Earlier this morning, we heard that the Pacers are exploring the trade market in search of a roster addition or two. Indiana is in a unique situation, with an incredible amount of cap space and no obligation to spend to reach the minimum cap requirements. While the Pacers' current cap figure falls well short of the minimum required team salary (85% of the cap), James Posey's amnestied $7.6MM salary counts for floor purposes, so the Pacers can stand pat if they so choose.
Although no other club has nearly the cap room Indiana does this season, there are a handful of under-the-cap teams who could make a move without having to use a mid-level or trade exception. Let's run through them, from the team with the most cap space (Indiana) to the least (Houston).
Approximate cap space: $14.27MM
I don't expect the Pacers to make any moves for players under contract past this season. Indiana has a number of players on rookie scale contracts who will start to get more expensive over the next couple years, so the team won't want to chew up future cap space unless it can land a young, talented player. A rental player on an expiring contract is more likely, and I still think Indiana makes sense as the most likely destination for Chris Kaman.
Approximate cap space: $9.43MM
While the Kings have a relatively affordable squad, they don't have quite the same flexibility the Pacers do. With nearly all its players under contract through next season, Sacramento is poised to increase its cap figure significantly this summer if it hopes to sign its lottery pick and hang onto restricted free agents like Jason Thompson, J.J. Hickson, and Donte Greene. Between the Kings' lack of expiring deals and its spot near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, I don't think we'll see Sacramento taking advantage of its cap space this season. The Kings need to add about $723K to reach the minimum salary requirement, but that amount is minimal enough that they may simply accept the end-of-season surcharge.
Approximate cap space: $7.21MM
Here's an interesting case. While it's widely assumed Cleveland will be looking to trade players like Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions this March, I'm not sure that'll be the case. The team has talked repeatedly about wanting to gain playoff experience, and as the current ninth seed in the East, it's not out of the realm of possibility. With Jamison's salary coming off the books this summer, the Cavs could afford to add a player who is under contract past this season and still have a ton of cap space in future seasons. If the Cavs can find a player that helps them this season and isn't too expensive going forward, I wouldn't be surprised if they pulled the trigger.
Approximate cap space: $4.3MM
While the Raptors would probably love to use this cap room to sign Wilson Chandler to an offer sheet, any contract they offered Chandler could easily be matched by the Nuggets. If the Raptors make moves before the deadline, they're more likely to become sellers, gaining even more cap room to take advantage of this summer.
Approximate cap space: $2.17MM
Like the Raptors, the out-of-contention Wizards will be looking for deals that create even more cap space. They almost certainly won't use their remaining cap room to acquire anyone.
Approximate cap space: $1.2MM
Golden State Warriors
Approximate cap space: $813K
Approximate cap space: $777K
These three teams consider themselves playoff contenders, and should all be active on the trade market, trying to upgrade their rosters. However, their cap space isn't significant enough to play a major role in any trades.