With the NBA draft lottery over and the draft order set, we can now take a look at the cap space landscape around the league heading into the draft. This is not an offseason flush with cash. I project only six teams with the ability to generate meaningful cap space this offseason, with the other 24 limited only to using various exceptions to sign free agents. Down below you will see a breakout of the teams that fall into or between the main cap space categories: Cap Space teams, Teams with the ability to use the Non-Tax Payer Mid-Level, and teams limited to the Tax Payer Mid-Level.
Here is a look at the possible exceptions available to teams this summer:
Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (NTMLE): $10,349,000
Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (TMLE): $6,392,000
Room Mid-Level Exception (RMLE): $5,329,000
Bi-Annual Exception (BAE): $4,050,000
Detroit Pistons: Projected Cap Space ~ $27.6 million
Indiana Pacers: Projected Cap Space ~ $17.6 million
Orlando Magic: Projected Cap Space ~ $23 million
San Antonio Spurs: Projected Cap Space - $14.3 million
The Spurs can generate up to ~ $30 million in space if they renounce the rights to Lonnie Walker and cut Zach Collins.
Either cap-space or non tax payer mid-level exception (NTMLE)
Memphis Grizzlies: Projected Cap Space - $19.3 million to NTMLE, BAE
After having a breakout year winning 56 games, the Grizzlies enter the offseason with quite a bit of flexibility. On one hand, the Grizzlies could remain as an over-the-cap team while preserving the bird rights of Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones and could either bring them back and lock into this core, or look to work out a consolidation sign and trade with one of the major wings on the market in Miles Bridges, Bradley Beal, or Zach Lavine. They have a plethora of assets of picks (8 first in next 5 drafts) and players on various sized contracts to get a deal done. They could also carve out $19.3 million of cap space by renouncing the bird rights of all their free agents and could go after free agents like Bobby Portis or TJ Warren.
Portland Trail Blazers: Projected Cap Space - $24 million to NTMLE
The Blazers have a lot of decisions to make that will shape how they go about this offseason. The main decision is if they want to operate as a cap space team or over-the-cap. They can carve out $24 million of cap space if they waive the free agency rights of Jusuf Nurkic, CJ Elleby, Elijah Hughes and Joe Ingles, along with waiving Eric Bledsoe. This allows them to keep Josh Hart and still maintain meaningful cap space. They can also end up operating as an over-the-cap team, retaining the bird rights of Nurkic and Ingles and still being able to use their TPE of ~$21 million. Unless they have an inkling that they would be able to sign Bradley Beal or Zach Lavine this summer, I would assume that they stay over the cap.
Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (NTMLE)
Charlotte Hornets: Exceptions Available: NTMLE, BAE
Chicago Bulls: Exceptions Available: NTMLE
Cleveland Cavaliers: Exceptions Available: NTMLE
Houston Rockets: Exceptions Available: NTMLE
Miami Heat: Exceptions Available: NTMLE
Minnesota Timberwolves: Exceptions Available: NTMLE
New York Knicks: Exceptions Available: NTMLE, BAE
Oklahoma City Thunder: Exceptions Available: NTMLE, BAE
Sacramento Kings: Exceptions Available: NTMLE, BAE
Toronto Raptors: Exceptions Available: NTMLE
Washington Wizards: Exceptions Available: NTMLE
Either NTMLE or Tax-Payer MLE (TMLE)
Atlanta Hawks: Exceptions Available: NTMLE to TMLE
The Hawks are already flirting with the luxury tax line with only 9 players under contract for next year, and that isn't including the 16th pick in the draft. However, the Hawks can clear up some breathing room by waiving Danilo Gallinari, who only has $5 million guaranteed of his $20.5 million contract next season. This puts them ~$16 million under the tax line and ~$22 million under the tax apron with 6 empty roster spots to fill.
New Orleans Pelicans: Exceptions Available: NTMLE to TMLE
The Pelicans already have 15 players under contract and currently sit about $2.5 million below the luxury tax line. If they wanted to be aggressive, they could try to find a home for Garret Temple or Wily Hernangomez via trade and use either exception to try and add talent to build off of this past year's playoff appearance. This could depend on ownerships appetite to get into the tax.
Philadelphia 76ers: Exceptions Available: NTMLE, BAE to TMLE
The 76ers currently sit ~$5 million over the luxury tax line next year, but they can waive Danny Green's full non-guaranteed $10 million contract and that gets them ~$5 million under the tax and ~$11 million under the apron with 2-3 roster spots to fill.
Phoenix Suns: Exceptions Available: NTMLE to TMLE
With a disappointing loss in the second round of the playoffs, the Suns have a major decision to make with Deandre Ayton. They currently site ~$42 million below the tax line, but a max contract for Deandre Ayton pulls them $12 million of the tax with 4-5 roster spots to fill.
taxpayer MLe (TMLE)
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
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Nick Thoreson is a young professional working in finance who is passionate about the NBA and especially all things salary cap related.