Contracts are shorter under the existing collective bargaining agreement than on past labor deals, and so more teams end up with a chance at cap room in the summer. The escalating salary cap will make it so the vast majority of teams can open cap space next year. Even this July, 17 of 30 NBA teams formally dipped under the salary cap at some point.
That still leaves several that have remained above it. The capped-out teams haven’t been dormant, of course, as the NBA’s soft cap still allows them plenty of movement. Bird rights, Early Bird rights and Non-Bird rights all come into play for those teams, as do the two forms of the mid-level exception: The $5.464MM available for teams under the $88.74MM tax apron, and the $3.376MM version for teams over that line. The $2.139MM biannual exception is also there for teams under the apron, as long as they didn’t use it last season.
Here’s a look at the major moves for each team that stayed above the cap, as well as a glance at their remaining flexibility. The link on each team’s name shows its free agent deals:
- Bulls — The keys were re-signing Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy, and with those deals done, Chicago dipped into its taxpayer’s mid-level to re-sign Aaron Brooks for more than what his Non-Bird rights would have afforded. Still $1.126MM of the team’s mid-level remains.
- Cavaliers — The Cavs could have opened up massive amounts of cap space, but re-signing LeBron James, Kevin Love and others was their clear preference. They still have $1.276MM left on their taxpayer’s mid-level after using part of it to sign Mo Williams.
- Clippers — DeAndre Jordan‘s return effectively closed off any non-minimum additions for the Clippers, who had already committed the taxpayer’s mid-level to Paul Pierce.
- Grizzlies — Similarly, the new contract for Marc Gasol meant no more flexibility beyond the minimum salary for Memphis, which had spent the full mid-level on Brandan Wright.
- Heat — Keeping Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic in the fold meant tax territory for the Heat, who have exercised a measure of austerity in failing to touch any of their taxpayer’s mid-level money.
- Hornets — Charlotte made its splash with trades that sent out Lance Stephenson and brought in Nicolas Batum, and the team has been quiet in free agency. Their $5.464MM mid-level is still intact after they used the biannual exception on Jeremy Lin.
- Nets — Their major move was releasing Deron Williams in a buyout deal, which allows them to dodge the luxury tax. Thus, they still have $2.464MM on their mid-level left after using $3MM combined on Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin.
- Pelicans — Bringing back Omer Asik and the rest of the team’s free agents was a priority for New Orleans, which spent all but $1.294MM of its mid-level exception to sign Alonzo Gee and re-sign Dante Cunningham for more than his Non-Bird rights were worth.
- Rockets — Houston re-signed Corey Brewer and Patrick Beverley and traded for Ty Lawson all while over the cap. About $2.3MM remains on their mid-level exception, depending on the precise value of the starting salary in K.J. McDaniels‘ new deal, but using it would subject Houston to a hard cap.
- Timberwolves — Re-signing Kevin Garnett helped keep the Wolves over the cap, and they have about $1.5MM left on their mid-level after using much of it to sign draft-and-stash prospect Nemanja Bjelica. They also have their biannual available.
- Thunder — Matching the max offer sheet for Enes Kanter was a pricey move, but the Thunder have kept costs in check as they’ve left their taxpayer’s mid-level untouched.
- Warriors — Golden State wouldn’t have had cap room even if it hadn’t re-signed Draymond Green, and the David Lee trade, still yet to become official, won’t give the Warriors cap room, either. An $876K sliver of the taxpayer’s mid-level remains for the Warriors after they used most of it to re-sign Leandro Barbosa for more than his Non-Bird rights would have allowed.
- Wizards — Washington replaced Pierce via the Jared Dudley trade and the use of all but $1.464MM of the mid-level on Alan Anderson. The Wizards also used their biannual to sign Gary Neal.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.
Which over-the-cap team used its resources most effectively? Leave a comment to let us know.