How Teams Are Using 2020/21 Mid-Level Exceptions

In addition to receiving approximately $109MM in cap room and being allowed to surpass that threshold in order to sign players using Bird Rights or the minimum salary exception, each NBA team also receives a mid-level exception. The value of this exception varies depending on a club’s total team salary.

A team that goes under the cap to use its available cap room, for instance, receives only a modest form of the MLE known as the room exception. An over-the-cap team receives the full mid-level exception, unless that team is also over the tax apron, in which case it gets a taxpayer version of the MLE that falls in between the full MLE and the room exception. We detailed the exact values of each form of mid-level exception earlier this offseason, but here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Room exception: Can be used for contracts up to two years, with a starting salary worth up to $4,767,000.
  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: Can be used for contracts up to three years, with a starting salary worth up to $5,718,000.
  • Full/non-taxpayer mid-level exception: Can be used for contracts up to four years, with a starting salary worth up to $9,258,000.
    • Note: Though its name suggests otherwise, using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception doesn’t mean a team can’t or won’t be above the tax line ($132.63MM) at season’s end; it simply means the team’s total salary can’t surpass the tax “apron” ($138.93MM).

Now that nearly all of the NBA’s teams have used up their cap space, it’s worth keeping an eye on which teams still have part or all of their mid-level exceptions available, which we’ll do in the space below. This list will be kept up to date throughout the 2020/21 league year.

Note: As of February 27, the value of the exceptions below began to prorate downward by 1/146th per day.

Here’s where things currently stand:

Mid-Level Exception:

Non-taxpayer: $9,258,000

Boston Celtics

Brooklyn Nets

  • Used: $399,591 (Alize Johnson)
  • Note: Limited to taxpayer mid-level exception.

Chicago Bulls

Cleveland Cavaliers

Dallas Mavericks

Denver Nuggets

Golden State Warriors

  • Used: $2,250,000 (Brad Wanamaker)
  • Note: Limited to taxpayer mid-level exception.

Houston Rockets

Indiana Pacers

  • Used: $0

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers

Memphis Grizzlies

Miami Heat

Milwaukee Bucks

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Used: $0

New Orleans Pelicans

  • Used: $0

Oklahoma City Thunder

Orlando Magic

Philadelphia 76ers

  • Used: $898,310 (Isaiah Joe), $609,128 (Paul Reed)
  • Note: Limited to taxpayer mid-level exception.

Phoenix Suns

Portland Trail Blazers

Sacramento Kings

San Antonio Spurs

Toronto Raptors

Utah Jazz

Washington Wizards

Room Exception:

Available: $4,767,000

Atlanta Hawks

Charlotte Hornets

  • Used: $0

Detroit Pistons

New York Knicks

  • Used: $0

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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10 thoughts on “How Teams Are Using 2020/21 Mid-Level Exceptions

  1. phenomenalajs

    Do those exceptions need to be used this year? With full rosters, it’s hard to see how they would be unless through trades. How do they differ from a TPE?

    • Luke Adams

      Mid-levels can only be used on free agent signings (or sign-and-trades, but those can only be completed in the offseason). If remaining MLE money is used during the season, it would most likely be in one of two scenarios:

      1. A team wanting to offer more than the minimum to a solid veteran free agent who is bought out after the trade deadline.
      2. A team wanting to offer more than two years to a promising young player signed to a multiyear deal late in the season.

  2. harden (mvp),wall, and wood

    Jae’Sean Tate looks like he could be the next PJ Tucker. Although he’s not quite as solid and muscular, his skill set is almost identical.

    • near anonymity

      looks like he has more offensive fire power and diversity compared to tucker. looks like a good signing and he’s definitely going to get better.

      what’s your take on the rockets game against sacramento tomorrow ?

      wood against bagley. cousins against his old team.
      who on the rockets as the speed to guard fox ?

      sacramneto has surprised everyone with their great start. rockets not getting any breaks.

    • Dorothy_Mantooth

      What’s the history on Jae’Sean Tate? Was he draft eligible this year or has he been playing overseas? While his status is ‘Rookie’, I noticed that he is 25 years old so I assume he’s either been playing elsewhere or was a multi-sport guy (like Russell Wilson) who tried to go pro in another sport and it didn’t work out so he went back to college as an older student. I don’t know much about him but he does look like a nice find.

      • near anonymity

        i definitely didn’t know who he was until he made the rockets line up. i did a quick check, looks like he four years of college basketball . and then sent time overseas playing . so that’s how he’s 25 and rookie.

        i agree with you, looks like a nice find indeed. :)

      • wagner13

        Tate joined the Bucks’ summer league squad after going undrafted out of Ohio State. However, his already slim chances of cracking the roster dissipated when he suffered a fractured hand. He then went overseas to build some stock and played in Belgium during the 2018-19 season. His real breakout came last year when he joined the Sydney Kings of the NBL (Australian basketball league). Averaging roughly 16/6/2, he was nominated to the NBL first-team and clearly caught NBA attention. He signed with the Rockets this offseason and seems to be fulfilling a life-long dream

      • x%sure

        He needed some real world time. He was well touted at Ohio St. but did not shoot well and so far still doesn’t, so IDK if he’s a Tucker. He played lead guard macho BB and could get his spot but kind of disdained the easy play IMO— or the easy opponent. Played great for a nationally televised game vs Kentucky.

  3. x%sure

    The Cavs have plenty of MLE to spend. They could use RondaeHJ since they have two injuries to the 3. Or Skal L.

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