The cap situations of the Western Conference playoff teams

Published: June 28, 2015

The other day Michael McNamara analysed the Pelicans options for the mid-level exception for this years’ NBA Free Agency. However, one of the most important things to remember is that not only will the Pelicans be wanting the services of these players, so too will other teams.

Today I’ll have a look at each of the Western Conference playoff teams’ cap situations and also where their priorities lie. Usually if a team has a big-name free-agent they will try and put all their efforts into retaining that player. Because New Orleans is going after guys in the $3-6 million range they can at least get a jump on the players they like before some of their competitors.

Just some key salary cap reminders before we jump into proceedings:

  • NBA Salary Cap Figure: $67.10m
  • NBA Luxury Tax Figure: $81.60m
  • Mid-Level Exception: $5.5m (deals up to $23.3m over four years)
  • Tax Payer Mid Level Exception: $3.4m (deals up to $10.6m over three years)
  • Bi-Annual Exception: $2.2m (up to $4.4m on a two year deal)

Golden State Warriors

  • Salary Cap Figure: $83.43m
  • Cap Holds: $5.97m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$22.30m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$7.80m
  • Free Agents: Draymond Green (RFA), Leandro Barbosa (UFA), Justin Holiday (RFA), Ognjen Kuzmic (RFA)

After winning the NBA title the Golden State Warriors don’t have much time before they have to turn things around to try and retain one of their key pieces, Draymond Green.

The Warriors have what appears to be a very difficult cap position. Their cap figure (without cap holds included) is 1.83m over the luxury tax already. Green is likely to command a sizable offer when free agency starts. The Warriors have already made known that they plan to match any offer thrown at him (which could be a potential CBA violation).

What this also might mean is that Golden State will invariably look to move pieces already on their roster. David Lee is on the final year of his 6yr/$79m deal, Andre Iguodala still has two years/$22m left and Andrew Bogut too has a sizeable amount sitting at 2 years/$23m.

The point here is that the Warriors can either move some of their pieces or swallow some of that sweet, sweet luxury tax. I’d say they would be leaning more towards the latter, seeing as they have just won an NBA championship.

What it means for the Western Conference is that Golden State are unlikely to be players in the FA market outside of resigning Draymond Green. They will likely be trade players, but only if they can somehow get rid of David Lee.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat (Pierre Threat out of 5): full pierre

Houston Rockets

  • Salary Cap Figure: $60.72m
  • Cap Holds: $15.04m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$8.66m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): $5.84
  • Free Agents: Jason Terry (UFA), Corey Brewer (UFA), Josh Smith (UFA), Patrick Beverley (RFA), K.J. McDaniels (RFA)

After an arduous playoff campaign that landed the Rockets a Western Conference Finals exit, Houston enters free-agency with a few things to take care of.

Houston’s main free agent priority, Patrick Beverley, is restricted. Others likely Corey Brewer, Josh Smith and Jason Terry are unrestricted and will likely command deals around the $5-7m range.

The good news is that Houston has a little bit of flexibility in comparison to teams like the Warriors. Houston can renounce all free-agent rights and sit $6.38m under the cap. As an alternate, the can re-sign some of their players, go over the cap and then use the MLE and Bi-Annual Exception to bring in different players.

The Rockets will likely retain Beverley because he is such an integral piece of their team. It’s likely that Smith, Terry and most notably, Corey Brewer all get offers far exceeding Houston’s taste.

They won’t have to do much in the way of filling out their roster as they already have 10 players committed to the 2015-16 season. Houston also drafted Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell who add some promising depth to a roster that already has 12 players on it.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierrefull pierrehalf a pierre

Los Angeles Clippers

  • Salary Cap Figure: $65.33m
  • Cap Holds: $21.46m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$19.69m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$5.19m
  • Free Agents: DeAndre Jordan (UFA), Glen Davis (UFA), Austin Rivers (), Hedo Turkoglu (UFA), Ekpe Udoh (UFA), Dahntay Jones (UFA)

The first cab off the rank for Clipper free agency will be DeAndre Jordan. I don’t mean that he’ll leave, but it’s certainly going to be a nervous time for many LAC fans (who I’m certain were Laker fans not just 5 years ago).

Jordan already has scheduled meetings with the Clippers, Lakers, Mavericks and Bucks. He’s likely to command a maximum contract.

Operating under the scenario where Jordan re-signs with Los Angeles (not the Lakers) for a maximum deal the Clippers will have $85.33m committed for the 2015-16 season – this would place them nearly 4 million over the luxury tax.

Due to this they would be unlikely to contend with the Pelicans for any MLE candidates (they’d have to move some players and cut salaries).

Also playing into the Clippers off-season was the acquisition of Lance Stephenson. The thought is that by being asked to do less Stephenson will thrive. It’s also likely that this will be the Clippers only other play (unless they trade something again).

The other scenario is if the Clippers don’t sign Jordan. In this event Los Angles would be sitting right under the salary cap (if they renounced all their other FA’s). If this was to transpire they’d likely be strong contenders for many mid-level type of players. They’d almost certainly want to have a look at Omer Asik as they’d be down a center.

Overall I find it unlikely that Jordan goes elsewhere. If he has a max-contract from the Clippers he’d be silly to turn it down, especially considering he’s playing with arguably the best point guard in the league.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierre

Portland Trail Blazers

  • Salary Cap Figure: $26.70m
  • Cap Holds: $58.17m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$17.76m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$3.26m
  • Free Agents: LaMarcus Aldridge (UFA), Arron Afflalo (UFA), Wesley Matthews (UFA), Robin Lopez (UFA), Dorell Wright (UFA), Joel Freeland (RFA), Alonzo Gee (UFA)

The Portland Trail Blazers have a big off-season ahead of them. Arguably their second best player, LaMarcus Aldridge is an unrestricted free-agent who is already heavily linked with a move to the Dallas Mavericks. Wes Matthews is reportedly asking for $15m a year despite having a serious season ending injury.

This doesn’t take into account some key role players like Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Dorell Wright who also can choose where they’d like to sign without any influence of Portland.

The good news for the Blazers is that they have the flexibility to not only re-sign the players they want but can also look at other FA’s if they so desire.

Arron Afflalo has an $11m cap hold and Robin Lopez has a $9m one against him. If the Blazers decide that they are not of priority they can renounce them and their Bird Rights clearing up additional room.

What Portland really needs to figure out is what they’re going to do with Aldridge. A player with undoubtedly one of the finest skillsets in the NBA, Aldridge is a player who has grown into one the best forwards in the league. Pretty much all the usual suspects are linked to Aldridge: the Lakers, Rockets and the Mavericks.

The Blazers are going to have the majority of their time tied up with both Aldridge and Matthews. As such don’t be surprised if they aren’t involved in much MLE discussions in the event they’re re-signed. It wouldn’t be unsurprising if Portland tried to move Batum in order to re-sign one or both of the aforementioned.

The tough news for Pelican fans is that the Blazers have the flexibility to sit under the luxury tax amount by anywhere up to $30m if they re-sign Aldridge. In fact it’s likely that Portland will be eventual mid-level players once the main free-agents have decided on their new destinations.

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Memphis Grizzlies

  • Salary Cap Figure: $50.90m
  • Cap Holds: $24.54m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$8.35m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: $6.15m
  • Free Agents: Marc Gasol (UFA), Kosta Koufos (RFA), Nick Calathes (RFA)

Assuming that the rumors are true and that Marc Gasol re-signs in Memphis for (on the conservative side) a 5yr/$90 million deal they would still have about $6m left before they go over the luxury tax.

What they could do is try to re-sign Kosta Koufos who would likely command a deal of around $5m a year or they can go out and find someone for the MLE or Bi-Annual exception.

The Grizzlies have the ability to re-sign Gasol and still go out and find another contributor to their team, namely someone who could shoot a three.

Memphis doesn’t have the greatest “flexibility” in the world for this off-season. However their needs are clear and defined. Re-sign Marc Gasol and get someone who can shoot a three.

If the Pelicans are contending for any kind of MLE wing player who can shoot the three and defend then Memphis will be a likely contender. The Grizzlies will likely have about $6m in luxury tax space should they re-sign most of their free-agents. This means they will likely use the MLE to sign someone in the $4m range.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierrefull pierrefull pierrehalf a pierre

San Antonio Spurs

  • Salary Cap Figure: $34.16m
  • Cap Holds: $50.43m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$17.49m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$2.99
  • Free Agents: Tim Duncan (UFA), Manu Ginobili (UFA), Danny Green (UFA), Kawhi Leonard (RFA), Marco Belinelli (UFA), Aron Baynes (RFA), Cory Joseph (RFA), Jeff Ayres (UFA), Matt Bonner (UFA), Reggie Williams (UFA)

You know when you want to rip up all the carpet and start your room design all over again? Well that’s sort of the position that San Antonio is in. Do you keep the old, worn out carpet, give it an industrial clean for the next year? Do you pray to God that it holds together so you can cash in that big sweat check once you sell the place to the next unlucky bastard?

Or do you rip it up, lay down some expensive timber and completely re-do the place?

San Antonio has a litany of free-agents, a few who have been so damn important to the franchise for a very long time.

Yes, I am referring to Matt Bonner.

Okay, well maybe not. But still it’s quite the predicament that SA is in because everything hinges on what Tim Duncan decides to do.

If he returns will Ginobili want to as well? Tony Parker thinks both will return for one more season, but we all know that plans can be easily broken.

After you sift through all of that then you finally get to Kawhi Leonard, a Finals MVP and defensive player of the year (just don’t tell Mike Ryan of the Dan Lebatard show that) who in his own right has shown a fantastic ascendency in the league. Many are questioning whether he is worth a max deal of 5yrs/$92m but the truth is that someone is going to give it to him, especially considering the new TV deal will affect the salary cap past 2016.

The Spurs remain in the driver’s seat to re-sign Leonard, but they also need to consider the long list of role players that are also free-agents.

Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Aron Baynes and Cory Joseph have all been significant contributors for San Anontio over the past few years. It becomes a little problematic when their focus will likely been towards Duncan, Ginobili and Leonard.

Danny Green is the name who will likely command a sizeable contract. Ken Berger of CBS Sports says Green will garner anywhere between $10-$12m on the open market.

This almost certainly puts the Pelicans out of the race, but also the Spurs.

It’s this sort of information that makes it increasingly likely that San Antonio will be competing with New Orleans for MLE type players. After they sort their own business they won’t have much room left before they go over the luxury tax (they would be $3m over if you consider all their cap holds).

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierrefull pierrefull pierre

Dallas Mavericks

  • Salary Cap Figure: $32.54m
  • Cap Holds: $55.54m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$20.99m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$6.49
  • Free Agents: Tyson Chandler (UFA), Rajon Rondo (UFA), Greg Smith (UFA), Charlie Villanueva (UFA), Richard Jefferson (UFA), Jose Barea (UFA), Amar’e Stoudamire (UFA), Bernard James (RFA)

Another team that is at somewhat of a cross roads the Dallas Mavericks have some critical decisions to make. Even just recently with Monta Ellis opting out, the Mavs have a lot to take care of if they want to remain in playoff contention.

For Dallas they will almost certainly be big players in the free-agent market, especially on a larger scale.

When not considering Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo’s cap-holds the Mavericks have around $28m in cap space. If they were to renounce all their free agent bird rights then they’d have around $31m.

Dallas almost always go over the cap so don’t be surprised if they once again are poaching players around the $4-6m range. We know they will likely be players for LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Monroe, but it’s the per-year MLE players that are more than likely to consider the Mavericks.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierrefull pierre

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Salary Cap Figure: $77.98m
  • Cap Holds: $10.20m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$21.07m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$6.57m
  • Free Agents: Enes Kanter (RFA), Kyle Singler (RFA)

I understand that the Thunder were not a playoff team last season, however I felt it important to discuss their current situation as it relates to the Pelicans well.

Currently Oklahoma City sit $11m over the salary cap. They have two restricted free agents they need to sign. It’s highly likely that if they re-sign Kanter that they will only do so as long as his deal doesn’t push them over the luxury tax. This will inevitably mean they’re right up against the $81.6m luxury tax limit and will have no room to sign any other free agents.

Their situation and roster turnover will be small, especially when it comes to the big names.

While their flexibility is certainly less than that of New Orleans, it does highlight a similarity for the likelihood of a big name free-agent signing there. Unless some new trades occur, OKC is set with pretty much the same roster – for them, hopefully a healthier one.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierre

Once NBA free-agency starts it is highly likely that only the big names get discussed first. I would be curious to see if Demps starts working the phones on some of his MLE targets or if he tries to reach out to Asik, Cole or Ajinca.

What must be understood is that the mid-level guys usually wait for the market to set itself before choosing a destination. With the NBA salary cap likely to jump next year it wouldn’t be suprising for many players to be asking for “max-contracts” when that might be their market value with the new salary cap.

The mid-level exception will be the Pelicans card to play should a contributor be out there. However as outlined above there will be a number of contenders all looking to do the same thing – bring in talent to compete for a championship.

WC playoff teams salary cap situations v2


Sources used: Basketball Insiders,,


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