The salary cap line and the luxury tax threshold receive far more attention, but there’s another noteworthy level of spending that NBA teams must adhere to each season: the minimum salary floor.
As we explain in our glossary entry on the subject, the league’s salary floor means that a club to spend at least 90% of the salary cap on player salaries. For instance, with the 2018/19 cap set at $101,869,000, the salary floor for this season is $91,682,100.
If a team finishes the regular season below the NBA’s salary floor for that league year, the penalty isn’t harsh — the franchise is simply required to make up the shortfall by paying the difference to its players. For example, if a team finished this season with a team salary of $88,682,100, that team would be required to distribute that $3MM shortfall among its players.
In contrast to most recent NBA seasons though, no teams are currently projected to fall below the league’s salary floor for 2018/19.
The Mavericks appear on the surface to be below the salary floor — Basketball Insiders’ data lists their current team salary as $89,266,661, making them the only team with a payroll below $100MM.
However, when determining whether a team has reached the salary floor, the NBA considers how much the club has actually paid to players over the course of the season, rather than the team’s current cap figure. And when a team makes trades during the season, that team only owes its incoming players their remaining prorated salaries, having already paid its outgoing players a prorated portion of their salaries.
[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Proration]
In Dallas’ case, the club made a pair of trades prior to last month’s deadline – one with the Knicks and one with the Kings – that reduced team salary considerably.
Because of the prorated money the Mavericks had paid to those outgoing players during the first two-thirds of the season – including nearly $16MM to Harrison Barnes and almost $14MM to DeAndre Jordan – there’s a significant gap between their current team salary (about $89MM) and the salaries they’ve actually paid. By my count, the Mavs are currently on the hook for about $99MM in total player salaries for 2018/19 once all the prorated figures have been calculated.
Conversely, the Kings carried a team salary below the floor for much of the season, but a trio of deadline deals – most notably that one with Dallas involving Barnes – helped pushed them above the floor.
According to Basketball Insiders, Sacramento currently has a team salary of $104,029,182. Based on my math, the Kings will actually only pay about $97MM in player salaries once the prorated figures for the likes of Barnes, Alec Burks, and others are taken into account. Either way, they’ll easily clear the 2018/19 salary floor.