Offseason Outlook

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks breathed a collective sigh of relief during the 2020 offseason when Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a five-year, super-max extension to remain in Milwaukee. That commitment from Antetokounmpo gave the club some leeway to operate without having to worry that a trade request from the two-time MVP might be imminent.

Still, it’s not as if Giannis’ new deal lifted all the pressure on the franchise. The Bucks were coming off back-to-back postseason disappointments, having blown a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 and then losing to the underdog Heat in the 2020 Eastern Semifinals.

Milwaukee was also facing scrutiny for its 2020 offseason moves — the team gave up a ton of draft assets for a player (Jrue Holiday) who had made one All-Star team in 2013 and had never earned an All-NBA spot. And a failed attempt to acquire Bogdan Bogdanovic via sign-and-trade cost the club a future second-round pick for tampering and created the impression that the Bucks didn’t maximize their opportunities to improve the roster.

The fact that the Bucks faced so many questions entering the 2020/21 season makes it all the more impressive that – eight months later – they’ve answered each and every one of them. Before his extension even began, Antetokounmpo led the organization to its first championship in 50 years.

Holiday played a key role in the team’s title run, Bogdanovic’s new team (Atlanta) was no match for Milwaukee in the Eastern Finals, and Mike Budenholzer – who was on the hot seat following the team’s last two playoff letdowns – now appears in line for a contract extension rather than a pink slip.

It’s a good time to be a Bucks fan.


The Bucks’ Offseason Plan:

With Antetokunmpo, Holiday, and Khris Middleton on the books for a combined $106MM+ next season, the Bucks will start the offseason over the cap — and likely in tax territory, once guaranteed salaries for Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, and others are taken into account.

That will make it difficult for the Bucks to retain free agents like Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes. Milwaukee has both players’ Non-Bird rights, but the Non-Bird exception only gives the team the ability to offer a 20% raise, which would result in a starting salary of about $4.3MM for Portis and $2.8MM for Forbes. They can likely do better on the open market, so if they hope to retain one or both, the Bucks will either have to dip into the mid-level exception or hope they’re willing to accept a discount.

P.J. Tucker‘s Bird rights will allow the Bucks to re-sign him without any cap limitations. A new deal for Tucker would increase Milwaukee’s projected tax bill, but team ownership should be more willing to take on those penalties after a championship season, and Tucker, who is 36, shouldn’t require a long-term investment.

Further upgrades to the roster will be a challenge. If the Bucks are prepared to use it, the taxpayer mid-level exception (worth about $5.9MM) could be used to land a rotation player, though tax penalties would exponentially increase the cost of using that exception. Jeff Green has been cited as one possible target if Portis departs.

It’s possible Milwaukee could get a bargain or two if there are veterans willing to sign for the minimum to chase a ring, and the No. 31 pick will be a useful tool for adding a low-cost player capable of contributing immediately. The Bucks may preserve a portion of their mid-level exception to ensure they can give their second-round pick a deal exceeding two years — dedicating a roster spot to an inexpensive rookie contract for the next three years will help keep team salary in check.

The Bucks will also have to decide soon whether DiVincenzo will be part of the team’s long-term future. He’s eligible for an extension this offseason and could be a useful trade chip if Milwaukee isn’t comfortable giving him a sizable raise. DiVincenzo is a solid player with room to continue improving, but the team was willing to include him in last year’s aborted Bogdanovic sign-and-trade and won a title while he was sidelined with an ankle injury, so it’s not as if he’s indispensable.

If the Bucks had fallen short in the playoffs this season, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Lopez’s name pop up in trade rumors this offseason, since he has the largest contract outside of the club’s “big three.” That’s still a possibility, but Lopez played big minutes during Milwaukee’s title run and didn’t get run off the court like some centers have in the postseason. He’s still a useful piece for the Bucks, who would probably only move him if they could get a better player — not just to get off his salary.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 31 overall pick (no cap hold)

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Donte DiVincenzo (rookie scale)
  • Brook Lopez (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

The Bucks’ team salary barely sneaked across the tax line in 2020/21. In 2021/22, the club will likely blow past that threshold.

Milwaukee is already essentially at the tax line with only seven players on fully guaranteed contracts, so even filling out the roster with minimum-salary players would push team salary into the tax by about $10MM. Barring a major cost-cutting move, the Bucks will be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,890,000 5
  • Trade exception: $4,886,515
  • Trade exception: $1,620,564

Footnotes

  1. This is a projected value. Antetokounmpo’s salary will be 35% of the 2021/22 salary cap.
  2. Merrill’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 8.
  3. Because he’ll have four years of NBA service, Jackson is ineligible to sign another two-way contract.
  4. Forbes is declining his player option for 2021/22.
  5. This is a projected value. If the Bucks stay below the tax apron, they could have access to the full mid-level exception ($9.5MM).

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post.

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Phoenix Suns

The Suns won just 19 games during the 2018/19 season and had a 26-39 record when the 2019/20 season went on hiatus last March. When play resumed in the Walt Disney World bubble, the Suns – who ranked 13th in the Western Conference at the time – were nearly left out. However, the team showed it belonged by winning all eight games it played in the bubble. While it wasn’t enough to make the playoffs, the performance turned heads and provided a preview of what was to come in ’20/21.

Led by many of the same players who spearheaded the 8-0 bubble run – including Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Payne – and buoyed by newly-acquired point guard Chris Paul, the Suns went 51-21 this past season, good for the second-best record in the NBA.

Despite the team’s regular season success, observers were still skeptical of Phoenix’s ability to win in the postseason, with oddsmakers listing them as first-round underdogs to the seventh-seeded Lakers. But the Suns handled the Lakers, the Nuggets, and the Clippers en route to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993.

The Suns ultimately couldn’t withstand Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s otherworldly performance in the NBA Finals and dropped the series in six games, but it was a remarkably successful season for a franchise that had finished in the lottery 10 straight times and was two years removed from finishing 14 games behind every other team in the West.


The Suns’ Offseason Plan:

The good news for the Suns is that nearly everyone who played a key rotation role in 2020/21 is under team control for multiple years going forward. The bad news? Paul, the team’s lone All-NBA player, can become a free agent, and bringing him back will hamper Phoenix’s ability to make any legitimate upgrades to its roster.

Paul’s contract situation is a fascinating one, as he holds a player option worth just over $44MM for the 2021/22 season. The idea that a 36-year-old would turn down a $44MM+ salary may seem outrageous, but after finishing fifth in MVP voting, Paul is poised to cash in one final time on a longer-term deal.

Assuming the Suns and Paul want to continue their relationship, they have two options: Paul could opt out and negotiate a new contract with the team, or he could opt in and negotiate an extension.

The latter approach might make more sense for both sides. For instance, if the Suns and Paul agreed that he has earned a $90MM commitment for the next three years, a new contract worth that amount would carry cap hits in the neighborhood of $30MM each year, since his salary could only increase or decline by up to 8% per season.

But there’s no limit on the pay cut a player can take in the first year of an extension, so if Paul were to pick up his $44MM option, he and the Suns could work out a two-year extension that pays him closer to $23MM per year for the following two seasons.

That path would ensure that Paul doesn’t have to accept a pay cut in 2021/22, would make him more movable (if necessary) during the last year or two of the contract, and would give the Suns more financial flexibility starting in ’22/23, when new deals for Ayton and Bridges would go into effect.

Ayton and Bridges are eligible for rookie scale extensions this offseason and I expect Phoenix to try to lock up both former lottery picks — Ayton figures to earn the max or something close to it, while Bridges’ next deal will likely exceed $20MM per year.

In the short term, bringing back Paul at $44MM+ would push the Suns well over the cap and may prevent them from using their entire non-taxpayer mid-level exception, so they’ll have to get creative when it comes to upgrading the roster around the edges. They’ll have a portion of the mid-level and the No. 29 pick at their disposal. It would also help significantly if Jalen Smith is ready to take on an expanded role in his second season, since it would reduce the need for another frontcourt piece.

Among the Suns’ own free agents (besides Paul), Payne looks like the highest priority. He has earned a raise on his minimum salary and Phoenix – with his Early Bird rights in hand – should be able to accommodate that bump as long as bidding doesn’t get too crazy.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

  • None

Draft Picks

  • No. 29 overall pick ($2,009,040)
  • Total: $2,009,040

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Deandre Ayton (rookie scale)
  • Mikal Bridges (rookie scale)
  • Devin Booker (veteran)
  • Chris Paul (veteran) 1

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

If we assume Paul picks up his option and the Suns keep their first-round pick, the result would be nearly $127MM in guaranteed commitments for 11 roster spots. That should allow the club to remain below the tax line (projected to be in the $136-137MM range). If the Suns are willing to go a little over the tax line, they’d have more flexibility to re-sign Payne and use their mid-level exception rather than focusing on minimum-salary players.

If Paul opts out to sign a new contract, it would likely give Phoenix more room to maneuver below the tax threshold, opening up the full mid-level execption and even the bi-annual exception. On the other hand, if Paul departs in free agency, this outlook changes drastically, and the Suns could actually generate upwards of $28MM in cap room. But that won’t be the team’s first choice and I don’t think it’ll be CP3’s preference either.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $9,536,000 3
  • Bi-annual exception: $3,732,000 3
  • Trade exception: $898,310

Footnotes

  1. Paul would only be extension-eligible if he exercises his player option.
  2. The cap hold for Diallo remains on the Suns’ books from a prior season because it hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  3. These are projected values. If the Suns approach or cross the tax line, they may forfeit these exceptions, instead gaining access to the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.9MM). If they decide to operate under the cap, they’d forfeit these exceptions and would gain access to the room exception ($4.9MM).

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post.

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Atlanta Hawks

After spending multiple years using their cap space to take on other teams’ unwanted contracts and slowly gathering assets, the Hawks hit the fast-forward button on their retooling process during the 2020 offseason. The club went out and signed Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari to lucrative multiyear contracts in free agency and gave Trae Young some help at point guard by adding Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn.

Some of those signings worked out better than others. Injury issues limited Dunn to just four games; Rondo’s play in Atlanta was up and down; and Bogdanovic and Gallinari each missed 20+ games in the regular season for health reasons too.

But Bogdanovic and Gallinari were healthy for most of the second half and played key roles in the Hawks’ strong finish to the season. The team was able to flip Rondo to the Clippers in a deadline deal for Lou Williams, who proved a better fit as a second-unit scorer. And a midseason coaching change from Lloyd Pierce to Nate McMillan was a major factor in the club’s turnaround.

The end result? After a 14-20 start, the Hawks finished the season by winning 27 of their last 38 games, earning the fourth seed in the East and winning two playoff series as underdogs. Despite missing Young for part of the Eastern Finals, Atlanta ultimately got to within two wins of the NBA Finals, an outcome that even team owner Tony Ressler admitted exceeded his most optimistic expectations for the season.

Following a feel-good year in Atlanta, the Hawks’ front office will enter the offseason aiming to retain and add key roster pieces in an effort to ensure the team isn’t affected by regression in 2021/22.


The Hawks’ Offseason Plan:

The Hawks have big contract decisions to make this offseason on three important players: John Collins, Young, and Kevin Huerter. Collins is eligible for restricted free agency, while Young and Huerter are up for rookie scale extensions.

Collins’ situation will be the trickiest of the three, and not just because his contract is about to expire (Young and Huerter each have a year left on theirs). Given the lack of top-level talent on the free agent market this offseason, Collins is the sort of player who could garner a maximum-salary offer sheet from a rival suitor, which is probably a little higher than the Hawks would like to go.

Atlanta offered Collins a four-year extension worth about $90MM+ last year and would likely be comfortable matching something in the $100-105MM range. But a max offer from another team would be worth a projected $121MM. That sort of commitment would reduce the Hawks’ flexibility in the coming years, so it will be interesting to see whether they’re prepared to match that sort of offer if necessary.

There aren’t many teams with substantial cap room this summer, so if the Hawks and Collins negotiate directly, maybe Atlanta could get him back at a slightly more team-friendly rate. And if Collins’ camp is willing to work closely with the Hawks during the free agency process, a sign-and-trade deal could be a solution that benefits all parties. My guess is that the club retains Collins and potentially considers a trade down the road once he’s locked up to a long-term deal, but this could go in a number of different directions.

The Young negotiations should be simpler — the Hawks will have no problem putting the max on the table for their leading scorer and franchise cornerstone. The only sticking point in those talks will be whether Young gets a fifth-year player option, a 15% trade kicker, and Rose Rule language that could bump his starting salary to 30% of the cap. I imagine Atlanta will be fairly accommodating on those points.

Huerter won’t get anywhere close to the max, but he has developed into a reliable sharpshooter and secondary play-maker for the Hawks. Of the players who signed rookie scale extensions in 2020, Luke Kennard is the most obvious comparable for Huerter — Kennard got a four-year, $56MM contract, so Huerter’s reps will likely be looking to match or exceed that number.

Even if Collins returns on a lucrative new contract, the Hawks should have the full mid-level exception at their disposal in free agency. Their priorities will likely be adding depth at point guard, where Williams is a free agent, and at center, where Onyeka Okongwu is expected to be sidelined until at least January following shoulder surgery.

The club could split its mid-level exception into two parts to address those spots or could devote the entire MLE to one player, filling out the rest of the bench with minimum-salary players, the No. 20 pick in the draft, and possibly a bi-annual signing.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Hawks are well-positioned to package multiple players (and maybe a draft pick or two) for a quality starter if the opportunity arises. My bet is that the team exercises some patience with its current group and counts on getting more from De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish next season after they battled injuries in 2020/21. But if everyone is healthy, this should be a deep roster that could deal from certain positions of strength.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 20 overall pick ($2,659,560)
  • No. 48 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $2,659,560

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Kevin Huerter (rookie scale)
  • Trae Young (rookie scale)
  • Clint Capela (veteran)
  • Bruno Fernando (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

Adding cap holds for Collins and the Hawks’ first-round pick brings the team’s total guaranteed commitments to nearly $104MM for 11 roster spots. With a projected cap in the neighborhood of $112MM, that wouldn’t be enough to generate meaningful room, so the Hawks will likely operate over the cap, retaining their full mid-level exception and bi-annual exception.

That could change if the Hawks make a trade that reduces team salary or if Collins walks in free agency, but that’s a less likely outcome for now.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $9,536,000 1
  • Bi-annual exception: $3,732,000 1

Footnotes

  1. These are projected values. If the Hawks decide to operate under the cap, they’d forfeit these exceptions and would instead gain access to the room exception ($4.9MM).

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post.

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers entered this season looking to get back on track after a brutal collapse in the 2020 playoffs that saw them build a 3-1 lead on the Nuggets, only to lose three straight games and be eliminated in the second round.

Over the offseason, Los Angeles rebuilt its roster to bolster its chances of becoming the championship team it sees itself as, adding veterans Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka in free agency, re-signing Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris, and trading Landry Shamet in a deal for Luke Kennard. A midseason trade of Lou Williams brought Rajon Rondo back into the fold, and the team signed DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract that was eventually parlayed into a deal for the rest of the season.

The team struggled with injuries throughout the year, as stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard each missed 18-to-20 games and Ibaka and Patrick Beverley were limited to 41 and 37 games, respectively. 23-year-old center Ivica Zubac was the only player to suit up for all 72 regular season contests.

Even with the litany of injuries, the Clippers made it to the Western Conference Finals this year for the first time in franchise history. George described feeling “the monkey off the Clippers’ back in terms of getting past the second round,” but the elation was short-lived.

The Clippers lost Leonard to a partial ACL tear that caused him to miss the final eight games of the club’s playoff run. Despite an epic performance from George, who averaged 29.6 PPG, 11 RPG and 5.6 APG in the eight games without Leonard, L.A. ultimately fell to former Clipper Chris Paul and the Suns in six games in the Western Finals.

With Leonard facing a long recovery period – as well as a decision on his $36MM player option – the Clippers are in a tricky position as they move into next season in the hopes of once again upgrading their roster and finally reaching their goal of winning a championship with George and Leonard.


The Clippers’ Offseason Plan:

Everything revolves around Leonard’s player option this summer. While it’s considered unlikely he leaves a team built around him in his home of Los Angeles, Kawhi is a notoriously difficult player to get a read on, and teams will be lining up to sign him to a long-term deal — even if he’s set to miss all of next season.

Showing Leonard a redoubled effort to build a championship roster will be crucial for the Clippers. Should Leonard either pick up his option or re-sign, either to a long-term deal or to a one-and-one that would allow him to hit free agency again in a year, the team will need to win without him during his absence and be ready to compete at the highest level upon his return.

How they will manage that could be a little tricky.

Reggie Jackson, the team’s second-best player once Leonard went down, will be a free agent, and after playing this year on a $2.3MM contract, he could be looking for one final big payday. The team’s other veteran point guards, Rondo and Beverley, are both on expiring contracts worth a combined $21.8MM while Serge Ibaka has a $9.7MM player option that he’s likely to pick up, given his injury-plagued season. Between performance, age and injury, none of the three are likely to have much in the way of positive trade value.

Luke Kennard represents another roadblock. The team traded Shamet for the 25-year-old sharpshooter and then signed him to a four-year extension, despite injury concerns. Unfortunately, Kennard looked a far cry from the building block the Clippers hoped he’d become, averaging just 5.6 PPG in 14 minutes a night during the playoffs and only a slightly better 8.6 PPG in 19.6 MPG during the regular season. Given his age and the fact that he shot 44.6% on threes in 2019/20, it’s possible he retains some value, but due to both his contract and the lingering injury concerns, it’s unlikely he would command a large return.

One player who improved his value is 24-year-old guard/wing Terance Mann. Though Mann’s averages of 7.6 PPG and 2.7 RPG might not jump off the stat sheet, his energy, improved shooting stroke, and performance in important games has made him a genuine asset for the Clippers, either as a trade chip or in an increased role. He’s eligible for an extension this offseason.

If the team is desperate to make a big splash, some combination of Mann, Zubac, Marcus Morris, and the 25th overall pick (which could only be traded after the selection is made) could be its best bet. Morris is owed $49.1MM over the next three seasons, and has been productive on both ends during his time with the Clippers. Zubac is only 24 and is a strong defensive center, but because of his offensive limitations, has never averaged over 23 MPG in his career. With the depth of the 2021 draft class, the 25th pick could represent a chance to get real value, whether for the Clippers or for a team that trades for it.

The Clippers have eight players outside of Leonard under contract for next year, assuming Ibaka picks up his option. The question is how much confidence Kawhi has in those players to help get him his third championship. Since Los Angeles is an attractive destination for buyouts and ring-chasers, the Clips will likely have access to some options in free agency that other teams might not, but there are still big decisions on tap, even if Leonard agrees to re-up.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 22 overall pick ($2,168,760)
  • Total: $2,168,760

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Patrick Beverley (veteran)
  • Kawhi Leonard (veteran) 4
  • Terance Mann (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

The Clippers only have about $99MM in guaranteed salaries for now, but will cross the tax line if Leonard opts in or re-signs. If Ibaka opts in, Mann and the first-round pick are retained, and Kawhi gets a new maximum-salary contract, team salary will balloon to $152MM+ for 12 players, putting L.A. far into tax territory.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,890,000 5
  • Trade exception: $2,075,880
  • Trade exception: $1,995,120
  • Trade exception: $980,533

Footnotes

  1. This is a projected value. George’s salary will be 35% of the 2021/22 salary cap.
  2. Mann’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 25.
  3. Because he has been on a two-way contract with the Clippers for two seasons, Coffey is eligible for a standard minimum-salary qualifying offer.
  4. Leonard would only be extension-eligible if he exercises his player option.
  5. This is a projected value. If the Clippers stay below the tax apron, they could have access to the full mid-level exception ($9.5MM) and the bi-annual exception ($3.7MM).

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Hoops Rumors’ 2021 NBA Offseason Preview Series

In advance of the NBA’s 2021 draft and free agent period, Hoops Rumors is previewing the coming offseason for all 30 teams, looking at their salary cap situations and the roster decisions they’ll have to make this summer

Our Offseason Preview articles are linked below, sorted by conference and division. This list, which can be found under the “Hoops Rumors Features” menu on the right sidebar on our desktop site, or on the “Features” page in our mobile menu, will continue to be updated as we complete our previews for all 30 teams.


Eastern Conference

Atlantic

Central

Southeast


Western Conference

Northwest

Pacific

Southwest

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Brooklyn Nets

After signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as free agents in 2019, the Nets had to wait a year to really see their two stars in action, as Durant spent the season rehabbing an Achilles tear and Irving was limited to 20 games due to a shoulder injury.

The wait was worth it. Durant and Irving looked like their old selves in 2020/21, and adding James Harden to the mix in January helped turned the Nets’ offense into one of the NBA’s all-time best (the team established a new record for offensive rating).

Unfortunately, the injury bug that turned ’19/20 into a lost season reared its head again a year later. Spencer Dinwiddie missed nearly the entire season, Durant was out for 37 regular season games, Harden was sidelined for 23, and Irving was on the shelf for 18 due to various ailments. Brooklyn still finished second in the East and the team’s Big Three was healthy at the right time heading into the playoffs, but that didn’t last long — Harden (hamstring) and Irving (knee) missed three games apiece in the team’s crucial second-round series vs. the Bucks.

A Nets team at less than full strength put up a valiant effort against Milwaukee, but suffered an overtime loss in Game 7, then watched as the Bucks won two more series to earn the 2021 title.

With better injury luck, it could be the Nets – not the Bucks – celebrating a championship today. But Brooklyn can’t simply assume its luck will be better in 2022. The club will have to do what it can, with limited resources, to continue building a championship roster capable of withstanding an injury to one of its stars.


The Nets’ Offseason Plan:

Durant, Irving, and Harden are all under contract for the 2021/22 season, so there’s no urgency to address their contract situations right away. However, the Nets will surely be motivated to enter into extension talks with their stars, since all three of them have the ability to opt out in 2022.

The cost of those extensions would be absolutely massive. As Bobby Marks of ESPN details, a four-year extension for Irving would average more than $45MM per year, and it would actually be the least expensive of the three — Durant’s four-year extension would come in just shy of $50MM per year, while Harden’s three-year extension would be worth over $53MM annually.

Given the three stars’ respective injury histories and their ages (Irving, the youngest of the three, turns 30 next March), Brooklyn may try to negotiate some protections into the later years of those extensions, but the team risks creating unnecessary drama if it drives too hard a bargain. For instance, if the Nets were to extend one of the three stars and balked at the asking prices for the other two, that situation would hang over the team entering next season.

With those three players practically putting the Nets into tax territory on their own, the club will have to make a concerted effort to get the most of its investments elsewhere on its roster. A minimum salary for Nicolas Claxton? Great, he’s likely not going anywhere. A $10MM salary for DeAndre Jordan? That’s less team-friendly, and could be a contract the Nets try to move this offseason.

The club’s key free agents are Dinwiddie, Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, and Blake Griffin. A healthy Dinwiddie would be a terrific third guard and insurance policy behind Harden and Irving, but I’d be surprised if he returns, given his asking price.

Brooklyn could look to recoup some value by signing-and-trading Dinwiddie to a new team, but again, any pieces the Nets get back will have to be on favorable contracts. Given how far into the tax the Nets will be, they can’t afford to willingly add any albatross deals. Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade also won’t be possible due to restrictions facing taxpaying teams.

If possible though, the Nets should look to re-sign Brown, Green, and Griffin. The latter two veterans would have to be open to continue playing for the minimum or something close to it, but Brooklyn should be willing to go higher than that for Brown, a jack-of-all-trades who provided strong perimeter defense and fit in well alongside the team’s stars. He’s a restricted free agent, so the Nets can match any offer he receives as long as they’re comfortable with the price.

Other tools at the Nets’ disposal this offseason include the taxpayer mid-level exception and four picks in the 2021 draft (No. 27 and three second-rounders). Any player signed using the taxpayer MLE will cost the team exponentially more than $6MMish due to tax penalties, so if they use that exception on a free agent, the Nets will have to be confident that the player can outperform his salary.

As for the draft picks, they could be used to grease the wheels in a trade (such as a Jordan salary dump), but I expect the Nets to hang onto at least one or two of their second-rounders. Signing second-round draftees to minimum-salary contracts is a good way to prevent the tax bill from ballooning higher than necessary.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 27 overall pick ($2,036,280)
  • No. 44 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • No. 49 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • No. 59 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $2,036,280

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Landry Shamet (rookie scale)
  • Nicolas Claxton (veteran)
  • Kevin Durant (veteran)
  • James Harden (veteran)
  • Kyrie Irving (veteran)
  • DeAndre Jordan (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

Next season’s cap projects to be about $112MM+, with the tax line in the $136-137MM range. So, with $154MM+ in guaranteed salaries for just seven players, Brooklyn is essentially a lock to be a taxpaying team.

The Nets’ total tax bill will depend on where the their team salary lands at season’s end. The league assesses a penalty of $1.50 per dollar for the first $5MM over the tax line, but that number continues to rise as team salary climbs further and further. If the Nets carry a team salary $30MM over the tax threshold, they’ll owe $85MM in tax penalties on top of their $177MMish in player salaries.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,890,000 5

Footnotes

  1. Johnson’s salary becomes partially guaranteed ($100K) after September 4.
  2. Because he has been on a two-way contract with the Nets for two seasons, Chiozza is eligible for a standard minimum-salary qualifying offer.
  3. Dinwiddie became an unrestricted free agent by declining his $12.3MM player option.
  4. The cap hold for Chandler remains on the Nets’ books from a prior season because it hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  5. This is a projected value.

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post.

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Utah Jazz

After four years as a solid playoff team in the West, the Jazz took a big step forward in 2020/21, finishing the season with the NBA’s best record at 52-20. The club’s regular season success was buoyed by an improved offense, with Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, and Bojan Bogdanovic playing key roles.

Always a strong defensive team since Rudy Gobert‘s emergence as a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Utah had ranked in the middle of the pack for several years on offense. But in ’20/21, the team’s 116.5 offensive rating was the NBA’s fourth-highest mark and its +9.0 overall net rating was easily the league’s best.

Unfortunately, the Jazz’s dream regular season didn’t translate to playoff success. Like a number of other clubs, Utah was hit with some bad injury luck at the wrong time, as Conley and Mitchell were both slowed by leg injuries in the postseason.

A knee injury to Clippers star Kawhi Leonard presented a golden opportunity for the Jazz to advance to the Western Finals anyway, but the club was unable to take advantage of the opening and was vanquished in the second round by an L.A. squad missing its leading scorer.

Now, Utah will head into the offseason trying to figure out ways to upgrade its roster despite the team’s extremely limited cap flexibility.


The Jazz’s Offseason Plan:

With former executive VP of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey transitioning to an advisory role, it’ll be up to new head of basketball operations Justin Zanik to determine how the Jazz can contend for a title in 2022.

While only nine players have guaranteed contracts for next season, Utah is already on the hook for nearly $130MM in player salaries, and that total doesn’t include Conley, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Re-signing Conley is in the Jazz’s best interests — he had a productive 2020/21 season and the club won’t free up any cap space to replace him if he departs.

A new contract for Conley could present some financial issues, however. Even if the point guard takes a pay cut to something in the $15-20MM range (about half of what he earned last season), his deal would take the Jazz well beyond the luxury tax line. The franchise is under new ownership, but we don’t yet know whether Ryan Smith will have the stomach to pay a big tax bill for a roster that has yet to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.

If the Jazz want to limit their tax penalties, there are essentially two options: letting Conley walk or cutting costs elsewhere. Neither solution is ideal. Conley would be nearly impossible to replace, but the club also doesn’t have any obvious albatross contracts — all its highest-paid players are key contributors to the rotation.

Trimming salary in a trade could mean making veterans like Joe Ingles (one year, $13MM) and Derrick Favors (two years, $20MM) available. Ingles is entering his age-34 season, while the Jazz could probably find a cheaper backup center than Favors.

Jordan Clarkson (three years, $40MM) and Royce O’Neale (three years, $27.5MM) could also be trade candidates. However, Clarkson is an important scorer off the bench and O’Neale is one of Utah’s most versatile defenders — and neither contract is unfavorable.

If Smith doesn’t mind going well into the tax for at least a year, the Jazz could re-sign Conley and then look to reinforce the roster using the taxpayer mid-level exception. Since so few teams have cap room available this summer, Utah could realistically acquire a solid rotation player with that $6MM mid-level.

The Jazz could also make the No. 30 pick in this year’s draft available for veteran help, though the return likely wouldn’t be significant and the team might be better off trying to nail that pick. Adding an inexpensive contributor to the books for the next four years would help offset some of Utah’s pricier contracts.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 30 overall pick ($1,994,520)
  • Total: $1,994,520

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Bojan Bogdanovic (veteran)
  • Miye Oni (veteran)
  • Matt Thomas (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

It’s a safe bet that the Jazz will be over the cap and at least in the neighborhood of the tax line. Even without re-signing Conley, Utah may be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception, since using the non-taxpayer MLE would hard-cap the team at the tax apron, which figures to be in the neighborhood of $143MM.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,890,000 6
  • Trade exception: $5,005,350
  • Trade exception: $2,024,079
  • Trade exception: $340,000

Footnotes

  1. This is a projected value. Mitchell’s salary will be 25% of the 2021/22 salary cap.
  2. Thomas’ salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 3.
  3. Because he has been on a two-way contract with the Jazz for two seasons, Brantley is eligible for a standard minimum-salary qualifying offer.
  4. This is a projected value. Conley’s cap hit will be the maximum salary for a player with 10+ years of NBA service.
  5. The cap hold for Mudiay remains on the Jazz’s books from a prior season because it hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  6. This is a projected value.

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post.

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers entered this season still smarting from their sweep at the hands of the Celtics in the first round of the 2020 playoffs and looking to regain their status as a Finals contender.

And for much of the year, it looked like they were on track to do just that. With a rebalanced roster and Joel Embiid playing at an MVP level, the Sixers finished the year with a 49-23 record, one game ahead of the Nets for the top seed in the East.

Though Ben Simmons had a disappointing year, averaging the fewest points, rebounds, and assists per game of his career, Tobias Harris looked rejuvenated under head coach Doc Rivers, Seth Curry finished the year sixth in the NBA in three-point percentage, and Dwight Howard and young guards Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey shined in their limited roles.

In the first round of the 2021 playoffs, the Sixers comfortably dispatched the Wizards in five games, but Embiid suffered a meniscus tear in Game 4. While he was able to keep up his dominant level of play in the Sixers’ seven-game series against the Hawks, the team’s supporting cast was ultimately unable to provide enough to best an underdog Atlanta squad. For the second year in a row, the team was left with more questions than answers heading into the offseason following a disappointing playoff performance.


The Sixers’ Offseason Plan:

All questions regarding the Sixers offseason begin with Simmons.

Simmons didn’t just take a step back during the regular season — his lack of aggression against the Hawks in the playoffs was so notable that both Embiid and Rivers addressed it in comments to the media following the series’ end. While team president Daryl Morey spoke publicly of his faith in Simmons to address his unwillingness to shoot and to continue to be an important part of the team, reports have since indicated that the Sixers have opened up trade dialogues and are hoping to get a star in return for the 25-year-old point guard.

Despite his flaws, Simmons is a huge part of how the 76ers function, and the possibility of trading him away creates a major question mark about what the team will look like next year. Luckily, the Sixers are no strangers to offseason overhauls. Should Morey manage to trade Simmons in a blockbuster deal, it will be the fourth season in a row in which one of the team’s highest-paid players was either added or subtracted. From acquiring – then losing – Jimmy Butler to signing Al Horford to a $100+MM contract to dumping Horford for Danny Green, the 76ers have gotten into the habit of shaking up the roster on an annual basis.

The Sixers will also have to address Green’s unrestricted free agency. Although he only scored seven points per game during the playoffs, the threat of Green’s shooting and his versatile defense was important, especially given Curry’s limitations on the defensive end. And with the team paying maximum contracts to Embiid, Harris, and Simmons (or, potentially, the centerpiece of a Simmons trade), there will be very little money to replace Green on the open market.

The team will also need to rebalance its roster, as promising rookie Paul Reed represents the only bench depth at the forward/center spot. Furkan Korkmaz, the 6’7″ scoring specialist, will hit unrestricted free agency this summer, meaning Maxey, Milton, Isaiah Joe and Matisse Thybulle are the only bench players on guaranteed contracts, and all are combo guards.

George Hill, who came over in a midseason deal with the Thunder, has a partially-guaranteed deal and was largely ineffective in the series against the Hawks, though he still provided his typical brand of stout defense. With so many guards on the roster, the Sixers may decide not to guarantee the rest of his $10MM deal.

One player of interest will be Howard. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was great for the Sixers off the bench and filled in when needed for Embiid. Philadelphia would undoubtedly like to keep him around, but it remains to be seen if Howard will be able to score one last slightly bigger payday elsewhere after two solid years of being a backup center.

Curry could potentially offer a point of flexibility. Curry was massively important to the Sixers, both in the playoffs and the regular season. But should Morey move Simmons for a scoring guard (such as CJ McCollum), it’s possible the club could view Curry as redundant and – given his bargain contract – try to move him for another wing, inserting defensive specialist Thybulle into the starting lineup to complement the newly-acquired guard.

Whatever happens, one thing is clear: given the team’s high expectations, roster holes, and lingering trade rumors, the Sixers we see on opening night of the 2020/21 season could look very different from the group we last saw walking off the floor against the Hawks.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 28 overall pick ($2,023,800)
  • No. 50 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $2,023,800

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Seth Curry (veteran)
  • George Hill (veteran)
  • Shake Milton (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

If they were to waive Hill, the Sixers would have $120MM+ in commitments for nine roster spots, giving the team the flexibility to remain below the tax line and even use the full mid-level exception.

However, if Philadelphia either hangs onto Hill or re-signs Green, that flexibility below the tax line will mostly disappear and the club would be limited to the taxpayer mid-level. I lean toward the front office taking that approach for now, but it’s hardly set in stone — the 76ers’ financial outlook could also change if they’re able to trim team salary at all on the trade market.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,890,000 4
  • Trade exception: $8,190,134

Footnotes

  1. Hill’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 3.
  2. Tolliver’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after September 4.
  3. The cap hold for O’Quinn remain on the Sixers’ books from a prior season because he hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  4. This is a projected value. If the Sixers stay below the tax apron, they could have access to the full mid-level exception ($9.5MM) and the bi-annual exception ($3.7MM).

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Denver Nuggets

Any discussion about how injuries affected the 2021 NBA postseason probably has to start with the Nets and the Lakers, but the Nuggets shouldn’t be overlooked. After acquiring Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline in March, Denver was firing on all cylinders and looked capable of seriously competing for a spot in the NBA Finals.

Those good vibes didn’t last long though. After the Nuggets won eight of their first nine games with Gordon in the lineup, disaster struck in the 10th game, as Jamal Murray suffered a torn ACL that ended his season and will keep him sidelined for the start of the 2021/22 campaign.

The resilient Nuggets still finished the season strong and won a playoff series against Portland. But without Murray, who averaged 26.5 PPG on a scorching .505/.453/.897 shooting line in 19 playoffs games (39.6 MPG) in 2020, the odds of the team making a deep postseason run took a nosedive.

As tempting as it to imagine “what if?” scenarios about how the second-round series against Phoenix might have played out with a healthy Murray, the Nuggets have to turn their attention to figuring out how to make up for his absence to start next season — and how to put themselves in title contention again in 2022.


The Nuggets’ Offseason Plan:

With Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr., Murray, Gordon, and Monte Morris all under contract for next season, the Nuggets have an enviable core to build upon. Still, there are a number of rotation questions for the team to address this summer.

Will Barton ($14.7MM) and JaMychal Green ($7.6MM) face player option decisions after playing key roles for Denver in 2020/21. Barton, in particular, was an important part of the Nuggets’ success, starting 52 games for the club and serving as a reliable secondary scorer and play-maker. Green’s role was more modest, but he provided reliable depth at the power forward spot and could play the five if needed. The Nuggets, who would probably be just fine with both players opting in, will have to figure out how to replace or re-sign them if they opt out.

Meanwhile, Paul Millsap, JaVale McGee, and Austin Rivers will be unrestricted free agents. The club can withstand losing all three players if necessary, but their contributions shouldn’t be overlooked. Millsap has helped stabilize the frontcourt defense during his time in Denver, while Rivers ended up playing big minutes for the team following injuries to Murray and Barton. I imagine the Nuggets will at least explore bringing all three players back, but if the cost is much higher than the minimum, they may let them walk.

Having already cashed in some of their trade chips for Gordon, the Nuggets seem unlikely to make another major splash in the trade market this offseason, preferring instead to add reinforcements using their draft pick (No. 26 overall) and the mid-level exception.

Whether or not Barton is back, I expect the club will be focused in free agency on finding a guard with some size who can play alongside Morris or Facundo Campazzo in the backcourt. If Green or Millsap returns to join Jokic, Gordon, and Porter, the frontcourt shouldn’t be as high a priority — especially if the team believes Nnaji or Bol is ready to contribute.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Porter will be extension-eligible this offseason and will likely be in line for a max deal or something close to it. While the idea of paying Porter the max with Jokic and Murray already on the books for big money may give the Nuggets pause, extending MPJ is probably the right thing to do — he’s improving at such a rate that he’d still be a positive asset on a more lucrative contract, barring health issues.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 26 overall pick ($2,096,880)
  • Total: $2,096,880

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Michael Porter Jr. (rookie scale)
  • Will Barton (veteran)
  • Vlatko Cancar (veteran)
  • Aaron Gordon (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

The Nuggets will almost definitely operate over the cap this offseason, and should be able to stay out of tax territory.

Even if we assume Barton and Green pick up their player options, Dozier’s salary is guaranteed, and the team keeps its first-round pick, that would result in about $125MM for 12 players. That would leave Denver with enough flexibility to use its full mid-level exception without crossing the projected tax line (which is in the $136-137MM range).

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $9,536,000 7
  • Trade exception: $5,325,000
  • Trade exception: $2,193,480
  • Trade exception: $1,620,564

Footnotes

  1. Barton’s decision is reportedly due by July 17.
  2. Green’s decision is reportedly due by July 26.
  3. Dozier’s salary becomes partially guaranteed ($200K) after August 16.
  4. Cancar’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 3.
  5. Because he’ll have four years of NBA service, Harrison is ineligible to sign another two-way contract.
  6. The cap holds for Daniels and Jefferson remain on the Nuggets’ books from prior seasons because they haven’t been renounced. They can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  7. This is a projected value.

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post.

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Los Angeles Lakers

Coming off their championship in the Walt Disney World bubble in 2020, the Lakers enjoyed a very brief offseason, reporting to training camp just over a month-and-a-half after the NBA Finals ended.

Whether that abridged offseason was a major factor in the team’s up-and-down 2020/21 season is debatable. The Lakers showed no ill effects of the quick turnaround in the early going, getting off to a 21-6 start, but things went south from there.

Anthony Davis and LeBron James both missed time due to injuries and didn’t look 100% healthy when they returned. Los Angeles finished the regular season on a 21-24 run and needed a play-in victory to secure a playoff spot.

The Lakers were still viewed as a legitimate championship threat as the No. 7 seed in the West, but fell to the Suns in six games in round one, ensuring that Davis, James, and the rest of the club will get a much longer summer break in 2021.


The Lakers’ Offseason Plan:

The Lakers won’t have to worry about losing either of their two superstars this offseason, as both Davis and James remain under contract for multiple seasons. But those two are the only players who are locks to return to the team in 2021/22.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Marc Gasol are all under contract for at least one more year, but they could be trade candidates if an opportunity arises for Los Angeles to upgrade its roster. Montrezl Harrell has a player option, but could also end up on the trade block if he opts in. And virtually every other player on the roster is a free agent, either unrestricted (Dennis Schröder, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, and Andre Drummond, among others) or restricted (Talen Horton-Tucker).

First and foremost, the Lakers will have to determine which of their free agents are the highest priorities.

Schröder is perhaps the most important, given his role (he led the team in minutes played in 2020/21) and the financial considerations at play. The Lakers find themselves in what John Hollinger calls the “Bird rights trap” with Schröder — if he signs elsewhere, the Lakers would still be over the cap without the means to pay another player the sort of salary that Schröder will be seeking (likely $20-25MM per year), which means he has some leverage to squeeze them for a higher salary than they’d like to pay.

The one alternative to either investing heavily in Schröder or losing him for nothing would be to work out a sign-and-trade arrangement sending him to a new team. But I suspect it will be a challenge for Los Angeles to find a club willing to both give the point guard a massive payday and surrender a desirable asset for him.

Besides Schröder, the Lakers’ most important free agents will be Morris, Caruso, and Horton-Tucker. Morris showed a willingness last offseason to accept a discount to be a Laker, and it won’t be surprising if he does so again. But the team will face stiff competition for Caruso and Horton-Tucker and can’t reasonably expect either player – whose career NBA earnings pale in comparison to Morris’ – to take a team-friendly deal.

Caruso will likely get offers worth at least the full mid-level, and it’s not out of the question that Horton-Tucker will too — he’ll be one of the youngest free agents on the market and rival suitors may like the idea of putting pressure on the Lakers to match an aggressive offer sheet.

Determining how to handle the center position will also be a crucial part of the Lakers’ offseason. Gasol, Harrell, and Drummond didn’t have the same kind of success at the five that JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard did the year before, which suggests the team may be better off with players who are happy focusing on rebounding and defense rather than bigs who need to play a major role on offense.

Theoretically, Drummond could play that role, but if offensive touches remain a priority for him, it makes sense to let him seek a new team. Gasol would be content to focus on rebounding and defense, but he has clearly lost a step since his prime, limiting his effectiveness on the defensive end and rendering him almost a non-factor on the offensive end — relying on him to play big minutes would be risky.

I expect the Lakers to spend plenty of time perusing the trade market for upgrades using Caldwell-Pope, Kuzma, and Harrell (if he opts in) as potential chips. But a package that starts with two or three of those guys likely won’t be enough to make the team a favorite to land a true impact player, especially since L.A. has traded away so many of its future first-round picks. Caldwell-Pope, Kuzma, and Harrell can be solid rotation players in the right situation, but none of the three are clear bargains at their current salaries.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 22 overall pick ($2,451,120)
  • Total: $2,451,120

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Alfonzo McKinnie (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

With $110MM+ committed to five roster spots, the Lakers project to be over the cap before addressing a single one of their free agents. If the team re-signs Schröder, it’s a safe bet Los Angeles will find itself in luxury tax territory in 2021/22.

Even without a new deal for Schröder, the club could end up a taxpayer based on Harrell’s option and potential new contracts for guys like Caruso, Morris, and Horton-Tucker. If they let a bunch of free agents walk or make a cost-cutting trade, the Lakers could theoretically stay below the tax apron and use the full mid-level exception, but I’m not counting on that outcome.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,890,000 5
  • Trade exception: $674,408

Footnotes

  1. Harrell’s decision is reportedly due by July 31.
  2. Antetokounmpo has reached a contract agreement with French team ASVEL. The Lakers could still make the procedural move of tendering him a qualifying offer if they want to retain matching rights in the event of his return to the NBA. Because he has been on a two-way contract with the Lakers for two seasons, Antetokounmpo is eligible for a standard minimum-salary qualifying offer.
  3. Because he has been on a two-way contract with the Lakers for two seasons, Cacok is eligible for a standard minimum-salary qualifying offer.
  4. The cap hold for Waiters remains on the Lakers books from a prior season because he hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  5. This is a projected value. If the Lakers stay below the tax apron, they could have access to the full mid-level exception ($9.5MM).

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post.