Projecting 2015 and 2016 Max-Salary Tiers

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The maximum salary a team can pay a specific player in free agency is based on their years of service in the NBA.

With the current salary cap of $63.1 million, the league has three maximum tiers.  For players with up to six years’ experience, they can earn up to $14.7 million in the first year of a new contract; seven to nine max at $17.7 million; 10-years or more allows for up to $20.6 million.

The NBA projects the salary cap will climb to $67.4 million for the 2015-16 season, bumping the max numbers to approximately $15.8 million, $18.9 million and $22.1 million.

The league also has a new national television deal kicking in for the 2016-17 season, which is now projected to raise the salary cap to $90 million, along with maximum salaries to roughly $21.0 million, $25.3 million and $29.5 million.

Players, and certainly their agents, are well aware of the expected jump, which could have a significant impact on contracts this summer.  Many may choose to sign a “one-and-one” deal, a two-year contract with a player opt-out before the second — allowing them in turn to take home a more lucrative, long-term deal in 2016.

The NBA and players may also opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2017, leading to a new set of rules (eventually) that will likely impact salary structure — making the timing of the 2016 goldmine even more vital for players.

The following is a list of many of the top free agents over the next couple of years, and where they land among the maximum-salary tiers:

2015-16 Bottom Tier (~$15.8 Million)

Kawhi Leonard (restricted free agent), Danny Green – San Antonio Spurs

Greg Monroe, Reggie Jackson (RFA) – Detroit Pistons

Jimmy Butler (RFA) – Chicago Bulls

Draymond Green (RFA) – Golden State Warriors

Enes Kanter (RFA) – Oklahoma City Thunder

Tobias Harris (RFA) – Orlando Magic

Brandon Knight (RFA) – Phoenix Suns

Wesley Matthews – Portland Trail Blazers

Omer Asik – New Orleans Pelicans

2015-16 Middle Tier (~$18.9 Million)

Kevin Love (player option) – Cleveland Cavaliers

Marc Gasol, Jeff Green (PO) – Memphis Grizzlies

LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo (PO) – Portland Trail Blazers

DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers

Goran Dragic (PO) – Miami HEAT

Roy Hibbert – Indiana Pacers (PO)

Rajon Rondo – Dallas Mavericks

Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks

2015-16 Top Tier (~$22.1 Million)

LeBron James (PO) – Cleveland Cavaliers

Dwyane Wade (PO), Luol Deng (PO) – Miami HEAT

Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs

Monta Ellis (PO), Tyson Chandler – Dallas Mavericks

Al Jefferson (PO) – Charlotte Hornets

Amir Johnson – Toronto Raptors

2016-17 Bottom Tier (~$21.0 Million)

Anthony Davis (RFA) – New Orleans Pelicans

Damian Lillard (RFA) – Portland Trail Blazers

Andre Drummond (RFA) – Detroit Pistons

Hassan Whiteside – Miami HEAT

Bradley Beal (RFA) – Washington Wizards

Harrison Barnes (RFA) – Golden State Warriors

Jonas Valanciunas (RFA) – Toronto Raptors

2016-17 Middle Tier (~$25.3 Million)

Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder

Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls

Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks

Mike Conley – Memphis Grizzlies

DeMar DeRozan (PO) – Toronto Raptors

Danilo Gallinari – Denver Nuggets

Ryan Anderson – New Orleans Pelicans

Brandon Jennings – Detroit Pistons

Nicolas Batum – Portland Trail Blazers

2016-17 Top Tier (~$29.5 Million)

Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers

Dwight Howard (PO) – Houston Rockets

Pau Gasol (PO) – Chicago Bulls

Nene – Washington Wizards

Joe Johnson, Deron Williams (early termination option) – Brooklyn Nets

Patient Tier Jumpers?

A one-year deal (or one-and-one) for players like Aldridge, Millsap or Rondo this summer will make either eligible for a jump to the top tier in 2016.

The same can be said of Danny Green and Matthews, although neither are likely to get max offers.

Brook Lopez and Love can both wait a year to take advantage of the higher cap, but will stay middle-tier max players for either summer.

Note that if a player is finishing a contract above the league maximum, they can sign a new contract with a five percent bump in pay, even if it’s over the next season’s max.