards still have space to chase a player like Durant.|
|Memphis Grizzlies||$43.5 mil||$0||The Grizzlies can find room for a max slot, while paying Conley after they’ve used the cap space — provided they tab $14.1 mil for Conley’s cap hold.|
|Portland Trail Blazers||$41.4 mil||$0||The Blazers have decisions to make on potential restricted free agents Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe and Moe Harkless.|
|Miami HEAT||$41.3 mil||$0||Miami’s cap space could be determined by how much Dwyane Wade is willing to take to stay. The team only has early Bird rights on Whiteside.|
|Charlotte Hornets||$39.0 mil||$0||Cap holds for Al Jefferson and Nicolas Batum take up most of the team’s cap space, but the Hornets have plenty of spending room without the pair.|
|New York Knicks||$35.1 mil||$11.5 mil||The Derrick Rose trade did not hurt the Knicks’ cap position.|
|Phoenix Suns||$34.8 mil||$19.2 mil||After opening up additional space by dumping Markieff Morris, the Suns have decisions to make on P.J. Tucker, Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer.|
|Sacramento Kings||$34.2 mil||$17.0 mil||The Kings opened up cap room with the pending Belinelli trade. Some of the Kings cap space could go towards retaining Rajon Rondo — if Sacramento chooses to pursue a return.|
|Denver Nuggets||$33.8 mil||$18.9 mil||The Nuggets have Joffrey Lauvergne on a non-guaranteed deal, but at $1.7 million he’s an easy keeper.|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||$31.1 mil||$0||The Thunder do not want any part of being under the cap, which would mean Durant is off their books. Ersan Ilyasova’s $8.4 mil contract is only $400,000 guaranteed through the end of June.|
|Utah Jazz||$29.4 mil||$18.7 mil||Even after the trade to bring in Hill is executed, the Jazz can still find spending power. Both Derrick Favors and Hill are eligible for their contracts to be restructured up.|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||$29.1 mil||$26.8 mil||Most of the previous-season’s roster is still under contract, with decisions needed on Damjam Rudez, Tayshaun Prince and Greg Smith.|
|Milwaukee Bucks||$28.4 mil||$0||Milwaukee’s free agents include O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Greivis Vasquez, Steve Novak and Miles Plumlee.|
|Detroit Pistons||$26.1 mil||$0||The Pistons sacrificed some of their future cap space to invest in Tobias Harris. Slot in $8.2 million for Andre Drummond’s cap hold, giving the Pistons closer to $14 million in workable cap room.|
|Chicago Bulls||$25.7 mil||$0||Should Gasol opt out, the Bulls can get near a mid-tier max slot.|
|New Orleans Pelicans||$23.9 mil||$0||The big question for the Pelicans is the free agent status of Anderson, whose cap hold takes up $12.8 million in space.|
|San Antonio Spurs||$22.3 mil||$0||A number of Spurs’ veterans are free agents (Tim Duncan, David West and Manu Ginobili). Boris Diaw isn’t fully guaranteed.|
|Indiana Pacers||$20.9 mil||$4.3 mil||The Pacers will use their cap room to add Teague and Young. Ian Mahinmi’s cap hold, with Bird rights, is $7.6 million.|
|Toronto Raptors||$20.8 mil||$0||The Raptors need cap room to re-sign Biyombo to a significant contract, provided he opts out. Keeping both DeRozan and Biyombo may be impossible without a trade to open up space.|
|Golden State Warriors||$19.3 mil||$0||The Warriors would need to let go of Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and others to get significantly under the cap — and probably look to trade Andrew Bogut to get a mid-tier max slot if they can get a high-level free agent commitment.|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||$16.2 mil||$0||The Cavaliers are unlikely to go under the cap. Even if James leaves, the franchise won’t gain the kind of spending power needed to try and replace him.|
|Los Angeles Clippers||$12.5 mil||$0||Without a trade, the Clippers will not be a major factor in free agency this summer — but since they’re looking to set up a meeting with Durant . . .|
Franchises can stay over the cap completely should they choose — via free-agent cap holds and available exceptions.
Team options need to be decided before July. Players on non-guaranteed salary have a variety of individual cut-down dates.
NBA Daily: Surging HEAT Must Overcome Adversity
The Miami HEAT have been hit with a number of injuries at shooting guard. Can they stay hot?
The Miami HEAT have surged to fourth in the Eastern Conference on the back of a 14-5 stretch since Dec. 9, including a seven-game win streak that ended with Monday’s 119-111 loss to the Bulls in Chicago. In the loss, shooting guard Tyler Johnson got his legs tangled with Robin Lopez and appeared to suffer a serious injury.
“I was scared,” said HEAT small forward Josh Richardson, who joined his teammates in racing down the court to check on Johnson. “You never want to see a guy, whether it’s on your team or the other team, down like that. I talked to him when he was in here [the locker room] and he said he didn’t know what was up.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra told pool reporters after the game that X-rays were negative. It was initially feared to be a knee injury, but Spoelstra said the knee is okay and the ankle is the area of concern. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel tweeted that an MRI was not deemed necessary and Johnson will be listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee.
Tyler Johnson will be listed as doubtful for Wednesday's game against the Bucks, still with no plans for an MRI on his sprained left ankle sustained Monday in Chicago. He remains with the team, which did not practice Tuesday.
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) January 16, 2018
Meanwhile, the HEAT is facing a serious shortage at shooting guard, having lost Dion Waiters to season-ending knee surgery, Rodney McGruder to a left tibia stress fracture that will likely keep him out until February, and now Johnson. Miami has applied for a $5.5 million disabled player exception after losing Waiters, according to the Sun-Sentinel. HEAT power forward James Johnson said the team will be looking for other players to step up.
“I think it’s the next guy’s gonna step up like we always do,” said Johnson. “As we have guys going down we also have guys getting back and getting back in their groove [like] Justise Winslow. Hopefully, it’s going to give another guy a chance to emerge on this team or in this league.”
Johnson added that the loss to Chicago came against a hot team and the HEAT didn’t have the right mental approach or defensive communication to slow them down.
“Our communication was lacking tonight,” said Johnson. “I think our brains rested tonight and that’s not like us. Tilt your hat to Chicago. They’re shooting the hell out the ball. They didn’t let us come back.”
Richardson echoed the theme of communication and the inability to counter a hot-shooting team.
“We weren’t communicating very well and we were not giving them enough static on the three-point line,” said Richardson. “They’ve been the number one three-point shooting team in the league for like 20 games now. They ran some good actions that we were not reacting right to.”
Spoelstra referred to a turnover-riddled close to the first half as “disgusting” basketball and agreed that the defense let his team down.
“I don’t know what our record is in HEAT franchise history when we give up 120-plus,” said Spoelstra. “I would guess that it’s probably not pretty good.”
The good news for Miami is that it can try a combination of Richardson and Winslow at the wings, while Wayne Ellington has been shooting the leather off the ball from three this season (40.5 percent on over seven attempts per game). The HEAT is the latest team to attempt to defy history by making a serious run without a superstar player. To make that a reality and remain in the upper half of the East’s playoff bracket, Miami will have to personify the “next man up” credo.
NBA Daily: Is It Time To Cash Out On Kemba Walker?
Should the Hornets get serious about trading Kemba Walker or risk losing him in 2019 for next to nothing?
Is It Time To Sell?
Every professional sports team at some point has to decide when its time to cash out, especially if they have a star player heading towards free agency. The Charlotte Hornets are a team teetering on this decision with star guard Kemba Walker.
Now, let’s be honest for a moment. The Hornets are getting nothing of meaningful value in a trade for Walker if they decided to put him on the trade market—that’s something that will drive part of the decision. Check out these UK sports books with free bets!
The other part of the decision is evaluating the marketplace. This is where Charlotte may have an advantage that’s easy to overlook, which is the ability to massively overpay.
Looking ahead to the cap situations for the NBA in the summer of 2019, there doesn’t appear to be a lot worth getting excited over. While it’s possible someone unexpected goes into cap clearing mode to get space, the teams that project to have space in 2019 also project to have space in 2018, meaning some of that 2019 money could get spent in July and change the landscape even more.
But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume most of the 2019 cap space teams swing and miss on anything meaningful this summer and have flexibility the following summer. Not only will Walker be a name to watch, but guys like Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Dallas’ Harrison Barnes, Detroit’s Tobias Harris, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland’s Kevin Love can all hit unrestricted free agency.
That’s a pretty respectable free agent class.
While most of those names will likely stay where they are, especially if their teams shower them with full max contracts as most would expect, there are a few names that might make the market interesting.
The wrinkle in all of it is the teams projected to have space. Based on what’s guaranteed today, the top of the 2019 cap space board starts with the LA Clippers.
The Clippers currently have just Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari under contract going into 2019. They will have qualifying offers on Milos Teodosic and Sam Dekker, but that’s about it. If the Clippers play their cards right, they could be looking at what could be close to $48 million in usable cap space, making them the biggest threat to poach a player because of the LA marketplace. It should be noted, though, that DeAndre Jordan’s situation will have an impact here.
The Chicago Bulls come in second on the 2019 cap space list with just $35.77 million in cap commitments. The problem for the Bulls is they are going to have to start paying their young guys, most notably Zach LaVine. That’s won’t stop the Bulls from getting to cap space, it’s simply a variable the Bulls have to address this summer that could get expensive.
The Philadelphia 76ers could come in third on the 2019 cap space list, although it seems the 76ers may go all in this summer on re-signing guard J.J. Redick and a swing at a big fish or two. If the 76ers miss, they still have an extension for Ben Simmons to consider, but that shouldn’t impact the ability to get to meaningful space.
For the Hornets, those three situations have to be a little scary, as all of themff something Charlotte can’t offer – big markets and rosters (save maybe the Clippers) with potentially higher upside.
The next group of cap space markets might get to real salary cap room, but its more likely they spend this summer like say the Houston Rockets or are equal to less desirable situations like Sacramento (similar), Dallas (has Dennis Smith Jr), Atlanta (similar) or Phoenix (likely drafts a point guard).
That brings us back to the Hornets decision making process.
If the Hornets put Walker on the market, historically, teams get pennies on the dollar for high-level players headed to free agency. If traded, its more likely than not that Walker hits free agency and goes shopping. That’s the scary part of trading for an expiring contract unless you get the player early enough for him to grow attached to the situation, most players explore options. That tends to drive down the potential return.
The Hornets can also start extension discussions with Walker and his camp this summer and it seems more likely than not the Hornets will pay Walker the full max allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, which could be a deal north of $150 million and he could ink that in July.
It’s possible that someone offers the Hornets the moon for Walker. That has happened in the past. The Celtics gave the Cavaliers a pretty solid return for Irving, a player the Cavaliers had to trade. So it’s not out of the question real offers come in, especially with the NBA trade deadline approaching, but what’s far more likely is the Hornets wait out this season and try to extend Walker this summer.
League sources at the G-League Showcase last week, doubted that any traction could be had on Walker while admitting he’s a name to watch, despite however unlikely a trade seemed today.
The challenge for the Hornets isn’t as simple as cashing out of Walker, not just because the return will be low, but also because where would the franchise go from here?
It’s easy to say re-build through the draft, but glance around the NBA today – how many of those rebuild through the draft situations are yielding competitive teams? How many of them have been rebuilding for five years or more?
Rebuilding through the draft is a painfully slow and frustrating process that usually costs you a coach or two and typically a new front office. Rebuilding through the draft is time consuming and usually very expensive.
It’s easier to rebuild around a star already in place and the fact that Walker himself laughs off the notion of him being anywhere but Charlotte is at least a good sign and the Hornets have some time before they have to really make a decision.
At some point, Charlotte has to decide when to cash out. For the Hornets, the time to make that decision on Walker might be the February 8 trade deadline. It might also be July 1, when they’ll know whether Walker would sign a max contract extension.
If he won’t commit then, the Hornets have their answer and can use the summer to try an extract a package similar to what the Cavaliers got for Irving.
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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal
Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.
Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.
So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.
You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.
With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.
He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.
But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.
Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.
Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.
These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.
Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.
The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.
Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.
The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.