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NBA Free Agency 2012 Primer: Don't Expect Wizards To Be Too Active

The 2012 NBA free agency period begins on Sunday, with teams being able to negotiate contracts starting at 12:01 a.m. They cannot sign any contracts officially until 10 days later, but for all intents and purposes, free agency begins then. Will the Washington Wizards be especially active?

All signs point to no, given their salary situation and their roster spots. The trades for Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza will likely act as the Wizards' de facto free agency, which is how they've painted them anyway. The biggest date of free agency for the Wizards will likely be July 11, because that's the first of seven days they'll have the chance to use the amnesty clause on Andray Blatche. Beyond that, I wouldn't expect much.

More on why below the jump.

First, here's the Wizards' salary situation for next year, via HoopsHype.
  1. Emeka Okafor: $13.5 million
  2. Nene: $13 million
  3. Trevor Ariza: $7.3 million
  4. Andray Blatche: $7.2 million
  5. John Wall: $5.9 million
  6. Bradley Beal: $4.1 million
  7. Jan Vesely: $3.3 million
  8. Kevin Seraphin: $1.8 million
  9. Chris Singleton: $1.6 million
  10. Trevor Booker: $1.4 million
  11. Jordan Crawford: $1.2 million
  12. Shelvin Mack: $762,000

TOTAL: $61.06 million

The Wizards are currently comfortably under the luxury tax, and using the amnesty clause on Blatche would actually get them all the way down to $53.9 million in committed salary. That means they would have the use of the mid-level exception (starting at $5 million for up to four years).

However, I wouldn't be surprised if the Wizards don't use it. For one, the Wizards only have space for two or three additional players, and that's if Blatche is let go. NBA teams are allowed to carry up to 15 players on their roster, but most teams leave a spot open in case of injuries or if they need to make a trade where they take in more players than they give up. For another, the Wizards have several of their own free agents they might keep, including Roger Mason, Maurice Evans, Cartier Martin and James Singleton. The first two will be assistant coaches on their summer league team, while the last two were key cogs in their late-season success.

There's another reason too, and it has to do with down the road. As I discussed in this article, the penalties for going over the luxury tax increase dramatically starting in 2013-14. As of right now, assuming every rookie-contract option is picked up, the Wizards will have $67.5 million committed to 11 players, and that's not including any future draft picks or multi-year deals to existing free agents. The luxury-tax level is $70 million this year, and probably won't be much higher in 2013-14.

The one saving grace: using the amnesty clause on Blatche cuts that number back down to under $60 million and could provide the room to potentially sign one of the mid-level kind of guys we profiled in this series. In that case, the Wizards could have enough room to add a piece this summer on a multi-year deal.

Still, the Wizards need to think about the future when signing any multi-year contracts now. All their recent draft picks are up for new contracts soon, and the Wizards will need to earmark plenty of cap space for 2014-15 and beyond to afford to keep the ones that keep developing.

That, combined with what is already a pretty full roster this year in terms of guaranteed contracts, means you probably shouldn't expect too many fireworks this month.