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NBA 2016/17 Dead Money: Northwest Division

The concept of “dead money” on a salary cap isn’t as common in the NBA as it is in the NFL, but it essentially functions the same way in both leagues. Dead money refers to the salary remaining on a team’s cap for players that are no longer on the roster.

For NFL teams, taking on a certain amount of dead money is a common practice, since signing bonuses affect cap hits differently, and big-money players are more likely to be released before playing out their entire contracts. That practice is less common in the NBA.

Still, with the NBA’s salary cap on the rise, teams may be a little more willing to part ways with players on guaranteed salaries, since that increased cap gives clubs more flexibility than they used to have. Within the last month, we’ve seen players like Ronnie Price and Greivis Vasquez, who each had $4-5MM in guaranteed money left on their contracts, waived in order to clear room for newcomers.

We’ve examined each of the NBA’s 30 teams, breaking them down by division, determining which teams are carrying the most dead money on the cap for 2016/17, and assessing what that might tell us about those teams. We’ve already examined the Central, Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest, and Pacific divisions. Today, we’ll turn our attention to the Northwest division to wrap things up.

Here are the 2016/17 dead money figures for the Northwest teams:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Total dead money: $9,360,305
Full salary cap breakdown

Only two NBA teams – the Sixers and Nets – are currently carrying more dead money on their 2016/17 salary cap than the Timberwolves. And like those other clubs, Minnesota remains below the salary floor, so those dead-money charges aren’t hurting the team too much. Kevin Garnett ($8MM) is responsible for most of the Wolves’ dead money, and if he had made his retirement decision earlier, the club could have stretched his cap hit across three years. Still, Minnesota may have chosen to apply the entire amount to this season’s cap anyway, since the club has excess cap room at the moment and won’t have to worry about KG’s charges after June. The rest of the Wolves’ 2016/17 dead money comes from Kevin Martin ($1.36MM).

2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Total dead money: $4,358,585
Full salary cap breakdown

The Thunder’s management of their cap has been interesting, as the team has been willing to waive players with guaranteed salaries, like Ronnie Price ($2.558MM) and Mitch McGary ($1.526MM). Oklahoma City was also fairly generous with its partial guarantees for camp invitees, such as Chris Wright ($100K), Kaleb Tarczewski ($75K), Alex Caruso ($50K), and Reggie Williams ($50K).

So it was a little surprising when the Thunder essentially dumped Ersan Ilyasova‘s $8.4MM salary in a trade with the Sixers earlier this month, opening up cap room and reducing their year-end salary bill, at the cost of a future conditional first-round pick. Perhaps Philadelphia simply coveted Ilyasova, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the Thunder the rest of the way to see if they do anything with that newfound cap room.

3. Portland Trail Blazers
Total dead money: $1,984,005
Full salary cap breakdown

Anderson Varejao‘s $1.984MM cap hit is the only dead money on the Trail Blazers’ books, and that contract was one worth taking on, since it landed Portland a future first-round pick. Still, the Blazers will likely do everything they can to avoid eating more salary this season. As it stands, the club is less than $500K from the tax line, so even replacing one minimum salary player with another could have major financial implications for the team.

4. Denver Nuggets
Total dead money: $1,380,431
Full salary cap breakdown

The Nuggets have several players contributing dead-money charges to their cap, ranging from Nick Johnson ($980K) to camp invitees like D.J. Kennedy ($50K) and Nate Wolters ($50K). Most recently, Denver waived Jarnell Stokes, who had a $150K guarantee, and the team likely won’t hesitate to continue rolling over its roster and eating salary if necessary — with only about $75MM in total salary on their books for 2016/17, the Nuggets currently sit well below the salary floor.

5. Utah Jazz
Total dead money: $275,000
Full salary cap breakdown

The Jazz have kept a very clean cap sheet for 2016/17, with their only dead-money charges coming in the form of partial guarantees for camp invitees — Marcus Paige ($125K), Quincy Ford ($75K), and Henry Sims ($75K). As a result, the team is more than $13MM under the cap, which come in handy, since George Hill and Derrick Favors are both eligible for extensions. With the ability to give either player a significant raise for ’16/17, the Jazz have a great opportunity to lock up one of those two players and keep them off the market, if they so choose.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

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