When it comes to team payroll, NBA clubs can essentially be broken down into three groups: Teams using cap space, over-the-cap (but under-the-tax) teams, and taxpaying teams. Yesterday, we looked at the franchises that fall into the former two categories, including 12 teams using cap space and 13 teams with access to the full $5MM mid-level exception.
That leaves just five teams in the Association that no longer have access to cap space or the full mid-level for 2012/13. It's not out of the realm of possibility that one or more of these teams could dip back below the tax threshold over the course of the season. But since their payrolls have exceeded $74,307,000 already, they're ineligible to use more than the $3.09MM taxpayer mid-level exception from now until next July.
Here's a look at the five teams that fall into this category, and where their payroll situations currently stand:
- Brooklyn Nets: Their offseason spending spree resulted in an overall 2012/13 payroll of about $81.8MM, which included using the $3.09MM mini mid-level on Mirza Teletovic. In their first year in Brooklyn, the Nets are unlikely to try to cut costs, so I'd expect that $81.8MM figure to increase, if anything.
- Los Angeles Lakers: Despite sitting at almost exactly $100MM in player salaries this season, the Lakers actually still have about half of their MLE to use, after spending $1.5MM+ on Jodie Meeks. We'll have to see if the Lakers are done spending or if they're ready to head well into triple-digits and increase their tax hit even more.
- Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies are the likeliest of these teams to try to sneak below the tax threshold later in the year. Their $74.9MM payroll isn't far above the apron, and most of their players are on reasonable salaries, making a deadline deal a possibility. The team's approach will probably depend on how the ownership situation is looking by the new year.
- Miami Heat: Like the Nets, they're slightly over the $80MM mark, and don't figure to be cutting salary as long as they have a shot at the title. They used their entire $3.09MM mini MLE to sign Ray Allen.
- New York Knicks: For all the hand-wringing this summer about the Knicks' future tax payments if they'd retained Jeremy Lin, their 2012/13 payroll isn't catastrophic — the team is below the $80MM mark, and that includes some non- or partially-guaranteed deals, which could reduce payroll a little more by season's end. The Knicks used their $3.09MM taxpayer mid-level on Jason Kidd.