The Winter is Coming: 2018 NBA Free Agency
After the high spendings of 2016 and 2017, the NBA’s salary cap will stabilize and will grow less than a 3% rate in the next season, getting to 102 million dollars. Few teams are expected to have cap space for signing top Free Agents, but there’re still a number of players looking for their paydays, like Isaiah Thomas has been showing to us.
In order to understand better the situation of next year free agency, I’m going to analyze every team cap situation and plans, to find the new “matches” in the 2018 Free Agency class.
Some teams are in process of rebuilding, dealing it’s playing time to young players in order to develop them and to suck to get better draft position.
The Bulls are in rebuild mode, but before that they thought it was a good idea to trade it’s most reliable 3 point shooter and potential 3 and D guy in McDermott for yet another point guard with an Ok floor but a really no that high ceiling.
Instead of 39.5% career 3 point shooter Doug McDermott, they have 3 Ok point guards in Jerian Grant (no.19 in 2015 Draft), Payne (no.14 in 2015) and Kris Dunn (no.5). None of them will be a top 15 point guard in the league, and they are also not great 3 point shooters.
Besides of that, Zach LaVine is not coming back anytime soon from his torn ACL, so the Bulls are up to competing with the Brooklyn Nets for the worst team in the NBA, in order to receive a premium 2018 draft pick, and probably will keep their plans in 2018–19.
Hawks had a great 2017 offseason, by embracing the process. Dennis Schroeder, Taurean Prince, DeAndre Bembry and John Collins highlights the future of the franchise, alongside whatever they get with their multiple draft picks in the future.
For the 2nd time in the decade, the Nets will have their own first round in 2019, what seems a great chance to get the talent around their current young core in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert and D’Angelo Russell. They have 0 incentives for winning right now, and in consequence, zero interest in win now free agents.
Finally Vivac started to take wise decisions, Skal right now looks like a steal at #28 and the suns trade at 2016 draft seems better than ever. De’Aaron Fox, Skal, Buddy Buckets, Justin Jackson, Giles and even Papagiannis seems to be a good place to start the developing of a new team to be a future contender.
The Kings also don’t have the clearer path to max, they have already commited $87 million in active roster cap and dead cash, and there seems to be no reasons to try to free up space when you don’t have what’s necessary to win now and neither your organization is exactly a Free Agent destination.
Even though they have no reason to lose since it’s 2019 pick belongs to the Sixers/Celtics, they also don’t have the necessary pieces to do it, and the most likely plan here is to just develop your young core.
Teams with no cap space
These teams would have a real hard time freeing up to half of the 30% max, or about $15.1 million.
Lillard, McCollum, Turner, Crabbe and Harkless occupy 80% of it’s cap space and none stand higher than 6'7". No other quintet in the NBA can be acknowledged with this feat. The closer to that is 75% in the Warriors with Curry, Thompson, Green, Livingston and Iguodala
Golden State Warriors
That’s All folks
Besides Mahimi’s 15 millions, there are max salaries being handled to Wall, Beal and now Otto Porter Jr.
OKC it’s either rebuilding after losing both George and Westbrook, or they are keeping at least one of them and will continue to grind through the NBA seasons. They’ve also way too much money commited at the center position and wish to sign Russell at the 5 year supermax.
Pistons are in a really bad position. Drummond + Jackson + Harris together cost them almost $60 millions and they are expected to keep Bradley after the Celtics trade, which could cost them. They also overpaid a lot of bench players and there’s almost $6 million in dead space because of Josh Smith insane contract.
The Wolves will have to resign bothKAT (who could be a candidate for the Rose Rule) and Butler, what could easily be a $40 million dollar raise in their salaries, and already having to pay Wiggins near max money in 2018, it seems unlikely for them to search for another great player via free agency.
Let’s say the Rockets pull it off the Melo’s trade and as predicted CP3 does sign the 5 year max deal next year. This would imply in 91.7% of 2017–18 cap space being commited to 3 players. Even with Morey’s creativity, it seems impossible to acquire another “US National Team member” in the free agency.
77.33% of it’s cap space being spent in 2 players whose better situation is as a primary ball handler. Oh yeah, Chris Paul about to be 38.
$87 million dollars in Lowry, DeRozan, JV and Ibaka. There are no Wings in the North.
They probably won’t get rid off Lucas Bebe, so it seems near impossible for the Raps to open up cap space to land a high level free agent.
Besides having all of it’s cap space occupied in active roster cap, they also have to prepare for paying Kemba max money in 2019. It could possible to add pieces through sing and trades though.
The C’s next move to contention (if it happens) will probably be a trade. Right now they have 2 max players, Isaiah and Marcus Smart cap hold. Having top picks comes at a cost, they do impact your cap situation and they could have 4 top 5 picks in they Rosters in 2018 free agency.
The Grizzlies are in a bad situation after going all in Chandler Parsons insane contract, a mistake that probably will keep them from contending for top free agents. Unless they start a rebuild trading Gasol and Conley, they will not cave cap space for signing FA after resigning JaMychael Green on long term deal.
Even if the Miami Heat found a way to get completely rid off Tyler Johnson $18,858,765 contract, they would still be only able to have about $10 million dollar in space to find a free agent.
Either the Cleveland are exploding and rebuilding or they are sesigning Bron. Even if they weren’t signing th, they wouldn’t have cap space, with $94 million dollars being due to their current players.
If they Blow up, they would enter rebuilding mode, and wouldn’t really be interested in signing win now guys.
Los Angeles Clippers
Having 68% of it’s cap space comitted to three 6'10"+ players, Austin Rivers is not opting out of it’s generous contract and probably neither are Teodosic and Wesley Johnson. The special thing here is that if DeAndre opts out of it’s 25 million dollar contract, the Clippers would have a way to clear max space. Right now, it seens unlikely.
I just can’t see Wesley Matthews opting out of it’s 18.6 million dollars contract. I know that he will be looking for more guaranteed money, but i will list some reasons to him not to do it.
- Fear the FA market
- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
- I can see him signing either a 4 year 48 million dollar in 2018 or a 3 year 33 million next year, and it favors him opting in.
- He’s been improving every year under Carlisle.
With that in consideration, the Mavs are not in the consideration to have full max space. They will have $67,981,733 in their guaranteed players plus the ammount of money they will pay to Nerlens Noel, plus the cap holds of Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell and a probably high draft pick and 2019. I expect that to sum up to $90 million dollars plus. That would put them in a difficult situation, but it’s workable if they can move Dwight Powell Contract’s.
Bucks probably are not planning to pay luxury taxes, but if they would be, they could try free up some space if they find a way to trade Mirza Teletovic 1 year $10 million contract alongside of a younger player like Rashad Vaughn, and if they also find a way to trade Delly’s contract altogether receiving no contracts back (Very unlikely) they could free up to 25 million dollars to spend in a key free agent to big alongside Giannis. But I can only see this happening if LeBron goes to West and the Bucks go All-in.
The Nuggets are in a awkward position. They could open up space without much trouble, they have to assets to do it and contracts that are not great, but still ok, like Darrell Arthur’s. The problem is that even if they free up 20 million dollars in cap space, they would still have to pay Restricted FAs Jokic (Probably the max) and Gary Harris (Tim Hardway’s like contract), what would send them deep into Luxury Tax, being far away from contention, what doesn’t seem feasible.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have 93 million dollars comitted to it’s 2018–19 roster, not counting DMC cap hold. Resigning Cousins will probably be their priority, but if they strike out, they maybe could open about some space.
The first step would be renouncing their free agents, then waiving Ajinça 1 year contract and stretching it. E’Twaun Moore contract is going to look better in 2018 and could probably be tradeable for a pair of 2nd rounders. Trading Asik last year of full guaranteed contract alongside a younger player for a cheaper contract could make the trick to open up near max money, or about $25 millions. They could lose in the process Pondexter though.
The Jazz are in a quite complicated situation. They probably won’t resign Iso Joe and Diaw but they still have 3 key free agents: Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum.
Hould possesses a small cap hold ($7,160,593) and he could be signed late in the free agency to make room for other free agents. Favors ($18,000,000) and Exum ($14,977,156) have cap holds that will probably be bigger than theirs actual 2018–19 salary, so it’s a key to them to solve both of their situations before going on to no their team free agents.
Counting only Active roster spots, Hood cap hold and roster completing cap holds (sums up to almost $79 million) they will have $23 million dolars of cap space to both sign Favors and Exum & look for other agents in the market. It seems reasonable to believe they will only have cap space to sign free agents if they get a way to put Alec Burks off of their sheet (maybe some team believes it can mantain Burks healthy).
Giving up on the 2 of them would also be an option.
Teams that have cap space and are willing to spend it
New York Knicks
I’m counting Carmelo’s salary of the books in this instant. With that in mind, they would open 27 million dollars of cap space. The Knicks could open a Max slot if they trade Lance Thomas contract away for a smaller one, taking in consideration that it’s second year has only 1 million guaranteed. Maybe to a contract with more years and more guaranteed money, but a less per year.
With that in mind, the Knicks will probably be looking for Wings in the marker, or even a point guard if Frank Nkitilina doesn’t fit well (Although I do believe he will develop well).
I have no idea what’s Magic Plan, but they are always spending in free agents and that’s why they are here. They technically don’t have cap space, but there’s a way to get there. The high cap holds of Aaron Gordon and Payton are a problem here, they summ up to 26.5$ million, which with it’s active roster cap would get them to $107 million dollar and no Cap Space.
But there’s a way, Shelvin mack contract is not guaranteed and Hezonja is a player option. But that would only get them about $6 million in cap space, that would probably disappear with a high draft pick in 2018 draft. Ross($10,500,000) and Vucevic ($12,750,000)1 year deals may appeal to some contender and it could be a way to free up enough space to sign a relevant contender.
Their main need is talent, and the only limitation is Bigs, especially the PF position.
It’s actually king of impressive how easy it’s to the 76ers to free 40 million dollars in cap space. They only have $40 mi in active roster cap space and 20 million of real necessary cap holds in Embiid and RoCo.
They could creat a little bit more by just not exercising it’s team option over TJ McConnel or finding a suitor for Bayless (or even waiving and stretching him) if there’s the right fit in the free agency market.
Their needs are Wings, and a player who can lock up the other team’s guards, like Avery Bradley who has been targeted in trade talks.
The Suns doesn’t have an easy way for the max cap, but they could get it getting rid off 1 or their 3 final year contracts: Tyson Chandler ( ), Jared Dudley ( ) and the best of them Eric Bledsoe ($15mi). Waiving and strething both Dudley and Chandler could open them $20 million more, what would sum up to their already $12 million opening to make room for a max. Trading either Bledsoe or Knight (What could be possibile depending how he performs this season) it’s another way to do it. They still will have a probably considerable cap hold due to a high draft pick that they are likely to earn in 2018 Draft.
Their Main Needs is both talent and defensive presence. A young defensive big or a good defending wing/combo guard could make the cut. They definitely need stars.
San Antonio Spurs
Patience pays off. The Spurs will have a clear path for the max cap slot if LMA does in fact opts out of his deal. They will actually have about 37 millions dollars in cap space to resign Tony Parker and to look for an Max kind of guy. This number will go a little but lower when Pau Gasol signs his new contract, but it probably won’t impact much Spurs chance at the max.
The plan really depends also of Rudy Gay and Danny Green, because they do have a player option next year, and an act for them could change the Spurs scenario.
If they do in fact get the max cap slot, they you probably be searching a Big, but they could also make a run for a point guard if Mills can’t keep up with it’s new starter Role.
The Pacers reportedly won’t tank because they feel that like small-market team they can’t tank. Well, the only thing the Pacers need to have full max space is Thaddeus Young opting out of his deal ($13,764,045) and go look for the last fat contract of his life, what seems reasonable.
With that, their cap situation would be of $70.5 million, keeping Glen Robinson III cap hold. They could free a little bit more of space getting rid off Lance Stephenson and Joseph Young if they needed. They will probably be targetting any sort of talent they can find, except at the Center position where Myles Turner stands absolute.
Los Angeles Lakers
Everyone knows that the Lakers have the cap space to fit in 2 max players. But it isn’t as easy as many of you think it is. Waiving and streching Deng’s contract for 5 years will fave a future cost, but it would free up a little bit over $10 million dollars for the Lakers to spend. Rennouncing Randle’s rights would get them at $43 million dollar of commited money, giving them $59 million dollars of cap space. They can still opt out of Larry Nance Jr. and try to trade (it won’t be easy as some think) Jordan Clarkson’s contract, to open up $70 million dollar cap space in an utopian situation.
They are targetting with that kind of money Paul George and a elite 2 guard or elite Big. They could also not renounce Randle and still sign a top option big or 2 guard. I would probably go for the guard and try to trade for a big, since there are so many in the market right now.
After suposing the most likely scenarios, I would expect that next year the 30 teams in the League will have together $410 million dollar of cap space to sign Free Agents that are not on your cap hold as bird free agents.
That number could go up as movements happens, but it will probably end up at about $500 million dollars.
For the purpose of understading how this money will be spent I divided the teams into 3 colums:
A: The teams that are likely to tank and only sign veterans to instruct their young core or to sign young restricted free agents
B: The teams that are likely to add key pieces through sign and trades, creative moves, small signings and signing exceptions
C: This teams are likely to find ways to open cap space and reach for the top Free Agents in the class.
From here we’re going to look at what’s ou there in this Free Agency class, and how could they fit in the league’s future.
The Winter is Coming to the NBA, team’s money are tight and we’ll see in the next article who are the players that can still receive big paydays, and if the King in the Fourth Isaiah Thomas is one of them.