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Pre-Lottery 2016-17 NBA Cap Projections

Eric Pincus looks at each NBA team’s best- and worst-case cap projections before the lottery.

Eric Pincus

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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.

Team Best Worst Comment
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.

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NBA

Rookie of The Year Watch – 12/13/17

Shane Rhodes checks back in on what’s become a relatively consistent Rookie of the Year race.

Shane Rhodes

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It has been a pretty ho-hum Rookie of The Year race so far in the 2017-18 season, with the top rookies staking their claims to this list at the beginning of the season and, for the most part, staying there. While there has been some movement up and down over the season and since our last installment, for the large part those who were on the list remain on the list.

Those players have earned their spots on this list with their play, however. This rookie class is one of the better, more exciting classes in recent memory. These players have just managed to remain at the top of the hill.

Let’s take a look at this week’s rankings.

stockup456. Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Last Week: Unranked)

By virtue of John Collins missing time due to injury, Markkanen jumps back onto this list. However, that’s not to say Markkanen has played poorly this season. On the contrary, the former Arizona Wildcat and current Chicago Bull has played very well; it’s just hard to get recognized when you are on the worst team in the league.

Markkanen is averaging 14.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, third and second among rookies, respectively, while adding 1.3 assists per game as well. Athletic enough to get his own shot and big enough to be a mismatch when he’s on the floor, Markkanen is probably the best (healthy) offensively player the Bulls have. While his defensive game isn’t great, his defensive rating of 106.4 still ranks ninth amongst rookies.

Perhaps most importantly, Markkanen inspires hope for a brighter future in Bulls fans that have watched the team plummet from the 50-win team it was just three seasons ago.

stockup455. Dennis Smith, Jr., Dallas Mavericks (Last Week: 6)

His shooting percentages continue to underwhelm and the Dallas Mavericks still have one of the worst records in the NBA, but Dennis Smith Jr. has been one of the Mavs’ bright spots this season while averaging 14.4 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.

While he hasn’t been a great shooter overall, Smith Jr. has managed to be a big contributor on offense for the Mavs, with an offensive rating of 101.4, ninth among rookies, and an assist percentage of 25.2 percent, fourth among rookies. He is second on the team in scoring behind Harrison Barnes’ 18.4 points per game as well. He is still a work in progress, but Dallas has found a keeper in Smith Jr.

stockdown454. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers (Last Week: 3)

While the Lakers have stumbled over the past few weeks, Kuzma continues to play well when he is on the floor. He still paces the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring with an average of 16.1 points per game, third among rookies, while also dishing in 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

Kuzma is now second among rookies in double-doubles with eight on the season and three in his last five games. With a diverse offensive game, the power forward should continue to impress as the season goes along.

stockup453. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (Last Week: 4)

Donovan Mitchell has been electrifying in recent weeks. Second in scoring among rookies, Mitchell is averaging 17.3 points per game to go along with three rebounds and 3.2 assists. As his confidence has grown, so to have his field goal percentage and three-point percentages. Mitchell has led the Utah Jazz in scoring in 11 of their 27 games, and is second on the Jazz in scoring too, behind Rodney Hood’s 17.7 points per game.

Mitchell became the second rookie ever, first since Blake Griffin in 2011, to score more than 40 points in a single game after going for 41 against the New Orleans Pelicans. Coupling that with his high-flying athleticism, Mitchell has been one of the best rookies to watch this season.

stocknochanges452. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (Last Week: 2)

Jayson Tatum is on pace to be only the second rookie ever to lead the league in three-point percentage. In over 38 years, the only other player to do it was Anthony Morrow, who shot 46.7 percent on 2.7 attempts per game during the 2008-09 regular season. Tatum is currently shooting 50 percent on over three attempts per game.

The 19-year-old forward has also made a near seamless transition from the isolation-dominated basketball that he played at Duke, and has flourished as the third, fourth and sometimes even fifth option on offense, having scored in double digits in 25 of 29 games and averaging 13.8 points per game on the season. His defense continues to be better than advertised as well.

Tatum has been Mr. Clutch among rookies as well. In the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, Tatum has 14 field goals on 21 attempts, seventh in the entire NBA and tops among rookies. In fact, Tatum is the only other rookie in the top 15 in clutch field goals.

While Mitchell has been on fire recently, Tatum has performed well enough to this point where he is still in control of the number two spot among rookies. But the race for this second spot is close and will continue to be close throughout the season. The race for the number one spot on the other hand? Not so much.

stocknochanges451. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (Last Week: 1)

It would make for a very boring race if Ben Simmons remained at the top of this list for the entire season. And it looks increasingly likely that that is going to be the case.

Try as they might, the other rookies just can’t hang with Simmons; none of them have the right combination of production and physicality to keep pace with the point-forward. Tatum has been better than advertised while Mitchell and Kuzma have exceeded all predraft expectations, but none of them can produce what Simmons has. With averages of 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game, Simmons would be just the second rookie in NBA history, the first since Oscar Robertson during the 1960-61 season, to finish the season with that stat line.

So, unless they combine their powers to become a being with superhuman basketball skills, the other rookies don’t stand a chance against Simmons in the race for Rookie of the Year.

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: Another 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 12/13/17

Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler drops his latest 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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A little less than a month ago we dropped the first 2018 NBA Mock Draft, which was met with a lot of disdain. Which is often a good thing because it sparks the discussion in NBA circles.

Since that Mock dropped, we’ve seen a bit more play out of some of the top prospects and many of the assumptions made almost a month ago are starting to settle into place a little more clearly.

The prevailing thought from NBA scouts and executives is that the possible 2018 NBA Draft class has a lot more questions than answers. The common view is that outside of the top 3 or 4 players there could be a very wide range on who the next 10-12 players will be; so expect for the second tier to evolve a lot over the course of the college basketball season.

A couple of things have started to surface among NBA scouts and executives, there seem to be three camps emerging around the top overall player – Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and international phenom Luka Dončić, seem to be the leading names mentioned most, with Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton making a strong push into the discussion. We can safely call this a three-horse race at this point.

The prevailing belief is that none of the three is far and away better than the other as a professional prospect, making it more likely than not that the top player selected will have a lot more to do with which team ultimately lands the pick, more so than the player themselves.

This class also seems to be brimming with promising athletic point guards, which unlike last year’s draft, could provide a lot of options for teams still trying to find that impact point guard.

There also looks to be 27 players in the projected top 100 that are 6’10 or bigger, eight of which project in the top 30. To put that into perspective, there were 11 players 6’10 or bigger drafted in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and 17 total in the 60 2017 NBA Draft selections.

As we get into the 2018 calendar year, we’ll start to do deeper dives into the tiers of players and their possible NBA strengths and weakness.

So, with all of that in mind, here is the second 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would not convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would not convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

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Insiders Podcast

PODCAST: How to Keep LeBron in Cleveland

Basketball Insiders

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The media seems to think LeBron is as good as gone this offseason, but Joel Brigham and Spencer Davies discuss why that may not be the case. That, and conversation about whether NCAA or Euroleague success is more valuable in evaluating draft talent.

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