Following their cost-cutting trade with the Kings, the Trail Blazers no longer project to have the NBA’s highest tax bill for the 2019/20 season. That honor instead belongs to the Warriors, one of a small handful of teams that will be subject to the league’s more punitive repeater penalties if they’re in the tax at season’s end.
These numbers are fluid and will almost certainly change in the coming months, but here are the current projected luxury tax bills for teams this season, via ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link):
- Golden State Warriors: $14.99MM
- Portland Trail Blazers: $9.65MM
- Miami Heat: $6.65MM
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $2.3MM
- Houston Rockets: $372K
As Marks point out, the projected payouts for non-taxpaying teams are lower than usual — based on the current figures, non-taxpayers would receive approximately $680K apiece (50% of the total tax payments, split among 25 teams). By contrast, non-taxpayers received about $3.1MM each in 2018/19.
This season looks like it could end up looking more like the 2016/17 campaign, which featured the lowest tax payouts of the decade due to the infamous ’16 cap spike. That cap spike left the Cavaliers and Clippers as the NBA’s only clubs in the tax for that year, resulting in payouts of about $507K apiece for the 28 non-taxpayers.
[RELATED: Recent History of NBA Taxpaying Teams]
The end-of-season payouts for non-taxpayers this season will actually probably end up being even lower than $680K. None of the five projected taxpayers listed above are more than about $6.2MM above the luxury tax threshold, so many of them have a path to potentially getting out of tax territory altogether.
The Thunder and Rockets, in particular, look like candidates to sneak below the tax threshold by moving low-cost trade chips like Justin Patton and Nene. The Blazers could theoretically get there too with a bigger deal involving a player like Hassan Whiteside. It’ll be more of a challenge for the hard-capped Warriors and Heat, but not impossible.
For every team that gets out of the tax, the amount of the league-wide tax payments at season’s end will decrease and the number of non-taxpaying clubs will increase, resulting in a smaller pot to be split among a greater number of franchises. In other words, no non-taxpaying NBA team should be counting on a major windfall from taxpayers at the end of the ’19/20 campaign.