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NBA Free Agency 2014: Salary Cap and Tax Levels Lower Than Expected

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The NBA released the official salary cap and luxury tax levels for the 2014-2015 season, and they are slightly lower than the projections.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

According to multiple reports, the NBA's salary cap and luxury tax will be lower than projected for the upcoming 2014-2015 season.  The cap level will be $63.065 million, slightly lower than the $63.2 million projection.  The Luxury tax will be $76.829 million, again slightly below the $77 million projection.  This also means that the apron, which is acting as the hard cap for the Clippers and several other teams, will be moved down from a projected $81 million to $80.829 million.  These slight decreases won't make much of a difference for any team, but they are a disappointment to front office executives who were hoping for the number to be above the projection, closer to $64 million.

It's a largely insignificant difference, but it could mean that the Clippers don't have room to add a 10-day contract in January, or pick a player up after he is released at the trading deadline.

Currently, the team has $77,654,769 committed to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Spencer Hawes, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Jordan Farmar, and Reggie Bullock.  The team's 11th player will be rookie C.J. Wilcox, who has a rookie scale cap hold of $924,800, but can be signed for as little as 80% or as much as 120% of that.  It's worth noting that teams nearly almost always give their rookies 120% of scale.

So after Wilcox is signed, the Clippers will have between $78,394,609 and $78,764,529 in total team salary, leaving them with between $2,064,471 and $2,434,391 to sign at least two more players.  Since the cap hit for a veteran's minimum contract is $915,243 (and, when speaking in terms of the apron, so is the cap hit for the rookie and one-year veteran's minimum), it seems that unless a trade is made (perhaps a sign-and-trade), the team's last two moves will be to sign two players for the veteran's minimum.

However, the team has one more avenue with which to offer a free agent more than the minimum, but it is quickly expiring.  There is a TPE for the Eric Bledsoe deal which expires tomorrow, July 10th.  If the Clippers either absorbed a salary or acquired a player in a S&T, they could use the TPE to take in between about $1.1 million and $1.5 million, depending on Wilcox's intended salary.  It's not much, but it's slightly more than the minimum.

Of course, if the team is able to negotiate a sign-and-trade with Cleveland for Spencer Hawes, then everything shifts depending upon the package that the teams agree to.  But we'll cross that bridge when (if?) we come to it.