Based on the NBA’s most-recent projection, the league’s salary cap will jump to $92 million for the 2016-17 season.
Currently at $70 million, the $22 million projected leap is unprecedented in NBA history. This is because the league is benefiting from a new national television deal.
Max contracts project to start at $21.6 million per season for players with up to six years of experience, $25.9 million for those with seven to nine, and $30.2 million for those 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, Nicolas Batum, Andre Drummond (restricted), Harrison Barnes (restricted), Bradley Beal (restricted), Ryan Anderson, Rajon Rondo and Jordan Clarkson (Arenas-rule restricted) among others.
Player options could add to the free-agent pool with names like LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and Arron Afflalo capable of becoming unrestricted.
The salary cap landscape may shift again on May 17, when the NBA holds its annual draft lottery. Teams can also shuffle their books via trade, once eliminated from postseason play.
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||$68.3 mil||$0||The Lakers can max out their cap room once they renounce Kobe Bryant and Roy Hibbert. If their 2016 first-round pick drops to four or five, it’s conveyed to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Lakers gain roughly $4 mil in spending power. Expect Brandon Bass to opt out; the team may choose to stretch out the contract of Nick Young. A $2.7 mil qualifying offer to Jordan Clarkson is also likely to reduce their max salary position.|
|Dallas Mavericks||$59.2 mil||$0||The Mavericks have multiple players with options, including Deron Williams, Parsons and Nowitzki. Zaza Pachulia has a $9.9 mil cap hold. Dallas can protect a max slot, but a second may cost Parsons and Pachulia.|
|Philadelphia 76ers||$57.4 mil||$45.9 mil||The Sixers will have multiple first-round picks and a mountain of cap space. Now that the franchise has changed management, the team may be more aggressive in free agency.|
|Orlando Magic||$52.1 mil||$0||The Magic have to decide on free agents Brandon Jennings, Evan Fournier, Andrew Nicholson, Dewayne Dedmon and Jason Smith.|
|Boston Celtics||$51.4 mil||$14.5 mil||The Celtics have a wide-range of options, with multiple draft considerations, tradable assets, non-guaranteed players and the Brooklyn Nets’ lottery pick.|
|Houston Rockets||$44.2 mil||$0||Howard’s $23.3 mil player option (or cap hold) has a significant impact on the Rockets’ cap space.|
|Washington Wizards||$43.1 mil||$0||Beal takes up $14.2 mil in cap room unsigned, but the Wizards still have space to chase a player like Durant.|
|Brooklyn Nets||$42.2 mil||$28.4 mil||Jarrett Jack’s $6.3 mil salary is only $500,000 guaranteed.|
|Charlotte Hornets||$42.2 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.|
|Portland Trail Blazers||$42.2 mil||$0||The Blazers have decisions to make on potential restricted free agents Meyers Leonard and Moe Harkless.|
|Memphis Grizzlies||$41.5 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.|
|Miami HEAT||$39.3 mil||$0||Miami’s cap space could be determined by how much Wade is willing to take to stay. The team only has early Bird rights on Whiteside.|
|Atlanta Hawks||$37.4 mil||$0||The Hawks have early Bird rights on Kent Bazemore. If Horford re-signs, he’ll take up most of the team’s cap space.|
|Utah Jazz||$34.5 mil||$22.8 mil||The Jazz will have room for a max player, and even more if they renounce Trevor Booker.|
|Phoenix Suns||$33.8 mil||$15.8 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.|
|New York Knicks||$33.4 mil||$10.5 mil||Both Derrick Williams and Afflalo have player option, totaling $12.6 mil.|
|Indiana Pacers||$32.4 mil||$15.8 mil||The Pacers need to decide on free agents Ty Lawson, Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi.|
|Denver Nuggets||$30.7 mil||$19.3 mil||The Nuggets have Joffrey Lauvergne on a non-guaranteed deal, but at $1.7 million he’s an easy keeper.|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||$27.1 mil||$24.8 mil||Most of the previous season’s roster is still under contract, with decisions needed on Damjan Rudez, Tayshaun Prince and Greg Smith.|
|Milwaukee Bucks||$26.7 mil||$0||Milwaukee’s free agents include O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Greivis Vasquez, Steve Novak and Miles Plumlee.|
|Sacramento Kings||$26.1 mil||$11.2 mil||A sizable portion of the Kings’ cap space could go toward retaining Rajon Rondo.|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||$25.0 mil||$0||The Thunder do not want any part of being under the cap, as this would mean Durant is off their books.|
|Detroit Pistons||$24.1 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||$23.4 mil||$0||Gasol has a player option. Joakim Noah has a sizable cap hold. Losing both gives the Bulls a lower-tier max slot – a small move away from mid-tier.|
|New Orleans Pelicans||$22.6 mil||$0||The big question for the Pelicans is the free agent status of Anderson, whose cap hold takes up $12.8 mil in space. If Anthony Davis is named to an All-NBA team, his salary will jump to a middle-tier max.|
|San Antonio Spurs||$20.3 mil||$0||The Spurs have a number of players with options like Tim Duncan, David West and Manu Ginobili. Boris Diaw isn’t fully guaranteed.|
|Toronto Raptors||$18.8 mil||$0||Bismack Biyombo and DeRozan have player options. Biyombo will have a number of suitors in free agency.|
|Golden State Warriors||$17.3 mil||$0||The Warriors would need to let go of Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli and others to get significantly under the cap.|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||$15.1 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||$10.5 mil||$0||Without a trade, the Clippers will not be a major factor in free agency this summer.|
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.
Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?
Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.
The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.
With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.
It couldn’t get worse, could it?
Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.
My understanding is that Kyrie Irving is getting a 2nd opinion on his left knee, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Bottom line: he needs the screws out. Knee is flaring up. He will either play thru it going forward or … he will get thee screws out and won’t play at all. Stay tuned.
— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) March 20, 2018
With lack of progress on his ailing left knee, Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving plans to travel for a second opinion later this week, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 20, 2018
In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.
The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.
Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.
The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.
Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.
Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?
If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.
Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.
NBA Daily: Houston Has It All
Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.
It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.
So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.
As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.
Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.
One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.
Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.
Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.
This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.
Small Ball Ready
Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.
At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.
When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.
Shooting, Versatility and Experience
All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.
Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.
Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.
With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.
PODCAST: Breaking Down The Western Conference Playoff Race
Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte break down the Western Conference playoff race and check in on the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.