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.
|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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