Offseason Preview

2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Portland Trail Blazers

After two consecutive first-round playoff losses, the Trail Blazers entered the 2021/22 season hoping that a new head coach (Chauncey Billups), a new frontcourt addition (Larry Nance Jr.), and a full season of newly re-signed swingman Norman Powell would raise their ceiling.

However, after a 10-8 start, Portland lost 14 of its next 17 games, and the last of those 17 games was the final one of Damian Lillard‘s season, as he underwent surgery to address an abdominal injury that had bothered him for years.

With their playoff hopes on life support, the Blazers changed course. New general manager Joe Cronin – who replaced president of basketball operations Neil Olshey in December following an investigation into Olshey’s workplace conduct – was given the green light to overhaul the roster prior to the trade deadline. Cronin didn’t hold back, sending Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers and Nance and CJ McCollum to New Orleans for future assets and cap flexibility.

Jusuf Nurkic (foot), Nassir Little (shoulder), and Anfernee Simons (knee) joined Lillard on the sidelines as Portland went into tank mode in the second half of the season. Following the All-Star break, the Blazers were 2-21 with an unfathomably bad -21.3 net rating, finishing with the NBA’s sixth-worst record and putting themselves in position to draft a top prospect this June.


The Trail Blazers’ Offseason Plan:

When Cronin blew up the Blazers’ roster in February, the common refrain coming out of Portland was that the team wanted to quickly retool the roster, perhaps flipping some of its newly-acquired assets before next season in an effort to get back to the playoffs. The goal wasn’t to launch a full-fledged rebuild, but to reshape the roster around players like Lillard, Little, and RFA-to-be Simons.

Avoiding a years-long tank is a noble goal, but it’s unclear whether the Blazers have the assets necessary to complete a fast turnaround. The packages they received in their deadline deals with the Clippers and Pelicans were somewhat underwhelming, especially after New Orleans made the playoffs and prevented Portland from acquiring the Pels’ 2022 first-round pick (it would’ve gone to the Blazers if it landed between Nos. 5 and 14).

The Blazers acquired Josh Hart, a solid two-way contributor, in the McCollum trade, and got Justise Winslow and Keon Johnson in their trade with the Clippers. Those players could help going forward, but they’re complementary parts, not centerpieces. The most valuable draft asset the Blazers got in their two mega-deals was Milwaukee’s top-four protected 2025 first-round pick, which will have limited trade value, given that it’s considered unlikely to be a high selection.

Theoretically, Portland has a path to significant cap room this offseason, but maximizing that space would mean shedding non-guaranteed salaries (like Hart’s), renouncing key cap holds (including Nurkic’s), and forfeiting the $20.8MM trade exception created in the McCollum deal. In other words, any move requiring cap room would force the Blazers to make some serious sacrifices, so the trade-off may not be worth it.

The Blazers’ most logical play this offseason might be to operate over the cap, re-signing Simons and Nurkic, retaining Hart, and waiving Eric Bledsoe‘s mostly non-guaranteed contract in order to create space under the tax line to take advantage of that big trade exception and/or the mid-level exception, targeting wings and strong defensive players with those exceptions.

A five-man group of Lillard, Simons, Nurkic, Hart, and Little probably isn’t a playoff-caliber starting lineup in the West, but it’s a decent starting point for the roster. With a top-10 pick, some cap exceptions, and a willingness to trade future draft assets, Portland is in position to add more talent.

Still, given how much the team is paying Lillard on his current contract and how much new deals for Simons and Nurkic could cost, there won’t be a ton of margin for error, so the Blazers are under some pressure to get this summer’s moves right.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap figures are based on the league’s latest projection ($122MM) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Eric Bledsoe ($15,475,000) 1
  • Josh Hart ($12,960,000) 2
  • Total: $28,435,000

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 6 overall pick ($6,498,600) 3
  • No. 36 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • No. 59 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $6,498,600

Extension-Eligible Players

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2022/23 season begins.

  • Eric Bledsoe (veteran)
  • Damian Lillard (veteran)
  • Nassir Little (rookie scale)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

With just $65MM in guaranteed money on their books for next season, the Blazers could theoretically create upwards of $50MM in cap room if they renounce all their free agents and exceptions, waive-and-stretch Bledsoe, drop Hart, and don’t move any higher in the lottery. However, that’s probably not a realistic outcome.

It’s a safe bet that Simons isn’t going anywhere, and Hart’s deal is pretty team-friendly. If we add Simons’ cap hold and Hart’s salary to Portland’s books, that projected cap room dips to about $27MM. And if the team intends to retain Nurkic and its $20MM+ trade exception, that cap room goes away entirely.

The Blazers will have options this offseason, but they’d need a very good, specific reason to give up key assets to go under the cap. Our working assumption is that they’ll be an over-the-cap team unless an opportunity arises that they can’t pass up.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $10,349,000 5
  • Bi-annual exception: $4,050,000 5
  • Trade exception: $20,864,198
  • Trade exception: $6,519,792
  • Trade exception: $3,261,480

Footnotes

  1. Bledsoe’s salary will become fully guaranteed after July 10.
  2. Hart’s salary will become fully guaranteed after June 25.
  3. This pick is dependent on the lottery results. It could land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 10 (except No. 5). The Blazers’ lottery odds can be viewed here.
  4. The cap holds for these players remain on the Blazers’ books from prior seasons because they haven’t been renounced. They can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  5. These are projected values. If the Blazers decide to go under the cap and use cap room, they’ll forfeit these exceptions (and their trade exceptions) and instead gain access to the room exception ($5,329,000).

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

2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers entered the 2021/22 season with playoff aspirations, but some bad luck and tight losses derailed the first half of their season, and a series of injuries contributed to their inability to get back on track.

By the trade deadline, the Pacers were looking ahead to the future and decided to send All-Star center Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento in a six-player deal for potential franchise cornerstone Tyrese Haliburton.

The move was typical of an Indiana team that has historically been reluctant to launch a full-fledged rebuild. As was the case when they traded Paul George to Oklahoma City in 2017 for Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, the Pacers preferred to acquire a promising young player rather than far-away draft picks, in the hopes of accelerating their return to the postseason.

With a top-10 pick in hand and some intriguing talent under contract, it will be interesting to see how much patience the front office is willing to exercise this offseason as the retooling process continues.


The Pacers’ Offseason Plan:

We know that Haliburton will be part of the future in Indiana, and it’s a safe bet that 2021 first-rounders Chris Duarte and Isaiah Jackson aren’t going anywhere either. Beyond that, there are some unanswered questions.

Myles Turner was viewed as one of the NBA’s top trade candidates early in the 2021/22 season. With Sabonis gone, will Turner stick around or will the Pacers still be willing to discuss him trade talks? If he’s part of the long-term plans, will Indiana be able to extend him this offseason as he prepares to enter a contract year? Would Turner be open to an extension?

Malcolm Brogdon, meanwhile, is under contract for three more seasons, and could theoretically fit alongside Haliburton, since both players can handle the ball or play off it and neither is a defensive liability. However, there has been some speculation that Brogdon could be dealt, especially if the Pacers want to clear some long-term money from their books. He wasn’t trade-eligible during the season after signing an extension, but he will be this summer. Will Indiana look to move him?

When Buddy Hield was included in the Haliburton trade in February, it wasn’t clear whether he was simply thrown in for salary-matching purposes or if the Pacers envisioned him remaining on the roster beyond the season. His performance in Indiana made that an even more interesting question — his 18.2 PPG and .447 FG% were significant steps up from the numbers he was putting up in Sacramento, and he flashed newfound play-making skills (a career-high 4.8 APG).

Hield has two years and $40MM left on his contract, which looks a little more team-friendly than it did three or four months ago. The Pacers should be able to move him without having to attach other assets, but it’s unclear what their intentions are.

Jalen Smith played well for the Pacers after arriving in a deadline deal, but because his 2022/23 rookie scale team option was declined last year, the team can’t offer him a starting salary higher than about $4.7MM, which may not be enough to bring him back.

I also wouldn’t expect Ricky Rubio or T.J. Warren – neither of whom played a game for Indiana this season – to return, but the team’s final unrestricted free agent, Lance Stephenson, is a good candidate for a new deal. He seems to have found a home in Indiana.

Of course, before they have to make any free agent decisions, the Pacers will have a lot riding on the draft lottery results. Their offseason will take a much different shape if they’re picking in the top three or four than it would if they slip to No. 7 or No. 8.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap figures are based on the league’s latest projection ($122MM) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 5 overall pick ($7,155,120) 4
  • No. 31 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • No. 60 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $7,155,120

Extension-Eligible Players

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2022/23 season begins.

  • Goga Bitadze (rookie scale)
  • Buddy Hield (veteran)
  • Myles Turner (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

Taking into account their returning players, Brissett’s team option, and a cap hold for their first-round pick, the Pacers project to have about $95MM in guaranteed money. That number could fluctuate a little one way or the other, depending on their lottery luck, but it puts the team in position to open up at least $20-25MM in cap space.

Taking that route would mean renouncing most of their free agent cap holds, as well as about $35MM in free agency and trade exceptions, detailed below. So the Pacers would need a good reason to renounce those cap charges and operate under the cap. If they have no specific use for the space, they could simply continue to function as an over-the-cap club, retaining all their exceptions.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $10,349,000 6
  • Bi-annual exception: $4,050,000 6
  • Trade exception: $10,500,000
  • Trade exception: $7,333,333
  • Trade exception: $2,320,000
  • Trade exception: $420,049

Footnotes

  1. Taylor’s salary will become fully guaranteed after July 10.
  2. Brissett’s salary will remain non-guaranteed even if his option is exercised.
  3. Washington’s salary will become fully guaranteed after July 6.
  4. This pick is dependent on the lottery results. It could land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 9. The Pacers’ lottery odds can be viewed here.
  5. The Pacers can’t offer Smith a starting salary worth more than his cap hold, since his 2022/23 rookie scale option was declined.
  6. These are projected values. If the Pacers decide to go under the cap and use cap room, they’ll forfeit these exceptions (and their trade exceptions) and instead gain access to the room exception ($5,329,000).

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

2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

It may feel as if the Thunder have been mired in the rebuilding process forever, but it was less than two years ago that the Chris Paul-led version of the team was competing in the bubble playoffs as a No. 5 seed. Since then, of course, Oklahoma City hasn’t come close to sniffing the postseason and has shown little inclination to try, shutting down a series of players due to injuries after the All-Star break in both 2021 and 2022.

Still, the Thunder haven’t been the NBA’s worst team in the last two years, and they’ve uncovered some potential gems during that stretch. Last year’s No. 6 overall pick, Josh Giddey, looks like the closest thing to a home run so far, but OKC has some other promising young players under contract and has done well to get value out of a player like Kenrich Williams, a throw-in in the Steven Adams sign-and-trade two offseason ago.

Given how many draft picks the Thunder have stockpiled and how few games they’ve won since leaving the 2020 bubble, there will be some fans anxious to see them start pushing their chips into the middle of the table this summer. But Sam Presti, who has no concerns about his job security, won’t be rushed, and appears satisfied to spend at least one more year in the lottery, focused on player development, before he begins to put his foot a little further down on the gas pedal.


The Thunder’s Offseason Plan:

The Thunder will be a team worth watching close before and during the draft, since they still have a ton of unused cap room for the 2021/22 league year. That cap space will essentially disappear at the start of July when the new league year begins and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s maximum-salary extension hits the team’s books, but it’ll be available in June and could be useful to accommodate a salary-dump trade.

Of course, the fact that the Thunder are once again loaded with valuable draft picks will also make them one of the most intriguing teams of the first half of the offseason. Oklahoma City controls four of the top 34 picks of 2022 and will have two lottery selections.

The Thunder didn’t have great lottery luck a year ago, slipping from fourth in the lottery standings to sixth in the draft itself. But with their own pick and the Clippers’ pick in this year’s lottery, their odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick are as good as anyone’s, and they’ll have a better chance than any other team of ending up in the top four. That bodes well, considering some draft experts believe there’s a drop-off after the consensus top four prospects (Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, and Jaden Ivey).

All 15 of the Thunder players who finished the season on standard deals remain under contract for next season, so the front office won’t technically have any free agent decisions to make. But the team will still have to make several keep-or-cut calls on players who have team options or non-guaranteed salaries. Some of those decisions will be simple – Williams and Luguentz Dort, both earning $2MM or less, obviously won’t be cut – but I certainly wouldn’t expect everyone to be back.

Presti could also be active on the trade market, if only to help make room for the incoming rookies. Derrick Favors is the most obvious trade candidate on the roster, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some young players shopped if they’re not considered long-term cornerstones. Darius Bazley and Ty Jerome, for instance, are both entering contract years and could be trade candidates if OKC doesn’t want to lock them up with extensions.

Among the Thunder’s extension-eligible players, Dort and Williams are the best candidates to receive new deals. The team would be able to offer either player a four-year extension worth up to approximately $60MM.

If the Thunder are concerned about their ability to extend Dort, they do have the option of turning down his team option for 2022/23 in order to make him a restricted free agent. That would make him more expensive in the short term, but would eliminate the possibility of him getting away in unrestricted free agency in 2023. In that scenario, Oklahoma City would also be able to go beyond the four-year, $60MM-ish limit that would apply to an extension.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap figures are based on the league’s latest projection ($122MM) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 4 overall pick ($7,901,280) 5
  • No. 12 overall pick ($4,283,400) 6
  • No. 30 overall pick ($2,164,560)
  • No. 34 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $14,349,240

Extension-Eligible Players

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2022/23 season begins.

  • Darius Bazley (rookie scale)
  • Luguentz Dort (veteran) 7
  • Derrick Favors (veteran) 7
  • Ty Jerome (rookie scale)
  • Theo Maledon (veteran)
  • Isaiah Roby (veteran) 7
  • Kenrich Williams (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

The Thunder only currently have about $84MM in guaranteed money on their books for next season, but after accounting for the options most likely to be picked up and the cap holds for three first-round picks, that number jumps to about $115MM. That means the Thunder will almost certainly operate as an over-the-cap team once free agency opens.

It’s possible Oklahoma City will shed some salary in trades and try to gain some cap room, but there would need to be a specific purpose for that cap space. The Thunder showed in 2021/22 when they were only carrying $78MM in guaranteed money and still operated “over” the cap for much of the season that they won’t renounce exceptions and cap holds and go under the cap just for the sake of it.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $10,349,000 9
  • Bi-annual exception: $4,050,000 9

Footnotes

  1. Gilgeous-Alexander’s salary will be worth 25% of the salary cap. If the cap ends up above or below $122MM, this figure will be adjusted upward or downward.
  2. Roby’s salary will remain non-guaranteed until July 3 even if his option is exercised.
  3. Williams’ salary will become fully guaranteed after last day of offseason (mid-October).
  4. Maledon’s salary will become fully guaranteed after June 30.
  5. This pick is dependent on the lottery results. It could land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 8. The Thunder’s lottery odds can be viewed here.
  6. This pick is dependent on the lottery results. It could land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 4 or between No. 12 and No. 14.
  7. Dort, Favors, and Roby would only be eligible if their options are exercised.
  8. The cap holds for these players remain on the Thunder’s books from prior seasons because they haven’t been renounced. They can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  9. These are projected values.

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

2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Detroit Pistons

The Pistons‘ rebuild took a major step forward when they lucked into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, giving them first dibs in what looked to be an exceptional pool of prospects. Detroit’s choice – Cade Cunningham – didn’t win this season’s Rookie of the Year award, but he led all first-year players in points per game and his strong second half reinforced the Pistons’ belief in his ability to be a franchise centerpiece.

The team’s front office and ownership won’t want to rush the roster-building process, but after winning no more than 23 games in each of the last three seasons, they’ll likely be eager to take the next step forward as soon as possible.

With Cunningham and strong secondary pieces like Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart in place, the Pistons are on the right track, but some more good fortune in the lottery (they have a 52.1% chance of securing a top-four pick) would help further accelerate the team’s climb back to playoff contention.


The Pistons’ Offseason Plan:

The Pistons are one of the only NBA teams projected to have cap room available this summer, but to fully take advantage of it, they’ll have to first resolve Marvin Bagley III‘s free agency, since his cap hold ($28MM+) far exceeds his expected salary.

After three-and-a-half relatively underwhelming seasons in Sacramento, Bagley finished the 2021/22 season strong in Detroit, unburdened by the same expectations he faced with the Kings, where he was known as the player the team drafted one spot ahead of Luka Doncic. He averaged 14.6 PPG with a career-best .555 FG% in 18 games as a Piston.

The Pistons, who reportedly liked the athleticism Bagley brought to the frontcourt and want to re-sign him to a multiyear deal, should have a good amount of leverage, given that the former No. 2 overall pick will be a restricted FA and seems unlikely to draw significant interest from many other teams. The three-year deals signed a year ago by big men Khem Birch ($20MM) and Nerlens Noel ($27MM) could be used as points of comparison.

Even after accounting for the cap hold for their lottery pick and a new deal for Bagley, the Pistons are poised to have a good deal of cap space available. The team has been linked to a wide variety of potential free agent targets, ranging from point guards (Jalen Brunson) to wings (Miles Bridges) to centers (Mitchell Robinson), but shouldn’t feel compelled to spend big in free agency — that cap room could just as easily be used to accommodate trades to continue stockpiling draft picks and/or young talent.

Speaking of trades, the Pistons will face a decision this summer on Jerami Grant, who has one season left on the three-year contract he signed in 2020 and will be eligible for an extension of up to four years. Reports at the trade deadline indicated that vice chairman Arn Tellem was more open to the idea of moving Grant than general manager Troy Weaver was, but if Detroit isn’t prepared to extend the veteran forward, perhaps the front office will become more united behind the idea of pursuing a trade this offseason.

A handful of option decisions will impact how the Pistons fill out their bench — Cory Joseph holds a player option and would be a solid backup to Cunningham or a useful trade chip if he opts in. Detroit also has team options on four players: Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, Carsen Edwards, and Luka Garza.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap figures are based on the league’s latest projection ($122MM) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 3 overall pick ($8,763,720) 1
  • No. 46 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $8,763,720

Extension-Eligible Players

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2022/23 season begins.

  • Jerami Grant (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

Let’s assume the Pistons keep all eight players with guaranteed salaries, re-sign Bagley to a deal starting at $7MM, get the No. 3 overall pick, and bring back all five players who have options. In that scenario, the team would still have just shy of $18MM in cap room.

If the Pistons aren’t committed to picking up all their team options or have some bad lottery luck, their cap room could easily exceed $20MM. Of course, Joseph’s option decision, Bagley’s free agency, and possible trades are also wild cards that will affect that number. But if Detroit has a move in mind that requires 20MM-ish in cap space, it looks like it won’t be too difficult to carve out that space.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Room exception: $5,329,000 2

Footnotes

  1. This pick is dependent on the lottery results. It could land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 6. The Pistons’ lottery odds can be viewed here.
  2. This is a projected value.

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

2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Orlando Magic

After blowing up their roster midway through the 2020/21 campaign, the Magic embarked on the first full season of their rebuilding process in 2021/22. The results were about what you’d expect: Orlando won just seven of its first 42 games and finished the year at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with a 22-60 record.

The Magic’s handling of Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, who were both recovering from ACL tears, showed just how patient the franchise is willing to be as it rebuilds its roster from the ground up. Fultz didn’t play until he was about 14 months removed from his injury, while Isaac didn’t suit up at all during the 2021/22 season despite having sustained his injury way back in August of 2020.

With Isaac unavailable all year and Fultz missing for most of the season, the Magic didn’t get a chance to see how a couple of their important young veterans fit alongside their new prospects, but they did give those prospects an opportunity to play big minutes.

While No. 5 overall pick Jalen Suggs had an underwhelming rookie season, second-year guard Cole Anthony took a step forward and rookie forward Franz Wagner established himself as a very promising building block for the future. Orlando will be looking to add another long-term cornerstone with its top-six pick in this year’s draft.


The Magic’s Offseason Plan:

In his fourth NBA season, Mohamed Bamba finally stayed healthy and enjoyed a mini-breakout, setting new career highs in points (10.6), rebounds (8.1), and blocks (1.7) per game, while shooting 38.1% on three-pointers. The performance suggested that Bamba, who turns 24 next month, is finally on the way to becoming the player the Magic envisioned when they drafted him sixth overall in 2018.

The timing of his emergence complicates matters though. The Magic signed Wendell Carter last year to a four-year, $50MM extension that will go into effect in 2022/23 and were better this season when Carter was on the court without Bamba (-0.9 net rating) than when they played together (-5.5) or when Bamba played without Carter (-14.8).

Will the Magic be willing to invest heavily in a second young center? Will there be enough competition for Bamba on the free agent market that he even requires a significant investment? Answering these questions will help shape the rest of Orlando’s offseason, since the decision on Bamba will impact whether the team operates over the cap or under it.

Of course, the Magic’s luck in the lottery also may have a major impact on the Bamba decision. If the team brings in a prospect such as Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, or Jabari Smith, the frontcourt rotation will start to get crowded, especially with Isaac on the way back.

Several of the Magic’s other key offseason decisions relate to their veteran players. Gary Harris and Robin Lopez played their roles well, but it’s unclear if the club envisions them as part of its plans going forward now that they’re unrestricted free agents. Terrence Ross is under contract for one more season, but he seemingly wants to be traded and Orlando would presumably love to accommodate him. His down year in 2021/22 will make it difficult to get anything of real value for him, however.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap figures are based on the league’s latest projection ($122MM) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 2 overall pick ($9,758,880) 1
  • No. 32 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • No. 35 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $9,758,880

Extension-Eligible Players

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2022/23 season begins.

  • Markelle Fultz (veteran)
  • Terrence Ross (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

Depending on where the Magic’s first-round pick lands, the cap hold for that selection could push their total guaranteed salary over $90MM. That would still leave upwards of $30MM in cap space if the team lets all its free agents walk and renounces its remaining cap holds, but I’m not convinced the Magic badly want to create cap room, since they’re unlikely to be major players in free agency.

I’d expect them instead to try to retain Bamba and perhaps explore a new deal with Harris. The decision to operate over or under the cap could come down to how successful – and how expensive – those efforts are. One thing to keep in mind: if new deals for Bamba and Harris project to leave the Magic with, say, $10-12MM in cap space, it makes more sense for the club to simply stay over the cap and keep its full mid-level exception.

If one of Bamba or Harris doesn’t return or if Orlando sheds some salary, possibly by trading Ross, the path to cap space is more obvious. But for now we’re assuming the Magic will at least begin the offseason as an over-the-cap team.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $10,349,000 4
  • Bi-annual exception: $4,050,000 4

Footnotes

  1. This pick is dependent on the lottery results. It could land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 6. The Magic’s lottery odds can be viewed here.
  2. Vazquez was the Magic’s No. 11 pick in 2005. He never signed a rookie contract and has since retired, but the team has yet to renounce its rights to him.
  3. The cap holds for Afflalo, Speights, and Law remain on the Magic’s books from prior seasons because they haven’t been renounced. They can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  4. These are projected values. If the Magic operate as an under-the-cap team, they would renounce these exceptions and instead gain access to the room exception ($5,329,000).

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

2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Houston Rockets

Unlike the 2020/21 version of the Rockets, who began the season hanging onto a disgruntled James Harden and holding out hope for a spot in the playoffs, the ’21/22 squad had no misconceptions about its place in the NBA’s pecking order. The primary focus in Houston this past year wasn’t to make the postseason, but rather to develop the team’s cadre of incoming rookies, including No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green.

Ultimately, the end result in 2021/22 was the same as it was a year earlier — the Rockets won fewer than a quarter of their games and finished with the worst record in the NBA.

But there’s a little more reason for optimism now than there was at this time last year, even if Houston is still probably a year or two away from seriously contending for a playoff berth. Green and big man Alperen Sengun looked like players worth building around long-term, and the club will once again have a top-five pick this June, providing a terrific opportunity to add another cornerstone piece to the roster.


The Rockets’ Offseason Plan:

The need for a rebuilding team to trade away its productive veterans is generally overstated. Having a couple reliable veterans on the roster for young players to lean on and learn from can be more valuable to a team than the modest draft assets it could acquire by moving those vets.

With that in mind, I understand the Rockets’ decision to hang onto Eric Gordon and Christian Wood through the 2022 deadline. However, this offseason looks like the right time to seriously consider trading one or both of those players.

Gordon’s 41.2% three-point percentage this season was the second-best mark of his career, and his contract, which only has one more guaranteed year left before it becomes non-guaranteed in 2023/24, is no longer especially onerous. Wood, meanwhile, is entering a contract year and has a manageable $14.3MM cap hit for 2022/23. The Rockets could get positive value for both of them right now, which may not be true later in the season if Gordon’s production dips or either player gets injured.

Of course, the Rockets will once again scour the market in search of a taker for John Wall, who is a lock to pick up his $47.3MM player option, but finding a suitable deal won’t be easy. With no desire to attach draft picks to Wall and little appetite for taking on pricey multiyear veteran contracts, the Rockets probably won’t get an offer that appeals to them.

It’s possible that attaching Wood or Gordon to Wall would create more options for the Rockets, but outside of the Lakers and a small handful of other teams, most clubs don’t have that much expendable salary on their books for matching purposes. Houston may be better off simply pursuing a buyout with Wall, trying to save a few million dollars this season, and clearing his contract from the team’s books entirely when it expires in 2023.

After adding four first-round picks to their roster last year, the Rockets have two more first-rounders this season. They’ll certainly keep their lottery pick, but the No. 17 selection (from Brooklyn) could be a trade chip used to acquire future assets if the team isn’t interested in once again incorporating multiple rookies.

The Rockets will also have to assess which of their extension-eligible young players are worth investing in this offseason. Kevin Porter Jr. is eligible for a rookie scale extension, while Jae’Sean Tate and Kenyon Martin Jr. could both sign veteran extensions.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap figures are based on the league’s latest projection ($122MM) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 1 overall pick ($10,907,160) 1
  • No. 17 overall pick ($3,314,160)
  • Total: $14,221,320

Extension-Eligible Players

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2022/23 season begins.

  • Eric Gordon (veteran)
  • Kenyon Martin Jr. (veteran)
  • Kevin Porter Jr. (rookie scale)
  • Jae’Sean Tate (veteran) 2
  • John Wall (veteran) 2
  • Christian Wood (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

The Rockets currently only have about $65.6MM in guaranteed money on their books for next season, but that figure is deceiving. Once the options for Wall and Tate and the cap holds for their two first-round picks are accounted for, the Rockets will be over the cap, even if they renounce all of their free agents. Team salary will remain well below the tax line though, so Houston will have the full mid-level exception at its disposal if needed.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $10,349,000 4
  • Bi-annual exception: $4,050,000 4
  • Trade exception: $607,730

Footnotes

  1. This pick is dependent on the lottery results. It could land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 5. The Rockets’ lottery odds can be viewed here.
  2. Tate and Wall would only be eligible if their options are exercised, which is expected.
  3. The cap hold for Frazier remain on the Rockets’ books from a prior season because he hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  4. These are projected values.

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

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.