The Clippers and cap space - reality or just a myth?

After all the excitement that LotteryGate has created it might be time to look forward a little.  Over the past couple of days the Clippers FO has been in full CYA mode.  And the main point Olshey is selling is the $8.5Mil in additional cap space they have.  Where is this amount coming from?  Let's investigate:

 All the salary numbers I am using come from ShamSports.

Lets say that the Clippers don't make any trades before July 1st.  In that case here is how their cap situation would look.  According to SS the Clippers have $35.6Mil in salary for next year.  It also indicates Mo Williams has an ETO for next year.  We know that he dropped his termination option in the trade (not sure why SS has updated this yet), so we can add his $8.5Mil.  Total - $44.1Mil. Also listed is Brian Cook with his $1.26Mil player option.  Reasonable to assume he will take that option.  Add that in and its $45.36Mil. The final amount we have to add is Deandre Jordan's Qualifying offer.  The Clippers have to make an offer for this amount to ensure the have restricted rights to DJ. This amount will count against the Clips cap until either DJ takes an offer from another team or the Clippers agree to a new deal with him.  Then that offer or new contract becomes the amount against the cap.  Adding DJ's QO brings the Clips cap amount to :  $46.45Mil

What would it have been without the Baron trade?  Baron is scheduled to make $13.9Mil next year.  A difference of $5.4Mil between him a Mo Will.  But the Clippers would have also had a first round pick.  Top 10 picks salary go from about $5Mil to $2.5Mil depending on the pick. If we go with the "Clippers would have finished with a different record if they didn't make the trade" theory and give them the 7th pick.  The rookie's salary probably would have been around $3Mil.  Add the additional cost of Baron's salary plus the draft pick and you get a cap total of :  $54.85Mil      The difference is $8.4Mil.   BINGO!!  Just what Olshey has been selling.  This is where I assume he is getting the number from.

So if everything remained the same the Salary Cap would be around $58Mil. With the trade the Clippers have about $12Mil to work with.  Easily enough to bring in a couple of decent players to upgrade the roster.  Without the trade the Clips would be closer to around $3Mil in cap space.  Not much to do anything.  Therefore, the roster as currently constructed plus a draft pick would be where the Clippers roster would stand.  And that is what Olshey is looking it.  The extra cap space from Baron's salary plus not having to pay another under 23 year old player allows the Clippers flexibility to add pieces to the team elsewhere.

Of course there's one huge, gigantic hole in this plan.  NOTHING is going to be the same.  The NBA is heading to a lockout and drastic changes to the salary cap.  The owners have already proposed a hard cap that is significantly lower the current cap.  Now I believe this is just posturing in the very early stages of a negotiation.  I don't expect there to be a hard cap as the owners will give a little as the players give a little.  But it is very, very unlikely the salary cap is at $58Mil.  I can see it anywhere from $50 to $53Mil.  So how would that affect the Clippers cap room?

Let's put it at $53Mil.  Without the Baron trade the Clippers are already over the cap.  Nothing to add.  The new Clippers, on the other hand, have suddenly lost $5Mil in space and are now down to about $6.5Mil-$7Mil. Not a whole lot to work with.  Can you convince AK47, Prince, or Battier to play here for that amount.  Seems possible they would take a lower offer from a team in a better place to contend.  One other thing to consider is the MLE.  Now it may be eliminated in the new CBA but if not, how would it work?  Currently the MLE is awarded to teams who are over the cap at the time the salary cap is set.  In my scenario the Baron Clippers would have the MLE.  So essentially they would have about the same amount of money as the Mo Clippers to add a Free Agent.  And BANG! There goes Olshey's cap space!!

Of course what else we have to consider is trades.  Olshey has indicated he is going to be very active in trying to make a move to acquire players via trades even before the lockout.  The Clippers have some decent pieces to offer (Kaman, Minny pick, Bledsoe, Aminu, around $5Mil in cap room to take on some salary)  Of course all these pieces would have been available without the trade and the Clips would have also had this year's pick (whatever it may have been) to use.  The trade did probably give them $1Mil or so in extra cap room. It appears that when it comes to trades the Baron deal really didn't give the Clippers much more to work with. The one argument I would note that helps the Clippers feel comfortable making a trade comes back to Baron's contract.  Would DTS sign off on bringing in a big contract if Baron was already on the team.  For example, would the Clippers use some package of Kaman to make a deal for Andre Iguodala.  Does DTS approve this with Iggy set to make $44Mil over the next 3 years and Baron on the books for $28.5Mil for the next 2? That's alot of money wrapped up in two players most teams would consider "over-paid"  I'm guessing no he doesn't.  Baron's contract probably forces Olshey to go bargain shopping again.  Now this is probably just nit-picking but when it comes to DTS and spending money, nit-picking is the norm.

In the end this is all just pure speculation on my part.  I have absolutely no clue what the new CBA will hold.  In fact I would put the probability of my scenario being right at about 2.8%  ;-)   Of course the Clippers really have no idea either so trying to sell us on future cap space just doesn't work.  Does that mean we're heading for another offseason failure.  No, I'm not ready to admit that.  But I don't have my hopes up.  Olshey is going to have to shock me to get something done.  Let's see what he's got.

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