‘De Facto’ Expiring Contracts

Expiring contracts don’t have the value they used to, with plenty of teams poised to have maximum-level cap flexibility next summer, but they can still help teams clear cap space when a need arises. A glance at our list of 2016 free agents gives you an idea of the players entering the final seasons of their contracts this year, but the players marked with an (N) on that page fall into a special category.

Those players have non-guaranteed money for next season, empowering their teams with a choice. A team could trade for one of these “de facto” non-guaranteed contracts and use this season to gauge whether the player is worth keeping, and if not, the team could just waive the player and benefit from the extra cap room next summer. So, in that context, “de facto” non-guaranteed deals are somewhat more valuable than simple non-guaranteed deals. That’s especially so with contracts that don’t have any special guarantee dates written into them. In those cases, the team can wait to see how the July free agency rush plays out until deciding whether to keep or unload the player.

Unless a contract otherwise stipulates it, a player with a non-guaranteed salary can’t be assured of any money until the season begins. However, plenty of deals do insert earlier dates that trigger guarantees, and so sometimes, teams in possession of non-guaranteed deals don’t have the luxury of waiting to see what happens in July. That’s true of most of the largest “de facto” expiring contracts this season. Ty Lawson, Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko all have non-guaranteed salaries of $5MM or more for 2016/17, but they become fully guaranteed if their teams keep them through dates that precede July 12th, the first day teams can officially do business after the July Moratorium next year. Lance Stephenson essentially falls into this category, since his contract isn’t non-guaranteed but includes a team option. The decision on that option is due June 29th.

Here’s a look at every “de facto” expiring contract with a salary worth more than $2MM for 2016/17, with any guarantee dates listed in parentheses. The figures listed are roundest to the nearest $1K, and the players are listed in descending order of salary.

The players below have salaries of $2MM or more that are partially guaranteed for next season, so they fit a looser definition of “de facto” expiring contracts. The details for each are in parentheses, and again the figures are rounded to the nearest $1K. This time, the players are in alphabetical order.

  • Vince Carter, Grizzlies (only $2MM of $4.264MM guaranteed)
  • Boris Diaw, Spurs (only $3MM of $7MM guaranteed until June 30th)
  • Ersan Ilyasova, Pistons (only $400K of $8.4MM guaranteed until July 1st)
  • Jarrett Jack, Nets (only $500K of $6.3MM guaranteed until June 30th)
  • Shaun Livingston, Warriors (only $3MM of $5.782MM guaranteed)
  • J.R. Smith, Cavaliers (only $2.2MM of $5.375MM guaranteed)
  • Jason Thompson, Warriors (only $2.65MM of $7.01MM guaranteed)
  • P.J. Tucker, Suns (only $1.5MM of $5.3MM guaranteed)
  • Martell Webster, Wizards (only $2.5MM of $5.845MM guaranteed until July 1st)


Anderson Varejao is set to make $10.361MM in 2016/17 with a partial guarantee of just $1MM less than the full total. Thus, he doesn’t offer much benefit as a “de facto” expiring contract, and so he’s not listed above.
— Webster’s full 2016/17 salary becomes guaranteed if he appears in 70 games this year.
— This list doesn’t include players with pending rookie scale team options for 2016/17, since the decisions on those are due November 2nd.

The Basketball Insiders Salary Pages were used in the creation of this post.

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