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Keeping Mike Scott beyond this season presents challenges for the Wizards

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards
OCTOBER 18: Mike Scott #30 of the Washington Wizards looks to pass around Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers at Capital One Arena on October 18, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Mike Scott signing was considered one of Washington’s more unappealing signings of the off-season; the yellow teeth of the Wizards’ summer. He was signed to a minimum contract coming off of what was far and away his worst season. He only played 18 games in the entire 2016-17 campaign and had easily the least productive season of his career. However, this season he has been great for Washington.

He has already played in 27 games and recently started in the Wizards win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Scott had been identified as a one-dimensional stretch big in his past years in Atlanta, but this year he has taken his game to new heights. He is shooting 42.4 percent from three point range and a blistering 64.2 percent inside the arc, both career highs.

Washington is thrilled to have a productive player coming off the bench this season. His net rating is all the way up to +3.4, good for third on the team behind only Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Given how much Washington’s bench has struggled in years past, having a player who is a net positive is a huge benefit. He will be a crucial piece for the stretch run of the season, but he’s on an expiring deal.

Scott is 29 years old, but he’s a young 29. He’s only in his sixth NBA season, and he’s played less than 5000 minutes in his career so far, suggesting he still has some miles on him going forward. Washington would be happy to have a guy like Scott for his prime. Can the capped out Wizards keep him?

The short answer is: yes! They absolutely can, and will have the resources to do so. The longer answer is: yes they can, but the resources required to keep Scott may actually make it harder for the team to keep him and improve.

Scott is currently on a one-year minimum contract. Given how he has played so far this year, that is a steal of a deal, as the Wizards are getting much more than minimum-level production out of him. Assuming he continues his current level of productivity, he will be able to fetch a more lucrative deal next summer.

His cap hold next off-season will be the minimum, thanks to his contract his season. To be exact, his cap hold will be $1,499,698, the minimum salary for a player with at least two years of service. The Wizards can keep that cap hold on their books if they would like to bring back Scott for the minimum or more.

Because the Wizards already have over $100 million in guaranteed contracts next season, signing players is essentially impossible outside of using Bird Rights on their own players, their taxpayer mid-level exception (TPMLE), the bi-annual exception (BAE), and the veteran’s minimum.

If they keep his cap hold, Scott would become a Non-Bird free agent. This mean he could be signed with the “Non-Bird exception” which would allow the Wizards to exceed the cap to sign Scott for “a salary starting at up to 120 percent of his salary in the previous season, 120 percent of the minimum salary, or the amount needed to tender a qualifying offer (if the player is a restricted free agent, whichever is greater.” per the CBA FAQ.

To understand the situation, we should describe these three options more clearly. First of all, Scott is not a restricted free agent, so the third choice is not applicable to this setting. Let’s focus on the first two alternatives; 120 percent of his salary the previous season OR 120 percent of the minimum salary.

Mike Scott will have six years of service under his belt at seasons end. The minimum salary for a player of that mold is $1,877,295. 120 percent of that number yields $2,252,754. This season, Scott makes $1,709,528. 120 percent of that number is $2,051,445.6. The greater of the two options for Scott is 120 percent of his minimum salary for next season, meaning he can make anywhere from $1,877,295 to $2,252,754 next season if he is signed using Non-Bird rights next season.

If the Wizards re-sign him, they can offer up to four years with annual raises of up to five percent. On a Non-Bird deal, the most the Wizards can offer is a four year, $9,686,842 deal.

However, that all assumes Scott is willing to take that contract. If he continues to play at the level he is now, he (and I) will presume that he could get more money than that on the open market. That is where this gets dicey and challenging for Washington.

If Scott wants a salary starting at more than the $2.2 million he could get with his Non-Bird rights, he will ask for either the BAE or the TPMLE.

The BAE would allow Scott to sign a one or two year deal starting at $3,353,000. This deal could be no longer than two years, so the maximum Scott could receive from this deal is two years, $6,873,650.

It is worth noting that using this exception would “hard cap” the Wizards spending at roughly $129 million in total team salary, which they would be very close to at the start of the off-season, and even closer after signing Scott. If you’ll recall, this is why the Wizards opted to use TPMLE designation on Jodie Meeks’ deal last summer, even though it was worth the equivalent of the BAE.

If Scott wants more than that amount, the TPMLE is the Wizards only option remaining, assuming they still want to keep him at this price. The TPMLE is only available for teams over tax to add players without hardcapping themselves. It can be used to sign a player to a contract up to three years in length with up to 5 percent raises. It is estimated that the TPMLE will start at a value close to $5,292,000 in 2018. This means the maximum deal that Scott could sign using this exception is a three year, $16,669,800 contract.

That last max total is almost certainly too much money for Scott’s services, but it’s important to lay out all of the Wizards’ options with Scott. Because of tax concerns, there is significant reason to believe that the Wizards would not want to bring him back on anything less than a good deal for the team.

Using the BAE is probably the right price for Scott, but using the BAE

  1. Hard caps a team
  2. Prevents the front office from using the BAE the next season.

Putting it short, using the BAE hamstrings your flexibility going forward. Mike Scott, while he is playing great, is not worth crippling your future.

The last thing to monitor is that if Scott comes back on another one or two year deal, the Wizards could possibly try to resign him using early or full Bird Rights in the future. You can expect another post from me about that situation if it arises.

The challenge is finding the right balance of; how much tax are the Wizards willing to pay for Mike Scott’s services on top of whatever deal he signs. He will probably be worth something in the three to four million range next summer, but paying that cost will make it difficult to use what’s left of the TPMLE to add anyone else meaningful.

The situation will be something to monitor going forward, most notably once the buyout market opens up. If Scott continues to play well, you can bet your bottom dollar (pun fully intended) that Washington will try to bring him back. The challenge will be finding the right price that hopefully allows them to both keep one of their pleasant surprises, and add another helpful piece for the future.

*All stats accurate as of December 18th. All cap estimates courtesy of RealGM