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NBA’s Best/Worst Case 2015-16 Cap Projections

The best- and worst-case salary cap projections for each team next season.

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The NBA’s salary cap projects to climb to roughly $67 million for the 2015-16 season.

A number of teams may have sizable spending power to chase a free agent list that should include players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, Paul Millsap, Jimmy Butler (restricted), DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe and Reggie Jackson (restricted), Brandon Knight (restricted) and Tobias Harris (restricted) among others.

Player options could also see LeBron James, Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Al Jefferson, Monta Ellis, Jeff Green, Arron Afflalo, Luol Deng, Thaddeus Young and Roy Hibbert hit free agency as well.

The following details the best- and worst-case scenarios for cap room next summer, noting that many teams can choose to go under or stay over.  Player options, team options, non-guaranteed contracts, trades and free agent decisions once July hits will determine exactly how much each team has to spend.

Team Best Worst Comment
Philadelphia 76ers $42.3 mil $36.5 mil The Sixers have cap room, but will they spend much of it?
Portland Trail Blazers $39.3 mil $0 The Blazers would rather have a major portion of their cap space going to LaMarcus Aldridge.
Dallas Mavericks $32.9 mil $0 The best-case cap number has Monta Ellis, Rajon Rondo, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Al-Farouq Aminu off Dallas’ books.  If the team stays together as is, the Mavs may have no cap room.
Cleveland Cavaliers $30.7 mil $6.7 mil Best case is Armageddon for the Cavaliers, with both LeBron James and Kevin Love off their books.  If Tristan Thompson and Love leave, but not James, they could near $6.7 mil in cap (with Matt Dellavedova’s hold).
Detroit Pistons $29.2 mil $17.0 mil Josh Smith’s $5.4 mil waived amount will shrink based on what he signs for with another team. Best case includes no Greg Monroe.  Worst case has no Anthony Tolliver, Caron Butler and others.
Boston Celtics $29.2 mil $15.0 mil Lower number assumes Jeff Green and Jameer Nelson do not opt out, plus Phil Pressey and cap hold of Jae Crowder, but no Brandan Wright or Brandon Bass.
San Antonio Spurs $27.9 mil $0 The Spurs have to decide on free agents Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, etc.
Los Angeles Lakers $27.3 mil $14.9 mil Best case is a lousy case for the Lakers with their first-round pick going to the Phoenix Suns.  Worst case includes the pick, Jordan Hill and Ed Davis opting in, along with Robert Sacre and Jordan Clarkson.
New York Knicks $26.4 mil $12.9 mil Worst case includes J.R. Smith and cap holds for Iman Shumpert and Quincy Acy.
Indiana Pacers $26.0 mil $0 Worst case assumes Roy Hibbert and David West do not opt out.
New Orleans Pelicans $26.0 mil $0 mil Eric Gordon’s opt-out and Omer Asik’s cap hold will decide how much space the Pelicans have or do not have.
Orlando Magic $24.4 mil $9.8 mil Worst case includes cap holds for Tobias Harris and Kyle O’Quinn, along with Ben Gordon, Luke Ridnour and others.
Memphis Grizzlies $23.3 mil $3.4 mil Worst case includes an approximate $18 mil cap hold for Marc Gasol.
Atlanta Hawks $23.1 mil $6.1 mil Lower number includes cap holds for Paul Millsap, Pero Antic and DeMarre Carroll plus Mike Muscala’s non-guaranteed salary.
Miami HEAT $22.7 mil $0 The HEAT could have sizable space if both Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng leave.
Milwaukee Bucks $18.1 mil $3.4 mil Best case assumes Jared Dudley opts out, and Brandon Knight walks.
Charlotte Hornets $17.6 mil $0 Best case isn’t best case for the Hornets, with Al Jefferson opting out and his ~$21 mil cap hold off their books.  Worst case is probably preferable — with Jefferson (and Gerald Henderson) opting in.
Toronto Raptors $15.9 mil $0 To max out their cap space, the Raptors would need to part ways with Amir Johnson, Lou Williams and others.
Minnesota Timberwolves $15.4 mil $0 The Wolves aren’t likely to have cap room if Thaddeus Young and Chase Budinger opt in.
Phoenix Suns $13.5 mil $0 Best case includes no Goran Dragic, Gerald Green and no Lakers’ pick.
Utah Jazz $12.8 mil $0 The Jazz can get under the cap by cutting ties with Enes Kanter, Trevor Booker and others.
Houston Rockets $9.8 mil $0 Best case includes no Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer, Kostas,Papanikolaou, Josh Smith, etc.
Sacramento Kings $8.0 mil $0 mil Renouncing Derrick Williams would be the first step for the Kings to get under the cap.
Denver Nuggets $6.1 mil $0 Best case includes cutting Wilson Chandler with $2 mil guaranteed.
Los Angeles Clippers $5.0 mil $0 mil Clippers are only under the cap if they cut partially-guaranteed Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford and Jordan Farmar opts out.
Brooklyn Nets $4.7 mil $0 Best case presumes Brook Lopez and Alan Anderson opt out, and all free agents renounced including Mirza Teletovic – an unrealistic amount less than the Mid-Level Exception.
Chicago Bulls $3.9 mil $0 Another non-desired best case, with Jimmy Butler off the books — still less than the Mid-Level Exception.
Golden State Warriors $0 $0 The Warriors are over the cap, and need to re-sign Draymond Green.
Oklahoma City Thunder $0 $0 The Thunder should be over the cap, with or without Reggie Jackson.
Washington Wizards $0 $0 Even if Paul Pierce and Garrett Temple opt out, the Wizards project to be over the cap.

 

Most teams 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.

Looking ahead in the NBA is always fraught with uncertainty, as best illustrated by the Josh Smith waiver (via stretch provision) by the Detroit Pistons. Almost nothing is set in stone.

Eric Pincus is a Senior Writer for Basketball Insiders, with a focus on the business side of the game.

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