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New Best/Worst Case NBA 2015-16 Cap Projections

How much money will each team have to spend this summer? A look at the best- and worst-case scenarios.

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In December, Basketball Insiders looked at the best- and worst-case cap scenarios for the 2015-16 season, but much has changed through February’s NBA trade deadline.

Players have been dealt, waived, claimed, stretched and signed.  Meanwhile, the NBA’s salary cap is projected to climb to roughly $67.4 million for next year.

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.

The following details the best- and worst-case scenario 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
Portland Trail Blazers $39.7 mil $0 The Blazers would rather have a major portion of their cap space going to LaMarcus Aldridge. Arron Afflalo’s $7.8 million potential opt-in will also factor into how much Portland will have to spend.
Dallas Mavericks $34.0 mil $0 The Mavericks have a laundry list of decisions ahead including Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo.  Dallas may be a huge spender or they may just keep the team together.
Detroit Pistons $33.8 mil $10.8 mil The Pistons have to decide if it’s worth making big investments in Greg Monroe and Reggie Jackson.  If they go in a different direction, they have massive spending power.
Philadelphia 76ers $32.0 mil $27.5 mil The Sixers used up $12 million in cap space to pay JaVale McGee not to play.  Will they use their cap room to add players, or continue adding unwanted salary for draft picks?
Cleveland Cavaliers $31.2 mil $0 The best-case cap scenario would actually be Armageddon for the Cavaliers, with both LeBron James and Kevin Love leaving and coming off their books.  If James stays, the team isn’t likely to have any room.
San Antonio Spurs $29.0 mil $0 The Spurs have to decide on free agents Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Danny Green, etc.
Los Angeles Lakers $27.7 mil $14.6 mil Best case is a lousy case for the Lakers with their first-round pick going to the Philadelphia 76ers.  The Jordan Hill decision needs to be made in late June.  If they keep him, he’ll use up almost $9 million in cap room.
New York Knicks $26.5 mil $19.3 mil The Knicks have improved their cap situation through trades.  Provided Alexey Shved doesn’t get a qualifying offer, the team is closer to $25 million in cap space.
Memphis Grizzlies $26.4 mil $0 Jeff Green’s player option could shrink the Grizzlies’ space by about $9 million.  The team would prefer to stay over the cap with Marc Gasol re-signing long-term.
Indiana Pacers $26.0 mil $0 If Roy Hibbert and David West do not opt out, no cap room.
Orlando Magic $23.8 mil $9.2 mil Worst case includes cap holds for Tobias Harris and Kyle O’Quinn, along with Ben Gordon, Luke Ridnour and others.
Boston Celtics $23.5 mil $19.6 mil The Celtics have sizable trade exceptions, and may choose to stay over the cap completely.  The lower number includes cap holds for Gigi Datome and Jae Crowder, but shrinks if the team keeps Brandon Bass and Jonas Jerebko.
Phoenix Suns $23.0 mil $12.6 mil Brandon Knight’s cap hold as a restricted free agent is $8.9 million.  Danny Granger can opt in for $2.2 million.
Atlanta Hawks $23.0 mil $5.9 mil The Hawks will swap picks with the Brooklyn Nets, meaning they’ll likely have a lottery pick.  The lower number includes cap holds for Paul Millsap, Pero Antic and DeMarre Carroll plus Mike Muscala’s non-guaranteed salary.
New Orleans Pelicans $22.3 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.
Milwaukee Bucks $22.1 mil $15.1 mil Most of Larry Sanders’ contract is off the team’s books.  Even with Jared Dudley opting in and Khris Middleton’s cap hold, Milwaukee has at least $15.1 million in cap space.
Miami HEAT $21.9 mil $0 The HEAT could have sizable space if Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng leave.  The core can stay together, but without cap room.
Charlotte Hornets $18.6 mil $0 Best case isn’t best case for the Hornets, with Al Jefferson opting out, with his ~$21 mil cap hold off their books.  Worst case is probably preferable — with Jefferson sticking around (and likely Gerald Henderson opting in).
Utah Jazz $16.7 mil $10.7 mil The Jazz can get further under the cap by cutting ties with Trevor Booker.
Toronto Raptors $15.7 mil $0 $0 To max out their cap space, the Raptors would need to part ways with Amir Johnson, Lou Williams and others.
Denver Nuggets $15.0 mil $0 Before the trade deadline, the Nuggets didn’t project to have much cap space.  Now they can get up to $15 million, but that assumes Wilson Chandler’s $7.2 million contract is bought out for $2 million.
Minnesota Timberwolves $10.5 mil $0 The Wolves aren’t likely to have cap room, presuming Chase Budinger opts into his final year at $5 million.
Houston Rockets $10.0 mil $0 Best cap-room case includes no Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer, K.J. McDaniels, Kostas Papanikolaou, Josh Smith, etc.
Sacramento Kings $9.3 mil $0 mil Renouncing Derrick Williams will be the first step for the Kings to get under the cap.
Los Angeles Clippers $5.6 mil $0 mil The Clippers are only under the cap if they cut partially-guaranteed Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford, and let DeAndre Jordan walk — and then they still have nothing more to spend except the Mid-Level Exception.
Brooklyn Nets $5.2 mil $0 Realistically, the Nets won’t dip under the cap.
Chicago Bulls $4.3 mil $0 Even if Jimmy Butler is off the books, the Bulls still have less than the Mid-Level Exception in prospective cap space.
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 restricted free agent Enes Kanter.
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.

The draft lottery in May could shake up the math.  Projections are based on standings after games played through Friday night.

Looking ahead in the NBA is always fraught with uncertainty, as best illustrated by the Larry Sanders and Josh Smith waivers (both via stretch provision) by the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons, respectively. 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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