Explainer: NBA teams with the most cap space this offseason

Explainer: NBA teams with the most cap space this offseason
Fri 5th April 2019

Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Elton Brand announced today that the team has signed Greg Monroe. 

Monroe has appeared in 40 games this season (two starts) with Toronto and Boston, averaging 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game. 

Currently in his ninth NBA season, Monroe has seen action in 629 career games (417 starts) with Detroit, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Boston and Toronto. He holds lifetime averages of 13.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 27.7 minutes per game. A career .513 shooter from the field, Monroe has shot at least .500 in five of his nine NBA seasons, including a career-high .565 in 2017-18. He is one of 25 active players with 200-or-more double-doubles.

Originally selected by Detroit with the No. 7 overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, Monroe played two collegiate seasons at Georgetown. He led the 2009-10 Hoyas to a 23-11 record and No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while averaging 16.1 points and a team-best 9.6 rebounds per game.

Monroe will wear No. 55 for the 76ers.

As the 2018/19 NBA season rises towards its (seemingly) inevitable Warriors-Bucks crescendo in June, the defeated challengers will begin looking wistfully to the summer, casting their eyes towards the mythical land of “free agency”.

But what really is this magical world? What happens when Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler become freely purchasable commodities on the open market in July 2019? Has “loyalty” become a foreign concept? Why would any basketballer in their right mind want to go to the New York Knicks? 

Let’s find out, as we take a trip down the free agency rabbit-hole in this weekly series of articles.

Last week we set out in simple terms how to figure out which teams will have Monty Burns levels of cash to throw around in the 2018-19 offseason. 

Guaranteed money, dead cap and cap holds may be interesting to some people, but for the majority of NBA fans it just sounds like white noise. 

Luckily, here at Sportstips.com, we’re pretty good at crunching numbers. 

With all the boring maths out the way, it’s time to highlight which teams are likely to have the most cap space coming in to the summer, and who they’ll be looking to use it on.

1. New York Knicks

Potential space up to $74.6 million

Duh. You knew this was going to be the number 1. The level of obsession with the Knicks’ cap situation is reaching borderline annoying in the NBA media, and the reason for that (as we explained last week) is that James Dolan and the front office in New York could potentially be able to free up nearly $75 million in cap space over summer.

That ridiculous amount of room is mostly thanks to an NBA-shaping trade which sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, a move which now gives the Knicks a bunch of contracts with supreme flexibility. For example, they’ll be able to free up over $30 million in space simply by renouncing rights to DeAndre Jordan and Emmanuel Mudiay.

$75 million is more than enough to squeeze in two max contracts + some extras, and with Dennis Smith Jr, Frank Ntikilina, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson effectively their only guaranteed contracts, the Knicks are in a great position for the future. Imagine if they didn’t still have $6 million of Joakim Noah’s putrid contract on the books

The question is, what will they do with all this money? The smart bet seems to be picking up one of Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker + Kevin Durant in free-agency, but it’s also been hinted that the Knicks might be rising up the ranks in the Anthony Davis trade sweepstakes. Although, it’s hard to see them being able to cobble together any form of trade package which would be close to acceptable for the Pelicans.

With this much money, you’d really hope the Knicks are able to attract at least a couple of big fish. Otherwise, that Porzingis trade looks like an absolute disaster.

2. Los Angeles Clippers 

Potential space up to$59.6 million

Uh. What? The team shaping as a genuine contender in the West in 2018-19 could also have the second-most cap space in the league in the summer? 

Yep. What’s happening in LA with the Clippers is nothing short of remarkable. Currently they have just 6 contracts with fully guaranteed money for next year:

Danilo Gallinari – $22,615,559

Lou Williams – $8,000,000

Montrezl Harrell – $6,000,000

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – $3,952,920

Jerome Robinson – $3,567,720

Landry Shamet – $1,995,120

Those are some great looking contracts, as even Danilo Gallinari is starting to look like he might be worth that much money.

By renouncing cap holds to some uninspiring players with expiring contracts like Wilson Chandler, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple and Luc Mbah Mboute, the Clippers can easily free up over $51 million in a flash. Patrick Beverley could cost close to $10 million next year, so it’s possible his rights will also be renounced, but his play this year has arguably shown he’s more than worth that money.

Kawhi Leonard has long been rumoured to be the primary target in LA, but with this much potential space, and players with guaranteed contracts who have already proven their worth, the Clippers might be on their way to becoming legitimate contenders.

3. Brooklyn Nets

Potential space up to $54.7 million

Brooklyn are another shock potential player in the 2019 free-agency period. After a disastrous few years of front-office mismanagement, the Nets are finally back to a position where they can be a genuine NBA contender.

This turn-around is particularly remarkable given the Nets look like they may make a post-season run as early as this year.

They have a bunch of fantastic looking guaranteed contracts for next year:

Spencer Dinwiddie – $10,605,084

Joe Harris $7,666,667

Caris LeVert – $2,625,718

Jarrett Allen – $2,376,840

Dzanan Musa – $1,911,600

Rodions Kurucs – $1,699,236

Unfortunately for Brooklyn, Allen Crabbe has a $18,500,000 player option for next year. For obvious reasons (given he’s played just 43 games this year and averaged 9.6 points, 1 assist and 3 rebounds before going in for season-ending knee surgery today) we’re guessing Crabbe will take the Nets up on their very kind offer.

It’s very likely that Brooklyn renounce their Bird rights to Demarre Carroll, which will free up $23,100,000. The big question is what they do with D’Angelo Russell, who comes out of contract at the end of this year. Russell will be a restricted free agent. The max the Nets can offer him would be $158 million over five years, which would be an enormous over-pay. The smart thing for the Nets to do would be to wait and see if a team offers Russell something like $85 million over four years, which they could then match. That would be a long-term bargain.

Crabbe’s contract is an annoyance, and losing uncontracted guys like Carroll, Jared Dudley, Ed Davis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would be a blow to the team’s depth, but $54.7 million gives the Nets a shedload of flexibility. They’re in a great position.

4. Dallas Mavericks 

Potential space up to $52.1 million

The future is bright in Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis, Luka Doncic and over $50 million to work with over the offseason is an enticing prospect.

While the Porzingis trade worked out okay for the Knicks, it was also highly beneficial to the Mavericks. Along with the obvious benefit (Porzingis) it also enabled them to get rid of DeAndre Jordan’s horrific $22,897,200 contract, and the $18,622,513 owed to Wesley Matthews.

Dallas have just 7 players guaranteed money for next year:

Tim Hardaway Jr – $18,150,000 (+$1,875,127 trade kicker)

Courtney Lee – $12,759,670

Luka Doncic – $7,683,360

Justin Jackson – $3,280,920

Jalen Brunson – $1,416,852

Ryan Broekhoff’s $1,416,852 contract is non-guaranteed, and Dwight Powell has a $10,259,375 player option which, given how good he’s been to close out this year (averaging 13.7 points, 7 rebounds and a block in 29 minutes per game over his last 10), there’s a fair chance he’ll turn that down.

Tim Hardaway’s contract stinks, but that was part of the payoff for getting Porzingis. As was Courtney Lee’s $12 million expiring contract, which thankfully will be gone at the end of this year.

That means Dallas has just $43.3 million on their books in guaranteed money. Losing Dirk Nowitzki and JJ Barea (which seems likely) would free up $16.5 million in cap holds, and along with renouncing rights to mediocre guys like Trey Burke and Salah Mejri, Dallas will likely have over $50 million to spend.

It’s already been made clear that Dallas will do whatever it takes to keep restricted free-agent Kristaps Porzingis. That could cost them up to $27,250,000 next year if Porzingis signs a max deal. At this point though it’s unclear whether Porzingis will sign a qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2020. This would be a big bet on himself to make. We’re betting he’ll re-sign long term with Dallas, which means they’ll have about $25 million to spend on a third star to put alongside Porzingis and Doncic.

That is exciting.

5. Atlanta Hawks 

Potential space up to $50.6 million

Out of all our top 5, Atlanta are probably the most intriguing, but 2019 just might not quite be their year for free-agency. 

The Hawks have a mix of guaranteed contracts on their books for next year:

Miles Plumlee – $12,500,000

Trae Young – $6,273,000

Alex Len – $4,160,000

Taurean Prince – $3,481,986

John Collins – $2,686,560

Kevin Huerter – $2,636,280

DeAndre’ Bembry – $2,603,982

Omari Spellman – $1,897,800

Yikes. That Plumlee one sucks. Even worse for the Hawks is that Kent Bazemore has a $19,269,662 player option for next year, which it’s a pretty good bet he’ll be exercising, given he’s averaging just 11.7 points and 4 rebounds this season.

Even with those two contracts, the Hawks still have over $50 million in room going in to the summer. It might be smarter for them to sign some veterans to one-year deals and save it for 2020-21, though. 

At that point Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter will still be on rookie deals, and while they’ll have to fork out to hold on to Taurean Prince, there should be plenty of cash for the Hawks to be able to offer two max deals in the summer of 2020.

The Hawks are regenerating, but they’re not there just yet. Give them another year.

Next week

We really can’t wait for the NBA offseason.

Next week, we’re going to take a look at the absolute worst contracts in the NBA.

Which guys are being paid for sitting on the bench and doing sweet FA? We’ll find out!

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