The 2013-14 regular season is starting to wind down, with 18-19 teams still seriously in the playoff hunt. Others are “fighting” for the best possible position in May’s NBA Draft Lottery.
The league’s early projections for next year’s salary cap is $62.9 million, up from this year’s $58.7 million. The luxury tax threshold is also expected to climb to approximately $75.7 million from $71.7 million.
In the fourth part of this series, where do the five teams in the Pacific Division stand this offseason?
Golden State Warriors (44-27)
Projected 1st Round Pick: None (to Jazz)
Projected Cap Space: None
The Warriors are invested in four high-paid players in Andrew Bogut ($13 million), David Lee ($15 million), Andre Iguodala ($12.3 million) and Stephen Curry ($10.6 million). Curry is a relative bargain.
Even if the Warriors decide not give Jordan Crawford a $3.2 million qualifying offer (which they probably won’t), the team is still over the cap.
Golden State doesn’t have a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, as they sent the selection to the Utah Jazz as part of the deal that cleared the necessary cap space to bring in Iguodala.
Key free agents include Steve Blake, Jermaine O’Neal and Crawford. Draymond Green isn’t guaranteed, but he’s a steal at just $915k so the Warriors won’t let him go.
Los Angeles Clippers (51-22)
Projected 1st Round Picks: 27th
Projected Cap Space: None
The Clippers, for the first time in franchise history, are a luxury tax team. Barring the unexpected, the team will be over next season as well.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combine to make $37.7 million. DeAndre Jordan is also highly compensated at $11.4 million.
The Clippers can buy out Jamal Crawford’s final two years at $1.5 million a season, but at about $5.5 million next year, he’s at an economic price for his production.
Darren Collison ($2 million), Glen Davis ($1.2 million) and Danny Granger ($1.3 million) each have player options, and are likely to hit free agency.
Willie Green’s $1.4 million contract isn’t guaranteed.
Los Angeles Lakers (24-47)
Projected 1st Round Picks: 6th
Projected Cap Space: None to $30.7 million
The Lakers have a lot to decide before next season, namely what to do with unrestricted free agent Pau Gasol.
While the veteran center/forward may look elsewhere, the Lakers may try to retain the two-time champion along with some of their many other unrestricted free agents (including Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Jordan Hill and Jordan Farmar).
The Lakers may choose instead to go in the opposite direction, letting Gasol walk and using their stretch provision on injured veteran Steve Nash (back).
With a true clean slate, with the Lakers keeping just Kobe Bryant, Robert Sacre and their 2014 draft pick, the team could have up to $28.5 million in cap space. In fact, they could have as much as $30.7 million if they dealt their first-rounder (after the draft in June), but that seems unlikely.
Ryan Kelly and Kent Bazemore can be made restricted free agents with qualifying offers. Young is likely to opt out of his minimum contract. Kendall Marshall’s $915k salary isn’t guaranteed.
The Lakers appear likely to go under the cap, although how far under remains to be seen.
Phoenix Suns (43-29)
Projected 1st Round Pick: 15th (from Timberwolves, top-13 protected), 16th (from Wizards, top-12 protected), 21st, 28th (from Pacers)
Projected Cap Space: $16.9 million to $36.7 million
The Suns project to have almost $17 million in cap room this summer, assuming Channing Frye opts to stay for the final year on his deal at $6.8 million.
The Suns will certainly give a qualifying offer to Eric Bledsoe ($3.7 million), but as a restricted free agent, he’ll take up $6.6 million in cap space until his fate is decided.
How much Bledsoe is worth may be the question of the summer, but the Suns may be able to sign a max player before having to decide.
With four potential first-round picks, barring trade, the Suns will need to open up roster spots. That does not bode well for non-guaranteed minimum players like Ish Smith, Dionte Christmas and Shavlik Randolph.
P.J. Tucker is likely worth a $2.9 million qualifying offer, as a vital glue guy on what may be a playoff team. Emeka Okafor is not likely to be retained.
If the Suns let Bledsoe, Frye and Tucker go — and traded all of their picks (certainly an extreme scenario) — they could have as much as $36.7 million in cap space, but that isn’t the direction that the team is heading as they try to build on their surprisingly successful season.
Sacramento Kings (25-46)
Projected 1st Round Picks: 7th (top-12 protected)
Projected Cap Space: None to $25.5 million
The big question for the Kings is, what will Rudy Gay do this summer?
The veteran forward can opt out of the final year of his contract, walking away from $19.3 million to explore unrestricted free agency. If Gay chooses to stay, the Kings won’t have much cap room to speak of.
Technically, if Sacramento renounced the rights to potential restricted free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas and even minimum player Quincy Acy, they may be able to scrounge $6.7 million in cap without Gay, but to what end?
If Gay leaves, Sacramento should have in the neighborhood of $22.8 million with Thomas restricted and Acy under contract.
The Kings are a near lock to keep their first-round pick, which would go to the Cleveland Cavaliers if an unlikely winning streak improved Sacramento to 13th in the draft.
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