Pistons, Grizzlies, Thunder Carrying Most 2020/21 Dead Money

All 30 of the NBA’s teams are carrying some sort of “dead money” on their respective books for the 2020/21 season. Dead money is the guaranteed salary paid or owed to a player who is no longer under contract with the team.

In some cases, teams are carrying cap hits for players whom they released several years ago. That’s the case in Indiana, for instance, where the Pacers have a $2,245,400 cap charge for Monta Ellis this season, despite cutting him way back in July of 2017.

In other situations, the dead money is a result of having waived a player more recently. The Pistons, for example, created this season’s single largest dead money cap hit when they bought out Blake Griffin, who is still counting for $32,670,565 against Detroit’s team salary in ’20/21.

Other dead money charges are far more modest. For instance, expired 10-day contracts technically count as dead money, but none of those are worth more than $110,998.

While some teams will add a little more dead money to their caps in the coming weeks when 10-day deals expire or certain players are released, it’s safe to assume that nearly all of this season’s most significant cuts have already been completed. With that in mind, we’re taking a look below at the teams carrying the most dead money for 2020/21.

Carrying a substantial amount of dead money doesn’t necessarily indicate that a club has managed its cap poorly. For instance, the Thunder and Knicks, two of the teams near the top of the list below, have the two smallest team salaries in the NBA this season.

Because they haven’t had any hard-cap or luxury-tax concerns, Oklahoma City and New York could comfortably afford to waive multiple players with guaranteed salaries in order to make room for new players, without worrying about the associated costs. The Thunder have certainly done that — their $36MM in overall dead money comes from 12 different players.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Warriors and Clippers are among the teams with the least amount of dead money on their books, which makes sense too. Golden State will have the league’s highest tax bill, while L.A. has been up against a hard cap for much of the season, so both teams have wisely avoided making any major commitments to players who won’t finish the season on the roster.

Here’s the full list of 2020/21 dead money by team, as of April 16:

  1. Detroit Pistons: $38,806,272
  2. Memphis Grizzlies: $36,052,708
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder: $35,926,004
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers: $30,396,254
  5. San Antonio Spurs: $24,804,677
  6. New York Knicks: $20,260,505
  7. Sacramento Kings: $9,655,830
  8. Charlotte Hornets: $9,043,478
  9. Los Angeles Lakers: $7,599,241
  10. Toronto Raptors: $6,818,018
  11. Houston Rockets: $6,017,104
  12. Miami Heat: $5,564,670
  13. Milwaukee Bucks: $5,034,894
  14. Portland Trail Blazers: $4,757,775
  15. Orlando Magic: $4,268,128
  16. Washington Wizards: $4,222,815
  17. Indiana Pacers: $3,862,401
  18. Denver Nuggets: $2,000,000
  19. Philadelphia 76ers: $1,642,981
  20. Brooklyn Nets: $1,635,825
    • Note: This figure doesn’t include LaMarcus Aldridge‘s $554,988 cap hit, since he remains on the roster, for now, after announcing his retirement.
  21. Dallas Mavericks: $1,620,564
  22. Boston Celtics: $1,131,937
  23. New Orleans Pelicans: $1,054,478
  24. Phoenix Suns: $785,285
  25. Utah Jazz: $770,433
  26. Atlanta Hawks: $744,684
  27. Minnesota Timberwolves: $685,340
  28. Golden State Warriors: $666,667
  29. Los Angeles Clippers: $110,998
  30. Chicago Bulls: $97,261

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

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