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Post-Trade-Deadline 2016-17 Cap Projections

Salary cap guru Eric Pincus breaks down the best and worst cap scenarios for every team after the deadline.



The NBA’s trade deadline passed on Thursday, with a number of last minute trades slipping in under the wire.

The Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons each made deals to try to help their playoff fortunes. The Clippers added Jeff Green, the Wizards acquired Markieff Morris and the Pistons landed Tobias Harris, Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton.

Other teams made financially-motivated moves. By dumping the salaries of Channing Frye and Harris, the Magic opened up enough potential cap space to pursue two max free agents this summer.

The Miami HEAT started the season with a repeater tax bill projected to hit over $20 million. By dumping Mario Chalmers earlier in the year and Chris Andersen, Jarnell Stokes and Brian Roberts near the deadline, the franchise has managed to slip under the luxury tax threshold entirely.

Looking ahead to this summer, the NBA’s salary cap projects to climb to roughly $90 million for the 2016-17 season, possibly higher.

A number of teams may have sizable spending power to chase a free agent list that should include players like Kevin Durant, Mike Conley, Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, Nicolas Batum, Andre Drummond (restricted), Harrison Barnes (restricted), Bradley Beal (restricted), Ryan Anderson, Rajon Rondo and Jordan Clarkson (Arenas-rule restricted), among others.

Player options could add to the free-agent pool with names like LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and Arron Afflalo.

Max contracts project to start at $21.1 million for players with up to six years of experience, $25.3 for those with seven to nine, and $29.5 with 10 or more years in the league.

Teams still have time to shuffle their books after the season near the NBA Draft in June, or even in the early days of free agency in July.

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, the draft and free agent decisions once July hits will ultimately determine exactly how much each team has to spend.

Team Best Worst Comment
Los Angeles Lakers $64.1 mil $26.9 mil The Lakers can max out their cap room if they renounce Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass opts out and the team stretches Nick Young’s contract. If their 2016 first-round pick goes to Philadelphia, the Lakers gain roughly $4 mil in spending power. The $64.1 million includes $2.7 million for Clarkson’s rights.
Dallas Mavericks $57.2 mil $8.1 mil The Mavericks have multiple players with options, including Deron Williams, Parsons and Nowitzki. Zaza Pachulia has a $9.9 million cap hold. The prospect of adding two max players could cost Parsons and Pachulia.
Philadelphia 76ers $55.7 mil $48.9 mil The Sixers will have multiple first-round picks and a mountain of cap space.
Orlando Magic $50.1 mil $16.4 mil The Magic have to decide on free agents Brandon Jennings, Evan Fournier, Andrew Nicholson, Dwyane Dedmon and Jason Smith.
Boston Celtics $49.6 mil $27.4 mil Both cases assume Jonas Jerebko is waived and Tyler Zeller is renounced. Best case also presumes Amir Johnson is released.  Boston has a potentially powerful combination of cap room and draft assets.
Houston Rockets $42.2 mil $0 Howard’s player option (or cap hold) has a significant impact on the Rockets’ cap space. Ty Lawson’s $13.2 million is non-guaranteed.
Brooklyn Nets $41.1 mil $0 If the Nets renounce Joe Johnson, his max-salary cap hold opens up significant space. Also, Jarrett Jack’s $6.3 million salary is only $500k guaranteed.
Portland Trail Blazers $40.0 mil $9.9 mil The Blazers have decisions to make on potential restricted free agents Meyers Leonard and Mo Harkless.
Memphis Grizzlies $39.9 mil $0 The Grizzlies are over the cap with Mike Conley’s $14.14 million cap hold, Lance Stephenson’s $9.4 million team option and a number of other players, but Memphis can go in a very different direction.
Charlotte Hornets $39.7 mil $0 Cap holds for Al Jefferson and Nicolas Batum take up most of the team’s cap space, but there will be plenty of spending room without the pair.
Washington Wizards $39.7 mil $0 Beal takes up $14.2 mil in cap room unsigned. Even with Morris, the Wizards still have space to chase a player like Durant, while retaining Beal.
Miami HEAT $37.6 mil $0 Miami’s cap space could be determined by how much Dwyane Wade is willing to take to stay. The team only has early Bird rights on Whiteside.
Atlanta Hawks $35.5 mil $6.5 mil Lower number includes cap holds for Al Horford ($18 million) and Kent Bazemore ($2.6 million), plus the non-guaranteed salary of Mike Scott. Atlanta only has early Bird rights on Bazemore.
Phoenix Suns $31.9 mil $11.3 mil After opening up additional space by dumping Morris, the Suns have decisions to make on P.J. Tucker, Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, Sonny Weems, Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer.
Utah Jazz $31.6 mil $27.1 mil The Jazz will have room for a max player, and more if they renounce Trevor Booker.
New York Knicks $31.4 mil $11.1 mil Both Derrick Williams and Afflalo have player options, totaling $12.6 million.
Indiana Pacers $30.4 mil $7.5 mil The Pacers need to decide on free agents Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi.
Denver Nuggets $28.7 mil $20.2 mil The Nuggets have Joffrey Lauvergne on a non-guaranteed deal, but at $1.7 million he’s an easy keeper.
Minnesota Timberwolves $26.5 mil $17.9 mil Kevin Martin has a $7.4 million player option, but isn’t believed to be in Minnesota’s future plans.
Sacramento Kings $26.5 mil $9.4 mil A sizable portion of the Kings cap space could go towards retaining Rajon Rondo.
Milwaukee Bucks $24.1 mil $0 Milwaukee’s free agents include O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Greivis Vasquez, Chris Copeland and Miles Plumlee.
Oklahoma City Thunder $23.0 mil $0 The Thunder do not want any part of being under the cap, which would mean Durant is off their books.
New Orleans Pelicans $22.9 mil $0 The big question for the Pelicans is the free agent status of Anderson, whose cap hold takes up $12.8 million in space. If Anthony Davis is named to an All-NBA team, his salary will jump to a middle-tier max.
Chicago Bulls $21.7 mil $0 Gasol has a player option. Joakim Noah has a sizable cap hold. Losing both gives the Bulls a lower-tier max slot — a small move away from mid-tier.
Detroit Pistons $21.7 mil $0 The Pistons sacrificed some of their future cap space to invest in Harris. Slot in $8.2 million for Andre Drummond’s cap hold, giving the Pistons closer to $14 million in workable cap — less if they also keep Motiejunas.
San Antonio Spurs $18.3 mil $0 The Spurs have a number of players with options like Tim Duncan, David West and Manu Ginobili. Boris Diaw isn’t fully guaranteed.
Toronto Raptors $16.8 mil $0 Bismack Biyombo and DeRozan have player options. Biyombo should have a number of suitors in free agency.
Golden State Warriors $15.3 mil $0 The Warriors would need to let go of Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli and others to get under the cap.
Cleveland Cavaliers $13.1 mil $0 The Cavaliers are unlikely to go under the cap. Even if James leaves, they don’t gain the kind of spending power they would need to try and replace him.
Los Angeles Clippers $8.5 mil $0 The Clippers gained Green’s Bird rights in trade, giving the team the means to spend to keep the forward. Los Angeles was the bottom cap-space franchise before the move.

Franchises 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.

Estimates assume current draft position based on standings through games played February 19.

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

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