I threw out some ideas last night about the Clippers in free agency but I was unusually imprecise due to the hour, some uncharacteristic BD stoke and also a little of grandpa's cough syrup. I played fast and loose with the numbers and consequently I am Ashamed of myself. I am Sorry.
Here's my better attempt at breaking down the Clippers' cap situation in very precise terms as I understand it.
As usual all salary information is taken from the Hoopshype.com salary page. Because they have dropped off old salaries, there is an assist from B-ref's player pages as well.
First off we have the Clipper 5: Knight, Mobley, Thornton, Thomas, Kaman. Poor souls. At least they form a potentially functional NBA team. Total cost: $28.4M
Eric Gordon is already locked into a guaranteed salary since he was a first round pick. Last year's 7th pick (Corey Brewer) made about $2.5M last year so lets call it $2.6M. Total spent in actual players: $31M
Our next cap hold is the Qualifying Offers extended to Fazekas and Williams. A QO must be for 125% of the restricted free agent's former salary. So combined for the two here I'm putting $1M. That's probably an overestimation, but its hard to find numbers on these guys. This is an absolute cap hold since the Clippers have reportedly extended the offers, but they are not yet Clippers since other teams can make a competing offer.
Total spent in players and QO's: $32M
That's 8 players accounted for at a cost of $32M. If we estimate the cap at $59M, the Clippers technically have $27M to play with, but its not that simple. There are two major cap holds against the Clippers right now, as we well know. Corey Maggette is holding up about $10.5M of that money and Elton Brand is over $22M. So that's the end of free agent spending. Hope you enjoyed it. Livingston is still a hold and there are various other holds. Until something happens, the Clippers don't technically have any money to spend.
What are those somethings? The most obvious is to renounce the Bird rights to Corey Maggette. The plus of that is that now he does not count against the cap. The minus is that without special rights, the Clippers are on equal footing with everyone else when bidding for his services. But as we see, even that is not enough to become a free agent player. Something must also happen with EB and others first. So EB must be resolved before any free agents can be chased. Let's say he likes what he sees and agrees to not take a raise this year and stay at about $15M to start his next contract. 8 Clippers plus EB moves the locked in salary to $47M.
Still assuming a cap of $59M, that leaves us $12M to play with, and no Corey Maggette. Still not so fast. Livingston is holding some figure, as well as the various exemptions, the Mid-Level, the Bi-annual, and cap holds for empty roster spots to bring the team up to 12 players. The Clippers would pay 3 of those, but luckily each is for the rookie minimum, so about $1.3M all total.
We are back to giving up more rights for more cap room. Livingston goes the way of Corey. You renounce all your exemptions, giving up the chance to use them to add free agents, and you are down to about $48.3 that is absolutely locked in as your cap figure. This means the max you can offer BD straight up is $10.7M to start. This roughly jives with the 5yr/$60M contract rumor floating around.
Seems high enough to meet his value, but will he see it that way?
Note the specific order here. EB is holding much more cap space that his likely actual contract will be. So his situation needs to be resolved first. That isn't to say its in the dark. He'll probably have a good idea of what's going on. But the Clippers aren't actually in a position to sign anyone until EB is actually worked out first. A peculiar case of taking on a big contract actually improving your cap situation.
EB can take a little less to get Baron a little more, but there aren't too many other places to wiggle the money around. These are all locked in by definitions in the rules.
The Clippers would then need to find at least 2 more, and more like 4 more players at essentially the minimum salary. They could bring in their second round picks or find veterans who want to play for a BD/EB/Kaman Clippers. The actual salary doesn't matter except to say it will be defined by the player's years of experience. Whatever the minimum the salary is for that individual player is, the Clippers will be allowed to pay it.
One final trick. If another team puts an offer sheet to one of the Clippers' restricted free agents on a QO (Fazekas and Williams), that number becomes their new cap hold until the Clippers decide what to do. Another team could jack with the Clippers cap space on that right now. If they were so inclined.
So I think that's all correct as it stands right now. Let me know about any corrections I need to make.