Even before the Clippers' final game was over on Thursday night, questions started popping up about what the Clippers can and will do in this off-season.
Now, it's time to get started by looking at the Clippers' financial situation.
The NBA's salary cap this year is projected at $63.2 million, and the tax line is projected at $77 million (putting the "apron" at $81 million).
The biggest tool of the off-season is the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception. This year, it's worth a starting salary of $5.305 million, but, as in years past, the apron becomes the hard cap once the MLE is used. The apron also becomes the hard cap for any team that acquires a player in a sign-and-trade deal, or any team that uses their BAE. Since the Clippers could potentially do all three of those things this summer, it's important to remember that no matter what, the Clippers must be able to field their full roster for under $81 million.
The Bi-Annual Exception is worth $2.077 million next season. Putting that together with the $5.305 million value of the MLE, and the magic number for the Clippers is $73.618 million. If the Clippers wish to use both the MLE and the BAE, they must do EVERYTHING else-even minimum deals to round out the roster and cap holds, for $73.618 million or under.
Right now, it's unclear what exactly "else" is. If, as Steve Perrin predicts, all three Clippers with player options opt out, then the team will have $78,587,301 in salaries and cap holds for 15 players (including a cap hold for their draft pick). If Darren Collison leaves for a bigger contract, as is expected, then that number drops to $76,307,301 for 14 players. If the Clippers cut Willie Green, the number moves to about $74.9M for 13 players (note that the Clippers could use Green's unguaranteed deal as salary filler/sweetener in a trade instead of cutting him). From there, renouncing two more of Turkoglu, Granger, and Davis brings the Clippers below the $73.681 million benchmark for 11 players. Using the two exceptions would bring the total to just under the apron for 13 or 14 players (depending on whether or not the team splits the MLE). They could potentially also do a sign and trade deal to acquire a player as long as they don't put themselves over the apron.
It's hard to say how each individual potential move that the Clippers could make would affect their overall situation because everything is so contingent upon everything else, but we'll keep updating the spreadsheets as moves happen in the next three months. The first step will be seeing whether or not Collison, Davis, and Granger accept or decline their player options.