NBA 2016/17 Dead Money: Central 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.

Over the next week, we’ll examine each of the NBA’s 30 teams, breaking them down by division, to figure out which teams are carrying the most dead money on the cap for 2016/17, and what that information might tell us about those teams. We’ll start today with the Central division, before tackling the other five divisions from Monday to Friday next week.

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

1. Detroit Pistons
Total dead money: $5,398,678
Full salary cap breakdown

The Pistons had a pair of camp invitees with modest guarantees, in Nikola Jovanovic ($30K) and Trey Freeman ($25K), and a last-minute change of plans at point guard meant that they were also on the hook for nearly $12K when they waived Ray McCallum. However, the majority of dead money on Detroit’s books belongs to Josh Smith. The Pistons cut Smith with so much guaranteed salary left on his contract that he’ll count for about $5.332MM against the cap this year — and for the three years after that.

2. Milwaukee Bucks
Total dead money: $1,865,547
Full salary cap breakdown

The Bucks are one of eight NBA teams that entered this season without a D-League affiliate, so they didn’t have a ton of incentive to hand out partial guarantees to camp invitees — they wouldn’t have been able to assign those players to a D-League squad anyway. As such, it comes as little surprise that Larry Sanders is responsible for Milwaukee’s only dead-money cap charge this season. Sanders will continue to count for $1,865,547 annually against the Bucks’ cap through the 2020/21 season.

3. Indiana Pacers
Total dead money: $1,387,667
Full salary cap breakdown

The Pacers were smart about the dead money they added to their cap this fall, paying out partial guarantees to a handful of players they wanted to join their D-League affiliate in Fort Wayne, including Ben Bentil, whose D-League rights they snatched from the Celtics for $50K. Julyan Stone ($50K), Alex Poythress ($35.4K), and Nick Zeisloft ($25K) also got modest guarantees, while Jeremy Evans ($1.227MM) was the only fully guaranteed salary the team cut. The Pacers can’t put the $3.2MM they received from the Mavericks when they acquired Evans toward their salary cap, but that cash ensures that the club actually came out ahead after waiving the forward.

4. Chicago Bulls
Total dead money: $69,500
Full salary cap breakdown

The Bulls have a D-League affiliate for the first time this season, but only one camp invitee – and eventual Windy City Bulls player – required a partial guarantee. That one player was Thomas Walkup, who got $69.5K from the team. It will be interesting to see if the Bulls are any more liberal about handing out partial guarantees to recruit top undrafted rookies to their D-League affiliate in future years.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Total dead money: $18,255
Full salary cap breakdown

The Cavaliers didn’t pay any guaranteed money to their camp invitees, and ultimately assigned only two of their cuts to the Canton Charge rather than the maximum four. The team also isn’t carrying any dead money on its cap from players released in previous years, resulting in a cap sheet that is nearly entirely clean. The one exception? An $18K cap hit for Dahntay Jones, since he cleared waivers two days into the 2016/17 season rather than being cut earlier.

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

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