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Projecting 2017-18 NBA Cap Room Under New Deal

Eric Pincus projects the maximum cap space that each team could have in July under the pending CBA.

Eric Pincus

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With the NBA and NBPA agreeing to terms, a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be in place well before the 2017-18 season.

The NBA still projects next year’s salary cap to be $103 million, but a number of rule changes could diminish spending power across the league, detailed previously by Basketball Insiders (here and here).

Specifically, the salary scale for first-round picks will climb. Empty roster charges for every open spot under 13 will be the rookie minimum salary of $815,615.

Teams will no longer need to hold off on signing their first-rounders until they utilize their cap room. Now, the industry standard 120 percent of rookie scale will also be the team’s cap hold while the player remains unsigned.

Additionally, minimum salaries rise to as high as $2.3 million, depending on years of service. Any players under contract below that threshold will receive bumps in pay.

Teams may have to choose between going under the cap or staying over, with the Mid-Level Exception (MLE) climbing to $8.4 million and the Bi-Annual Exception (BAE) to $3.3 million.

A team that can get to $11.7 million in cap space would have the same spending power if they stay over the cap and use their exceptions. The most they’d be able to pay a single player would be $8.4 million in the first year, but they may have more flexibility above the cap.

Maximum salaries project to be $25.8 million for players with up to six years of experience, $30.1 million for those with seven to nine years and $36.1 million with 10 or more years.

Those who qualify as designated veterans, while entering their eighth or ninth seasons, can re-sign with their existing teams to the highest max tier ($36.1 million), provided they reach certain qualifications (MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBA Team, etc.).

The following is an estimate of the maximum cap space teams would have if they let all their free agents go, with a draft order based on the standings as of December 20, with ties broken randomly.

Team Maximum
(in millions)
Potential Free Agents (notable cap holds listed, in parenthesis and in millions)
Golden State Warriors $58.0 Stephen Curry ($18.2), Kevin Durant ($31.8 or player option of $22.7), Andre Iguodala ($16.7), Shaun Livingston ($11), Zaza Pachulia, David West, Ian Clark, James McAdoo, Anderson Varejao, JaVale McGee
Chicago Bulls $54.1 Dwyane Wade ($27.8 or player option of $23.8), Rajon Rondo (partially-guaranteed $13.4), Taj Gibson ($13.4), Nikola Mirotic ($8.7), Michael Carter-Williams ($8.0), Isaiah Canaan, Cristiano Felicio, R.J. Hunter
Philadelphia 76ers $53.6 Nerlens Noel ($11.0), Ersan Ilyasova ($12.6), Sergio Rodriquez ($9.6), Gerald Henderson (non-guaranteed $9.0), Richaun Holmes, Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson, T.J. McConnell
Sacramento Kings $52.2 Rudy Gay ($20.0 or player option of $14.3), Ben McLemore ($10.0), Arron Afflalo (partially-guaranteed $12.5), Anthony Tolliver (partially-guaranteed $8.0), Matt Barnes ($7.4 or player option of $6.4), Darren Collison ($9.9), Omri Casspi, Ty Lawson
Brooklyn Nets $40.6 Bojan Bogdanovic ($6.8), Luis Scola ($6.6), Randy Foye, Anthony Bennett, Sean Kilpatrick, Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie
Denver Nuggets $40.1 Danilo Gallinari ($22.6 or player option of $16.1), Mike Miller, Alonzo Gee
Los Angeles Clippers $39.0 Chris Paul ($34.3 or early termination option of $24.3), Blake Griffin ($30.2 or early termination option of $21.4), J.J. Redick ($11.1), Luc Mbah a Moute, Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass, Raymond Felton, Alan Anderson, Paul Pierce (retiring)
Dallas Mavericks $32.9 Dirk Nowitzki ($36.1 or team option of $25.0), Andrew Bogut ($16.5), Deron Williams ($11.7), Devin Harris, Salah Mejri, Dorian Finney-Smith, Nicolas Brussino, Jonathan Gibson
Boston Celtics $32.8 Amir Johnson ($15.6), Tyler Zeller (non-guaranteed $8.0), Jonas Jerebko ($9.5), Kelly Olynyk ($7.7), James Young, Demetrius Jackson, Jordan Mickey, Gerald Green — maximum scenario assumes Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic stay overseas)
Utah Jazz $32.7 Gordon Hayward ($25.1), George Hill ($12.0), Boris Diaw (non-guaranteed $7.5), Shelvin Mack, Joe Ingles, Jeff Withey, Raul Neto, Joel Bolomboy
Los Angeles Lakers $31.5 Jose Calderon ($11.6), Nick Young ($8.2 or player option of $5.7), Tarik Black (non-guaranteed $6.7), Marcelo Huertas, Metta World Peace, Thomas Robinson
Phoenix Suns $30.7 P.J. Tucker ($10.1), Alex Len ($12.1), Leandro Barbosa, John Jenkins, Alan Williams, Derrick Jones
Orlando Magic $30.1 Serge Ibaka ($18.4), Jeff Green (18.0), Jodie Meeks ($12.4), C.J. Watson (partially-guaranteed $5.0), C.J. Wilcox, Damjan Rudez, Arinze Onuaku, Stephen Zimmerman
Minnesota Timberwolves $30.0 Jordan Hill (non-guaranteed $4.2), Brandon Rush ($4.2), Shabazz Muhammad ($7.6), Adreian Payne, John Lucas III. Projection assumes Nikola Pekovic medically retires.
Atlanta Hawks $27.8 Paul Millsap ($30.1 or player option of $21.5), Tiago Splitter ($12.8), Kyle Korver ($10.0), Kris Humphries ($5.2), Thabo Sefolosha ($7.3), Mike Scott ($6.3), Tim Hardaway Jr. ($5.7), Mike Muscala, Ryan Kelly
New Orleans Pelicans $27.6 Jrue Holiday ($16.9), Tyreke Evans ($15.3), Langston Galloway ($6.2 or player option of $5.4), Dante Cunningham ($5.6 or player option of $4.1), Terrence Jones, Reggie Williams
San Antonio Spurs $25.7 Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Dewayne Dedmon, David Lee, Jonathon Simmons, Bryn Forbes, Nicolas Laprovittola
Indiana Pacers $25.4 Jeff Teague ($13.2), Rodney Stuckey ($10.5 or player option of $7.0), C.J. Miles ($8.7 or player option of $4.8), Lavoy Allen ($4.8 or team option of $4.0), Aaron Brooks, Kevin Seraphin, Joseph Young, Rakeem Christmas, Glenn Robinson III, Georges Niang
New York Knicks $23.2 Derrick Rose ($30.1), Brandon Jennings ($6.0), Justin Holiday, Sasha Vujacic, Maurice N’dour, Mason Plumlee, Ron Baker
Miami HEAT $18.6 Wayne Ellington (non-guaranteed $6.3), Josh McRoberts ($11 or player option of $6.0), Derrick Williams ($5.5), Udonis Haslem ($7.6), James Johnson ($4.8), Dion Waiters ($3.5 or player option of $3.0) , Luke Babbitt, Willie Reed, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder
Houston Rockets $12.4 K.J. McDaniels ($4.3 or team option of $3.5), Tyler Ennis, Nene, Kyle Wiltjer
Toronto Raptors $11.3 Kyle Lowry ($18 or player option of $12.0), Patrick Patterson ($9.1), Jared Sullinger ($6.8), Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet
Charlotte Hornets $9.1 Spencer Hawes ($11.4 or player option of $6.0), Ramon Sessions ($7.2 or team option of $6.3), Roy Hibbert ($6.0), Brian Roberts, Christian Wood, Aaron Harrison, Treveon Graham
Memphis Grizzlies $8.5 Zach Randolph ($15.5), Tony Allen ($10.5), Vince Carter, JaMychal Green, Troy Williams
Cleveland Cavaliers $0 Mike Dunleavy (partially-guaranteed $5.2), DeAndre Liggins, Jordan McRae, Kay Felder, Chris Andersen, James Jones, Mo Williams (retiring)
Detroit Pistons $0 Aron Baynes ($8.5 or player option of $6.5), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($9.2), Reggie Bullock ($5.6), Beno Udrih, Darrun Hilliard, Michael Gbinije
Milwaukee Bucks $0 Greg Monroe ($22.3 or player option of $17.9), Tony Snell ($5.9), Michael Beasley, Jason Terry, Steve Novak
Oklahoma City Thunder $0 Andre Roberson ($5.5), Nick Collison ($7.1), Anthony Morrow, Joffrey Lauvergne, Jerami Grant, Semaj Christon
Portland Trail Blazers $0 Mason Plumlee ($5.8), Festus Ezeli (partially-guaranteed $7.7), Pat Connaughton, Tim Quarterman
Washington Wizards $0 Otto Porter ($14.7), Trey Burke ($8.5), Marcus Thornton, Daniel Ochefu, Danuel House, Sheldon McClellan

Nearly every team was under the cap this past offseason, but next summer 10 teams will either have no space at all or about as much as the MLE and BAE combined. Of the 20 franchises that might have spending power, only 14 will have enough to spend on a second-tier max player ($30.1 million). Seven teams will have room for the longest tenured players ($36.1 million). While five teams have space to pay two players at the $25.8 million max, none can afford two at the middle tier.

For most teams to open up significant cap space, they would need to let go of multiple productive players. After the stars select their destinations, franchises may choose instead to stay over the cap to try and retain the core of their roster, using exceptions to add to the mix.

The days of players like Bismack Biyombo, Tyler Johnson, Luol Deng, Allen Crabbe and Timofey Mozgov getting contracts starting at $15 million a year are likely over. The market for quality role players may drop down to the $8.4 million MLE. That doesn’t mean a few free agents won’t be overpaid this summer, that seems to be an inevitability every year – but not on the scale of 2016.

The new deal will provide more salary for maximum players, minimum players and draft picks – and yet the split of revenue remains at a maximum of 51 percent for the players. Conversely, a group of players will earn less: the middle class.

Note that the agreement between the NBA and NBPA won’t be finalized until mid-January and is subject to change. Teams can make trades or buy-out players to open up additional cap space. Several players have non-guaranteed salaries or team/player options. In most cases, to get to maximum cap room, the assumption is that all players without 100 percent locked in salary are off the books.

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NBA Daily: Yuta Watanabe Using Versatility, Defense To Push Forward

Undrafted forward Yuta Watanabe impressed all week at Summer League for the Brooklyn Nets — now he’s ready to do whatever it takes to get an NBA opportunity.

Ben Nadeau

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Heading into Las Vegas Summer League, it finally became difficult to look past the Brooklyn Nets. After three-straight seasons merely existing in the equivalency of basketball purgatory, the Nets brought an exciting, young roster out west — one that included Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and their two recent first-round selections, Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs. But when three of the four marquee names ended up watching from the sidelines, Brooklyn needed somebody to save the day — and as it turned out, his name was Yuta Watanabe.

Watanabe, 23, was an undrafted four-year senior out of George Washington this summer, but very quickly, the 6-foot-9 prospect has made a name for himself. Through his five games in Vegas, Watanabe averaged 9.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game on 41 percent from the floor, while nearly leading the banged-up Nets in minutes along the way. And although they were the only winless team in Vegas, Watanabe was a major bright spot for Brooklyn and said that he felt himself improving early in the process.

“Yeah, I’m starting to get comfortable,” Watanabe said following a recent Summer League defeat. “Our teammates didn’t know each other and we didn’t play well today — but fourth quarter, I thought we played together. I could attack the rim more, so I think I’m getting comfortable right now.”

Of course, Watanabe’s eye-opening stretch is not an indictment on every other franchise for not taking a late flier on the Japanese-born shooter either. With front offices looking to lengthen and shape the careers of their draftees at every turn, seniors are often passed up in favor of younger potential. In 2018 alone, only 11 seniors were selected at all — Grayson Allen and Chandler Hutchison were the lone first-rounders — a number down two from the year prior.

In spite of his pre-draft workouts and favorable numbers at George Washington (16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game), Watanabe was always a long-shot to get drafted. But given the inroads to the NBA via the G-League or a two-way contract, Watanabe is far from finished in chasing his professional dreams.

“I was so excited — right after the draft, my agent called me and he told me: ‘You’re playing with the Nets.’” Watanabe told Basketball Insiders. “I was so excited, also he told me that there was going to be a lot of international players. As an international player, I was like so hyped.”

And it’s true, the Nets — led by general manager Sean Marks, a native New Zealander — have made a concerted effort to search out and acquire talent however possible. Watanabe was joined on the roster by the aforementioned Musa and Kurucs, of Bosnia and Latvia, respectively, Shawn Dawson of Israel, Ding Yanyuhang of China and Juan Pablo Vaulet, an Argentinian stash that’s one of the final holdovers from the last front office regime.

But while Watanabe may not hold a guaranteed contract, his noteworthy run with the Nets in Vegas could put him in pole position to earn one of those elusive two-way deals. Last season, the Nets ended the year with James Webb III and Milton Doyle, the latter of which the franchise tendered a qualifying offer to late last month, as their two-way assets. Still, things can change awfully fast in the NBA and Watanabe definitively fills two needs that Brooklyn has long sought-after since Marks took over in February of 2016: Multi-positional defense and reliable three-point shooting.

During his final season at George Washington, Watanabe hit on 36.4 percent of his long-range attempts and averaged 1.6 blocks per game as well — fully transforming into the flexible prospect he is today. In fact, the Nets have struggled to find consistent three-point shooting in the frontcourt since Brook Lopez was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, so Watanabe could be useful at that tricky stretch four position.

Although it’d be a new adventure for the defensive-minded grinder, Watanabe is up for it all the same.

“I mean, that’s one of my strengths, versatility is one of my strengths. If they want me to play four, I’m fine with that,” Watanabe said. “If I can hit shots — I’m 6-foot-9, long, athletic, so I have no problem playing the four.”

Of the nine Nets players to make one or more three-pointers per game last season, just two of them — Quincy Acy and Dante Cunningham — regularly slotted in at power forward. And beyond that, only Joe Harris, Nik Stauskas, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll and Cunningham finished their 2017-18 campaigns with a higher three-point percentage than Watanabe. As a team, the Nets tossed up 35.7 three-pointers per game — second-most in the NBA — and converted on just 35.6 percent of them, a rate that left them in the league basement.

Meanwhile, out in the Atlantic 10 conference, George Washington made just 5.5 shots from downtown per game, with Watanabe accounting for 1.7 of them on his own. Certainly, nobody expects Watanabe to immediately continue that success at the NBA level — but there’s a precedence and fit here within a franchise that’s been laser-focused on player development as of late.

On top of all that, Watanabe is the reigning winner of the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Award and he proved it out in Vegas. Following his final game against the Indiana Pacers on Friday, the former Colonial finished with a total of blocked eight shots and defended both guards and forwards throughout the tournament — a facet of his game that Watanabe takes pride in.

“Defense is also [one of] my strengths in college too,” Watanabe said. “I can’t remember how many blocks I got today, but I was able to show that I can play defense — even at the four.”

The recent acquisitions of Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur will make Watanabe’s path to a big-league opportunity that much harder — but the Nets have also benefitted from a strong G-League affiliate in recent seasons as well. So even if Watanabe doesn’t receive a two-way contract, he may have landed with a franchise well-suited to bring the very best out of him.

Should Watanabe ever reach the NBA, he’d be just the second-ever from Japan to do so — following in the footsteps of Yuta Tabuse, a 5-foot-9 point guard that played in four games for the Phoenix Suns back in 2004-05. But for now, Watanabe is all about helping out his new franchise in whatever way he can — whether that’s from behind the arc or below the rim.

“Make some open shots, play defense and just play as hard as possible — so I think that’s my job right now.”

Nobody knows what the future holds for Watanabe quite yet — but as of now, he’s doing exactly that.

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NBA Daily: Harry Giles, Just What the Doctor Ordered

It’s been a long time coming for Harry Giles, but judging by his showing in Las Vegas, he might be worth the wait.

Shane Rhodes

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It’s been a long time coming for Harry Giles. But, if his performance this summer is anything to go by, he will be well worth the wait for the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings knew they were taking a risk with Giles. After he was selected 20th overall in 2017, he missed the entire season due to injury concerns. Originally projected to return in January 2018, the Kings pushed his return back to this summer, giving Giles the opportunity to further rehab his knees, both of which have dealt with serious injuries since his time in high school.

But now, with his chance to finally show what he can do on the court, Giles has shown, in more ways than one, he is just what the doctor ordered for the Kings. He’s shown that he can be a and wants to be a leader as much as a dominant force on the court.

“Me being a little older, being a little more experienced, I’ve just got to go out there and lead by example,” Giles told Basketball Insiders during his stint at the Las Vegas Summer League.

Sacramento has desperately lacked a franchise leader for years. They haven’t topped 35 wins in a decade. They haven’t made the postseason in 12 years, the longest active drought in the NBA. Since shipping out DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento has done well to stockpile good, young players: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willy Cauley-Stein, Marvin Bagley III, Giles and others are all building toward the future, but no one has stepped up to fill that void. Every young team needs a leader, especially when they play in the brutal Western Conference.

And Giles has taken that role upon himself personally.

To start, Giles has been a force on the court for the Kings, both in the California Classic and the Las Vegas Summer League. Across seven games he has averaged 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals and shot 44.2 percent from the floor while playing hardnosed defense on the other end. The Kings ranked dead last in scoring last season, were 28th in rebounding and 22nd in field goal percentage, so his contributions will definitely be welcomed in all of those areas and more. He has been praised by coaches and fellow players alike as well.

“The coaches trust me to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do and I do a good job of not trying to overdo it, just play my spots and my position.”

“I’m starting to put myself together,” Giles said.

Giles also told Basketball Insiders that he feels like a leader “more and more each game” and that his job is “about making everyone feel comfortable” on the court. That, he noted, starts with talking to one another on the floor.

“I learned from my vets that you have to talk to get yourself comfortable,” Giles said. “You’ve got to let guys know that it’s okay to talk, it’s smart to talk, it helps to talk, it gets you comfortable.”

True to his words, Giles has been one of the more vocal Kings this summer, whether he be on the court or watching from the bench. That, combined with his maturity, cultivated during his time lost to injury, makes him one of the better candidates to become that guy for Sacramento, someone that can lead them back to contention.

Still, Giles reiterated that a leader must lead by example and that that is what he’s tried to do all summer.

“You really can’t be a leader unless you lead by example,” Giles said. “You’ve got to show to prove, and that’s what I try to go out there and do.

The Kings hope Giles can do just that, for this season and for many others. He’ll have to if Sacramento wants to return to the postseason.

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NBA Daily: Jackson and Ayton give Phoenix hope

After years of dwelling in mediocrity, Josh Jackson and Deandre Ayton give the Suns their first glimmer of promise since the Steve Nash era.

Matt John

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Since ending the Steve Nash era back in 2012, the Phoenix Suns have struggled to find a clear direction to go.

In the last six years, the Suns have been on an unpredictably wild ride to put it delicately. There’s been rebuilding, there’s been overachieving, there’s been re-tooling, there’s been bridge burning, and then there’s been trading that valuable Lakers pick for $70 million of Brandon Knight.

At the height of their wild ride has been their recent draft history.

Following a season in which they were tanking, the Suns whiffed when they took Alex Len with the fifth overall pick in 2013. Two years later, following a season in which they were not tanking, the Suns struck gold when they took Devin Booker with the 13th pick.

Their other picks leading up to 2017 have ranged from solid (TJ Warren) to highly questionable (Marquese Chriss) to long-term project (Dragan Bender). While not bad, it’s fair to say that, up until recently, the Suns’ drafting hasn’t exactly gotten them out of the mess they’ve created since Nash left.

However, their recent lottery picks—Josh Jackson and DeAndre Ayton—have given the team reason to believe that the new glorious new era they’ve been waiting for post-Nash has finally arrived.

This of course started the second Ayton was drafted by the Suns on draft night, but the hype has only grown stronger since the summer league began.

That starts with Jackson. The fourth overall pick from 2017 did not have the best start to his rookie season, but as he got more reps, his numbers vastly improved across the board, indicating that there should be plenty of optimism surrounding what next season holds for the sophomore.

His numbers have not been very pretty so far in the summer league, but Jackson continues to show more and more glimpses of the all-around player that scouts pegged him to be coming into the league, highlighted by his “Welcome to the league” swat of Marvin Bagley during the team’s second game against the Kings.

Even with his struggles, Jackson believes that there has been a notable difference playing in this year’s summer league compared to last year’s for him.

“I’m a lot more comfortable,” Jackson said. “Coming in this year, I feel more like a leader, like I’m more knowledgeable about how things are supposed to go out there so I’ve been trying to be a little bit more vocal with the guys out there, trying to make sure that they are in the right position on offensive and defensive sets.”

Jackson also noted that, since being in the summer league, that his biggest lesson he’s taken is to consistently work hard on the parquet floor.

“The biggest thing I learned is to come out and play with effort,” Jackson said. “Each and every time you step out there, you gotta come with it, or the guy across from you will get the best of you.”

Jackson’s skills have been on display in the summer league, but all eyes have been on this years’ first overall pick in the draft, DeAndre Ayton. Expectations are sky high for the young big as he entered the league. Hence, he wasted no time showing the big leagues what he could do. In only 22 minutes of action against the Dallas Mavericks, Ayton put up an efficient stat line of 10 points and eight rebounds in his first game in the summer league.

Ayton later capitalized on his promising start in his next game against the Kings. The University of Arizona alum made it look too easy out there as he put up a stat line of 21 points and 12 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action. Ayton has continued his electric play since and has looked every bit the player Phoenix believed he could be when they took him.

As far as first impressions go, Deandre Ayton could not have started his career off any better in the Las Vegas Summer League. Though he has met (or arguably even exceeded) expectations so far, Ayton has taken the note of the differences between college ball and NBA ball.

“Transitioning from college to the NBA, everybody is physical,” Ayton said. “Some dudes might not look strong, but they are pretty strong.”

As impressive as he has been, Ayton prefers to remain humble in regards to his performance as he continues to get more experience under his belt as a pro.

“I could do better, but overall I thought I did alright,” Ayton said. “I just think forgetting one or two plays and not really staying vocal with the fatigue, I gotta work on those, but I thought I did alright.”

The Suns have struggled to figure out their identity since they went for the rebuild six years ago. With Jackson and Ayton leading the way among their other youngsters on the roster, the Suns now have a great foundation of youth to work with for the next decade.

For their sake, these young gun Suns will hopefully lead the Suns to more success than the Steve Nash era, but that’s easier said than done.

Much easier.

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