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.
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.
Kendrick Nunn‘s value to the Heat goes beyond his on-court production, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes. Nunn is only making $1.4MM this season and $1.6MM next season and the Heat can an extend a low-cost $2.1MM qualifying offer in the summer of 2021 to make him a restricted free agent. He can then be re-signed above the salary cap after luring a quality free agent. That makes his current contract a major bargain by providing the team plenty of cap flexibility.
Barring a major second-half swoon, the Bucks won’t give up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season. At 38-6, Milwaukee is on pace to win over 70 games and currently has an eight-game cushion over the next-best team in the conference.
While the race for the top seed in the East may already be over, a fascinating race is developing for the No. 2 spot. With six potential contenders in the conference, the importance of nabbing that second seed shouldn’t be understated. Not only would it set up a first-round matchup against a less dangerous opponents like the Magic or Nets, it would also mean avoiding the Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals and holding home court advantage for two rounds.
As we enter the second half of the season, the Heat currently hold the second seed, but the margin is extremely tight. Here’s what the standings look like for the five teams vying for the No. 2 seed, entering today’s action:
Miami Heat (29-13)
Toronto Raptors (28-14)
Boston Celtics (27-14)
Indiana Pacers (28-15)
Philadelphia 76ers (28-16)
All five teams are separated by just two games, so one hot or cold streak could have a significant impact on seeding. Just ask the Celtics, who could fall out of the top four tonight for the first time since October if their current losing streak extends to four games.
With a real incentive tied to claiming the No. 2 seed, the second-half race among these five teams should be fascinating. The Raptors finally have a healthy roster, and the Pacers will be getting star guard Victor Oladipo back next week. The Sixers have been shakier than expected all year long, but showed their upside on Christmas Day when they dismantled the Bucks. The Celtics and the Heat are in position to potentially upgrade their rosters at the trade deadline if they so choose.
Of course, we should also consider each team’s second-half schedule. According to Tankathon.com, the Heat, Sixers, and Raptors have three of the NBA’s easiest remaining slates, while the Pacers’ schedule ranks in the middle of the pack and the Celtics’ is the eighth-hardest.
What do you think? Which of these five teams do you like best to finish the season strong and claim the No. 2 seed in the East?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!
As NBA teams consider their trade options before the February 6 deadline, it’s worth keeping in mind that a number of clubs hold traded player exceptions. These traded player exceptions allow over-the-cap clubs to acquire a player – or multiple players – whose salary fits within the TPE without having to send out any salary in return.
Traded player exceptions can’t be combined with another salary or exception and often aren’t worth much, so most of them ultimately go unused. Still, they can come in handy every now and then, particularly for under-the-tax clubs that don’t mind adding a little more money to their books.
Last season, a total of 23 trades were completed between January 22 and February 7, resulting in 23 trade exceptions that haven’t yet been used or renounced and will expire if they’re not used by this year’s trade deadline.
Here are those traded player exceptions, listed in order of value, with the expiration date noted in parentheses for each TPE:
Dallas Mavericks: $11,825,694 (2/7)
Miami Heat: $6,270,000 (2/7)
Houston Rockets: $3,620,016 (2/7)
Houston Rockets: $3,206,160 (2/7)
Toronto Raptors: $2,536,898 (2/7)
Detroit Pistons: $2,500,000 (2/6)
Portland Trail Blazers: $1,740,000 (2/7)
Houston Rockets: $1,621,415 (2/7)
Toronto Raptors: $1,569,360 (2/6)
Cleveland Cavaliers: $1,544,951 (2/7)
Houston Rockets: $1,544,951 (2/7)
Oklahoma City Thunder: $1,544,951 (2/3)
Cleveland Cavaliers: $1,512,601 (2/7)
Houston Rockets: $1,512,601 (1/22)
Houston Rockets: $1,512,601 (2/7)
Memphis Grizzlies: $1,512,601 (2/7)
Toronto Raptors: $1,512,601 (2/7)
Dallas Mavericks: $1,233,152 (1/31)
Detroit Pistons: $1,140,682 (2/7)
Washington Wizards: $311,913 (2/6)
Cleveland Cavaliers: $266,728 (2/4)
Memphis Grizzlies: $184,467 (2/7)
Washington Wizards: $183,148 (2/7)
For the full list of traded player exceptions currently available, including a Warriors TPE worth $17MM that probably can’t be used until July, click here.
Nunn, a Rookie of the Year candidate, was averaging 16 points on 46% shooting entering Sunday’s game against San Antonio. He’s provided solid production as starting point guard with Justise Winslow still rehabbing from a back injury.
“He has to [pick his spots offensively] because there are a lot of guys that are very similar, that are efficient with their shooting attempts,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said, as relayed by Price. “Our team is built, the success is built on the more guys having an impact. But he’s ignitable. He’s finding his own way to fit into this offense, but fit in with Jimmy [Butler]. Kendrick can score in a lot of those random situations because he has a great feel for getting the ball in the basket.”
Nunn finished with 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting against the Spurs, also recording four assists and two steals in 36 minutes of work. Miami will continue relying on his production as the team shoots for a high playoff seed this spring.
“We want Kendrick to be aggressive and we try to put him in the right spots to have a quality shot,”Goran Dragic said. “He’s great at reading those situations and you can see he can make shots.”
Here are some other notes from Miami tonight:
Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the timing of Justise Winslow‘s back injury has sabotaged potential trade options, with the forward set to be re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff in two weeks. Winslow would likely play just a few games before the February 6 trade deadline, and that’s only if he returns after his evaluation. Miami currently holds a 29-13 record, but the team is just 5-5 in its last 10 games.
Winderman listed his mid-season report cards for each Heat player in a separate Sun Sentinel article, giving Jimmy Butler the highest grade of an A+. Butler has struggled in clutch situations and behind-the-arc this season, but the veteran forward has propelled Miami to the second-best record in the East on All-Star-level play.
Despite a very strong first half, Miami remains focused on improving throughout the rest of the campaign, Price writes in a separate story.“We got something special in the making,” All-Star hopeful Bam Adebayosaid. “We just have to keep our heads down and keep the same mentality we’ve been having and we’ll be okay.”
Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald suggests that preserving 2021 cap room isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for the Heat if they find a trade they like, since the team believes it can acquire star free agents even without cap space, as it did last summer with Jimmy Butler.
Within the same article, Jackson also explores several trade options for the Heat, citing one source who says the team will likely be in touch with San Antonio. The Spurs haven’t given any indication they want to move LaMarcus Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan, but would consider Miami a potential trade partner if they do consider dealing either veteran star, says Jackson.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe thinks the Heat are one player away from being “really dangerous” and hears from sources that the team is actively looking for that piece. According to Lowe, there has been plenty of speculation around the NBA about Miami – and other teams – targeting Jrue Holiday, but potential suitors don’t expect the Pelicans to move him this season.
Heat forward Justise Winslow will be sidelined for at least the next two weeks, according to head coach Erik Spoelstra, who said today that the team will re-evaluate Winslow’s back injury at the end of the month (Twitter link via Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald).
Winslow was previously on the shelf for a month due to a bone bruise in his back. He returned to the court last Wednesday, but re-aggravated the injury during that game and visited a specialist this week. Having missed Miami’s last three contests, Winslow will remain out for at least the team’s seven remaining games in January. He has only appeared in 11 games on the season.
The Heat, who currently hold the No. 2 seed in the East, are 21-8 without Winslow in their lineup this season, so it’s not as if his absence should have a major impact on their push for a top seed in the East. Still, even if he’s able to return two weeks from now, the team won’t have much of an opportunity to evaluate his fit in the current rotation before the trade deadline.
Because Miami has traded away two future first-round picks and has no interest in moving young, inexpensive contributors like Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and Duncan Robinson, league observers have viewed Winslow as the club’s most logical trade chip. He’s just 23 years old and still has real upside while also earning a salary ($13MM) that would give the Heat a number of trade options.
If Winslow has yet to show by February 6 that he’s fully healthy, the odds of him being included in a major deadline deal are slim, so the Heat may simply have to hope he can contribute down the stretch after getting back to 100%.
Chris Silva‘s new three-year contract with the Heat is fully guaranteed at $1.6MM for next season, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Silva’s guarantee date for $1.8MM in 2021/22 will occur shortly after the end of next season.