As you know, the NBA’s salary cap is expected to go up considerably from the 2015-16’s figure of $70 million thanks to the league’s new broadcasting deals. Last April, reports were projecting that the cap would jump to $92 million, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
But on Friday afternoon, we learned that the cap is projected to jump even higher than that. Shams Charania of The Vertical tweeted that the salary cap will jump up to about $94 million.
Vertical Sources: NBA has informed its teams that the projected salary cap will rise to $94M for 2016-'17 season. Higher than expected $92M.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 17, 2016
A jump of $2 million is not a total game-changer. However, the jump allows new maximum level contract deals based on the salary cap to be just a little larger. Also, every NBA team — including the Wizards — has a little more wiggle room to pay free agents this summer.
Charania also reported that the luxury tax threshold will be approximately $113 million and that a "Tier 3" max salary — presumably to players with 10 or more years of experience — would be $30.8 million in the first year.
The Wizards’ 2016-17 salary cap situation
The Wizards are expected to have nearly $62 million* committed into salaries or cap holds for the 2016-17 season, according to Basketball Insiders. A breakdown is below:
|John Wall||$17 million|
|Marcin Gortat||$12 million|
|Otto Porter||$5.9 million|
|Markieff Morris||$7.4 million|
|Kelly Oubre||$2.0 million|
|Martell Webster||$833,000||This is the fully guaranteed portion of Martell Webster's salary that the Wizards have to carry on their books for 2016-17. They will carry the same amount for the next two seasons as well.|
|Cap holds for open roster spots||$3.3 million*||Teams must carry a $544,000 cap hold for each open roster spot under 12 player minimum.|
|Bradley Beal cap hold||$14.2 million||The team must retain this cap hold in order to match any offer Beal signs this summer and go over the cap to retain him.|
|Bradley Beal projected max deal||$22 million||The team will likely wait to sign Beal's deal until all other free agent moves are complete because the Wizards can go over the cap to retain Beal this summer.|
|TOTAL BEFORE SIGNING ANYONE THIS SUMMER||$62.6 million|
*The figure assumes that the Wizards will not exercise their team options on Drew Gooden III ($3,547,500 and Jarell Eddie ($980,431).
Cap space projections based on different scenarios
|REMAINING CAP ROOM BEFORE SIGNING ANYONE||$31.4 million|
|REMAINING CAP ROOM IF WIZ SIGN KD TO MAX DEAL||$5.0 million|
The Good News: The Wizards can offer a max-level deal to Kevin Durant
Based on the figures above, the Wizards will have over $32 million in cap space available to pursue new free agents.
That figure is more than enough for players who will command a $26.4 million salary next season like Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (who many D.C. area locals want), or even the $30.8 million for Cleveland Cavaliers do-it-all forward LeBron James if he opts out of his contract. (He will.)
Another piece of good news is that the Wizards can actively pursue Durant (or James) without worrying too much about Beal’s cap hold. if he signs his sophomore deal with Washington AFTER they land Durant (since we’ll be positive here). The Wizards have Beal’s Bird Rights and can go above the soft cap, but they can’t sign him to a maximum level deal (about $22 million) until the first major signing happens.
The Bad News: Bradley Beal can force the Wizards’ hand early
If everything plays out right for the KD2DC crowd, the Wizards will first go after Durant, then sign Beal to the max-level deal he wants. However, they also have to trust Beal that he will wait out on what happens with Durant.
But every NBA team has a soft salary cap of $94 million, and most teams have enough space to go after at least one or even two "max-level" free agents this summer. Multiple teams will line up to sign him to an offer sheet — probably for more than $14.2 million — and hope that the Wizards will be willing to let Beal go for A CHANCE at Durant.
If Beal does sign an offer sheet with another team after the free agent moratorium ends in mid-July, the Wizards will have only three days to match it or lose him, regardless of what happens on the Durant front. Since the Wizards intend to keep Beal long term as far as we know, that is a significant risk to take when it comes to the timing of signing unrestricted free agents like Durant. You know he will have no shortage of teams lining up for him to give them a look.
It is also very unlikely that Durant will simply wait for Beal and presumably take less money, even with the soft salary cap level moving up like it is. After all, the Thunder just came off of a tough Western Conference Finals against the Warriors.
(* * *)
Stay tuned as the salary cap and free agency takes shape. It’s going to be a wild ride!