The NBA salary cap is somewhat malleable, with various exceptions allowing every team to surpass the $101.869MM threshold once that room is used up. In some cases, teams blow past not only the cap limit, but the luxury-tax limit as well, with clubs like the Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Raptors, and Wizards going well beyond that tax line this year.
The NBA doesn’t have a “hard cap” by default, which allows those clubs to build significant payrolls without violating CBA rules. However, there are certain scenarios in which teams can be hard-capped.
When a club uses the bi-annual exception, acquires a player via sign-and-trade, or uses more than the taxpayer portion ($5.337MM) of the mid-level exception, that club will face a hard cap for the remainder of the league year.
When a team becomes hard-capped, it cannot exceed the “tax apron” at any point during the rest of the league year. The tax apron is set at a point approximately $6MM above the luxury tax line. For the 2018/19 league year, the tax apron – and hard cap for certain clubs – is set at $129.817MM.
So far this year, nine teams have imposed a hard cap on themselves by using the bi-annual exception, using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, or acquiring a player via sign-and-trade. Listed below are those nine teams, along with how they created a hard cap.
- Used approximately $5.75MM of mid-level exception to sign Glenn Robinson, Khyri Thomas, and Bruce Brown.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Kyle Anderson.
- Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Ersan Ilyasova and Pat Connaughton.
- Used bi-annual exception to sign Brook Lopez.
New Orleans Pelicans
- Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Julius Randle.
- Used bi-annual exception to sign Elfrid Payton.
New York Knicks
San Antonio Spurs
- Used approximately $6.99MM of mid-level exception to sign Marco Belinelli and Chimezie Metu.
- Used bi-annual exception to sign Dante Cunningham.
Currently, none of the hard-capped teams listed above have team salaries within $5MM of the tax apron, so that hard cap shouldn’t be a real issue for most of these clubs during the 2018/19 league year. However, that could change if any of these teams – particularly the Hornets or Pistons – makes additional free agent signings or takes on extra money in a trade at some point.