The NBA’s salary cap is really a misnomer of sorts, since it doesn’t place an absolute limit on salaries. Teams routinely zoom past the cap, and it’s assumed they will do so, with features like cap exceptions and the luxury tax built into the collective bargaining agreement. Still, it’s possible that teams can end up with a truly “hard cap.”
The use of the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception, the biannual exception or the acquisition of a player via sign-and-trade limits a team to dishing out no more than $4MM in excess of the luxury tax threshold. The tax line is $84.74MM for 2015/16, so the hard cap for this season is $88.74MM.
Six teams have triggered the hard cap, meaning their salaries can’t exceed $88.74MM from now through June 30th, 2016, and more may join those six throughout the season. Still, none of those six teams are anywhere close to their hard cap amounts. Only two of them are within $10MM. The Rockets seem like the most likely candidate to impose a hard cap on themselves among those that haven’t so far, since they’d have to do so to sign No. 32 overall pick Montrezl Harrell for more than the minimum. They’d also likely come closer to that $88.74MM amount than any of the teams so far hard-capped.
This listing includes information on how each team triggered its hard cap and the amount of money the clubs have left to spend. A slightly different calculation is involved with the hard cap as opposed to the standard salary cap, and these estimates reflect that. The estimates are based on guaranteed salary, since hard-capped teams can cross the $88.74MM line with non-guaranteed money as long as they manage to find a way under before that salary becomes guaranteed. Also, required tender amounts to second-round picks aren’t included in these estimates, since teams still have about another month to decide whether to make those tenders.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.