The number of teams paying the luxury tax has been six the past two seasons, and again half a dozen teams are lined up for the penalty this year. The bill only comes due for clubs that cross the $71.748MM team salary threshold at the end of the season, so that means trades and other roster moves could either spare a front office from the tax or force another into shelling out extra cash.
Three of the franchises with team salaries that currently exceed the tax line wouldn’t make the playoffs if they started today, including the Nets and Knicks, who have the two highest payrolls in the league. The Bulls are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but their record is just 6-5 and they just lost Derrick Rose to another injury. The New York teams would have to pull off drastic salary dumps to avoid the tax, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls try to shed some salary via trade if Rose is to miss the season. The same goes for the Lakers if Kobe Bryant can’t return to right the ship. Both Chicago and the Lakers are about $7.5MM above tax line.
There are several teams below the tax line but close enough to it that it’s likely to come into play as they plan their in-season moves. The Celtics and Raptors are within a million dollars of tax territory, which might make it hard for them to add any intriguing free agents who come available or take on even the slightest salary bump in a trade.
Team salary figures may also change if players achieve unlikely bonuses, which would be added to the books, or fall short of likely bonuses, which would be subtracted. Some of the totals listed below for the projected tax teams include non-guaranteed contracts, though in each case, the team wouldn’t escape the tax merely by waiving those players.
Here are all six teams in line for the tax, with their team salaries in parentheses.
- Nets ($102,211,009)
- Knicks ($88,249,065)
- Heat ($83,528,143)
- Bulls ($79,288,428)
- Lakers ($79,186,502)
- Clippers ($73,325,353)
HoopsWorld was used in the creation of this post.