Recent History Of NBA Taxpaying Teams

As we detailed last week, five NBA teams finished the 2018/19 season in luxury tax territory, with the Thunder, Warriors, Raptors, Trail Blazers, and Celtics on the hook for an estimated total of $153.5MM in tax payments.

It was the first time since 2016’s salary cap spike that as many as five teams were taxpayers, and the projected league-wide tax payments of $153.5MM appears to be a new high. While two teams – Oklahoma City and Golden State – contributed significantly to that figure, the rising number of clubs in the tax reflects that teams are once again going well over the salary cap, as annual cap increases have slowed in recent years.

Listed below are the NBA’s taxpayers for the last five seasons, based on data from ESPN, Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ, and our own records.

As this list shows, the Thunder, Warriors, and Cavaliers were each taxpayers in three of the last four seasons, making those teams eligible for repeater-tax penalties if they finish in tax territory again in 2019/20. Repeater penalties are more punitive — the tax for every dollar spent above the tax line starts at $2.50 rather than $1.50. As such, those teams figure to do their best to avoid excessive spending next season.

The 2019/20 tax line is expected to be around $132MM, based on the NBA’s latest cap projections, and the Thunder already have nearly $138MM in guaranteed salaries on their books, per Basketball Insiders. The Cavaliers are at about $123MM, but may increase that figure substantially if they trade J.R. Smith‘s non-guaranteed contract for guaranteed salary. As for the Warriors, they’re only at $82MM in guaranteed money, but would be at risk of going well into the tax if they re-sign Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

As we prepare to keep an eye on those teams’ spending this offseason, here are the reported luxury tax figures from the last five NBA seasons:

2018/19

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder: $61.6MM
  2. Golden State Warriors: $51.5MM
  3. Toronto Raptors: $21.4MM
  4. Portland Trail Blazers: $15.1MM
  5. Boston Celtics: $3.9MM
    Total: $153.5MM
    Note: This season’s figures are still subject to change, based on postseason-related contract incentives.

2017/18

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers ($50.7MM)
  2. Golden State Warriors ($32.3MM)
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder ($25.4MM)
  4. Washington Wizards ($7MM)
    Total: $115.4MM

2016/17

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers ($24.8MM)
  2. Los Angeles Clippers ($3.6MM)
    Total: $28.4MM

2015/16

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers ($54MM)
  2. Los Angeles Clippers ($19.9MM)
  3. Golden State Warriors ($14.8MM)
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder ($14.5MM)
  5. Houston Rockets ($4.9MM)
  6. San Antonio Spurs ($4.9MM)
  7. Chicago Bulls ($4.2MM)
    Total: $117.2MM

2014/15

  1. Brooklyn Nets ($20MM)
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers ($7MM)
  3. New York Knicks ($6.9MM)
  4. Los Angeles Clippers ($4.8MM)
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder ($2.8MM)
    Total: $41.5MM

Information from Basketball Insiders, Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ, and ESPN’s Bobby Marks was used in the creation of this post.

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