A salary cap of around $90MM for the 2016/17 season has seemed like an inevitability since last month, when the players union rejected the league’s proposal to gradually phase in the effect of the league’s $24 billion TV deal. Today’s news that the league and the union couldn’t agree on any “cap smoothing” measure after revisiting the issue is further confirmation that the cap will spike drastically after next season. That means every team has enough flexibility, or nearly enough, to sign at least one free agent to a maximum-salary contract that summer. The max salaries will escalate, too, since they’re tied to a percentage of the cap, but that the Wizards and Clippers are the only teams with enough salary commitments for 2016/17 to come close to squeezing themselves out of the chance to clear max-level space.
The Trail Blazers and Sixers are on the opposite end. Neither team has any guaranteed salary on the books for that season, though the Blazers will be sorely disappointed if that doesn’t change by this summer, with LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez all set for free agency. Philadelphia, too, will no doubt add to its 2016/17 ledger when it picks up rookie scale team options for Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, though the Sixers are probably better positioned for a spending spree than any other team. Of course, that assumes that they’ll have the ability and willingness by the summer of 2016 to convince desirable free agents that their radical rebuilding will have hit a turning point.
Brooklyn and Dallas have the next fewest dollars committed, though each of those teams must contend with more than $20MM in player options. The Bucks and Lakers follow as the only teams other than the Sixers and Blazers to have no player options and fewer than $10MM in commitments for 2016/17.
No team has more than four fully guaranteed contracts for that season, meaning none of them could strip their payrolls quite as bare as the numbers below indicate. For instance, if the Lakers were to renounce the rights to every player on their roster except Nick Young, who holds the team’s lone fully guaranteed 2015/16 salary, they’d incur roster charges for all but one open spot on their roster underneath the regular season roster minimum of 13. That means the Lakers would be hit with 11 roster charges worth the rookie minimum salary, which is $543,471 for that season. That would add close to $6MM to L.A.’s books, giving the team a total of roughly $11.4MM that it couldn’t use to sign free agents.
Of course, these figures will surely change quite a bit between now and the summer of 2016, and a great deal of those alterations will take place in the offseason ahead. Teams have already demonstrated that they’ve become cautious about handing out guaranteed contracts that run beyond next season, and that will surely be the case in the summer ahead for all but the top free agent talent. Just how willing teams are to spend on deals that cover 2016/17, and whom they’re willing to give up flexibility for, will be key questions in the 2015 offseason.
For now, here’s a look at every team’s salary commitments for 2016/17, ranked in descending order of money on the books, along with the number of fully guaranteed contracts for each club. The list also makes note of player options.
- Sixers: $0
- Trail Blazers: $0
- Nets: $4.073MM (plus a $22.331MM player option for Deron Williams), 1 guaranteed deal
- Mavericks: $4.544MM (plus a $16.023MM player option for Chandler Parsons and a $8.692MM player option for Dirk Nowitzki), 1 guaranteed deal
- Bucks: $4.753MM, 0 guaranteed deals
- Lakers: $5.444MM, 1 guaranteed deal
- Hornets: $12MM, 1 guaranteed deal
- Pistons: $12.392MM, 1 guaranteed deal
- Celtics: $14.857MM, 2 guaranteed deals
- Hawks: $17.089MM, 3 guaranteed deals
- Grizzlies: $18.03MM, 2 guaranteed deals
- Raptors: $18.05MM, 2 guaranteed deals
- Magic: $19.557MM, 2 guaranteed deals
- Pelicans: $25.108MM, 3 guaranteed deals
- Nuggets: $25.292MM, 2 guaranteed deals
- Timberwolves: $25.5MM (plus a $7.378MM player option for Kevin Martin), 2 guaranteed deals
- Rockets: $25.571MM (plus a $23.282MM player option for Dwight Howard), 3 guaranteed deals
- Cavaliers: $26.407MM, 1 guaranteed deal
- Suns: $28.303MM, 3 guaranteed deals
- Wizards: $28.958MM, 2 guaranteed deals
- Spurs: $29.274MM, 3 guaranteed deals
- Heat: $29.524MM, 2 guaranteed deals
- Pacers: $30.898MM, 3 guaranteed deals
- Knicks: $32.268MM, 2 guaranteed deals
- Thunder: $33.869MM, 3 guaranteed deals
- Bulls: $36.056MM (plus a $7.77MM player option for Pau Gasol), 3 guaranteed deals
- Jazz: $37.278MM, 3 guaranteed deals
- Kings: $45.594MM, 4 guaranteed deals
- Warriors: $53.934MM, 4 guaranteed deals
- Clippers: $57.631MM, 4 guaranteed deals
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.