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Clippers Offseason Primer

Heading into free agency, here's a breakdown of the Clippers roster, salary, and flexibility for the summer.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Players 2014-2015 Salary 2015-2016 Salary Status Contract Details
Chris Paul $20,068,563 $21,468,696 Guaranteed N/A
Blake Griffin $17,674,613 $18,907,725 Guaranteed N/A
J.J. Redick $6,792,500 $7,085,000 Guaranteed N/A
Spencer Hawes $5,305,000 $5,543,725 Guaranteed N/A
CJ Wilcox $1,109,760 $1,159,680 Guaranteed N/A
Jamal Crawford $5,450,000 $5,675,000 Non-Guaranteed $1.5 million guaranteed
Matt Barnes $3,396,250 $3,542,500 Non-Guaranteed $1 million guaranteed
Jordan Hamilton $150,591 $1,015,421 Non-Guaranteed Can't be traded till 6/20; none guaranteed
Lester Hudson $27,887 $1,015,421 Non-Guaranteed Waive on or by 7/15; Can't be traded till 7/11; none guaranteed
DeAndre Jordan $11,440,123 $17,160,184.5 (cap hold) Unrestricted Free Agent Full Bird Rights
Austin Rivers $2,439,840 $3,110,796 (cap hold) Unrestricted Free Agent Limited Bird Rights
Glen Davis $915,243 $1,189,815.9 (cap hold) Unrestricted Free Agent Early Bird Rights
Hedo Turkoglu $915,243 $1,189,815.9 (cap hold) Unrestricted Free Agent Early Bird Rights
Ekpe Udoh $915,243 $1,098,291.6 (cap hold) Unrestricted Free Agent Non-Bird Rights
Dahntay Jones $387,632 $465,158.4 (cap hold) Unrestricted Free Agent Non-Bird Rights
Jordan Farmar $1,764,701 $510,922 Unrestricted Free Agent Stretched
Carlos Delfino $650,000 $650,000 Unrestricted Free Agent Stretched
Miroslav Raduljica $252,042 $252,042 Unrestricted Free Agent Stretched
Jared Cunningham $915,243 Unrestricted Free Agent Trade Exception

2015-2016 Guaranteed Salary $58,077,790 Only guaranteed dollars
2015-2016 Inclusive Salary $66,826,132 Including non-guaranteed dollars
2015-2016 Held Salary $91,040,194.3 Including non-guaranteed and cap holds

The projected salary cap for the 2015-2016 season is about $67.4 million. This means the luxury tax line will be set at about $82 million and the apron set at $86 million.

Barring any trades, this means that the most salary cap room the Clippers could manufacture this offseason would be about $5.6 million, but that would mean letting every unrestricted free agent walk, cutting all the non-guaranteed players, and replacing them with all minimum rookie contracts.

Cap-Holds: The way that a cap hold works is that when calculating a team's salary cap, it serves as a type of placeholder for a team's own free agents. The cap hold is an estimated amount of salary for those players in the upcoming season. The way that a cap hold disappears is if that player signs with his prior team, his new salary replaces the hold, signs with a new team, the hold goes away completely, or the team renounces the free agent, thus losing his bird rights (more on this later). However until a cap hold disappears, a team has to take that hold into account when calculating team salary in signing free agents. Cap holds also are placed until a team reaches the minimum roster requirements.

Non-Guaranteed Salary: In the case of Jamal and Barnes, the teams has the option to either pick up their whole salary for this next year, or instead to cut them and only have a part of their salaries counting toward their salary cap. So if the Clippers did not want to keep Jamal next season and cut him, only $1.5 million would count toward their cap instead of the $5,675,000 he would make if they guarantee his contract. If they cut Barnes, they would only have a $1 million dollar cap hit instead of his $3,542,500. The Clippers can cut both Lester Hudson and Jordan Hamilton without owing them any money for next year.

Bird Rights: A type of exception that allow teams to exceed the salary cap in order to resign their own veteran free agents. There are different types of Bird Rights and these are the basics of them:

  • Non-Bird Rights (Non-Qualifying Veteran Free Agents): A player that ends the season with a team, having only one year of experience without clearing waivers or changing teams as a free agent. Non-Bird players can be resigned for up to 120% of their previous salary, or 120% of the minimum. The Clippers have non-bird rights on Udoh and Jones, meaning they could offer them contract from the minimum up to about $1,098,292
  • Early-Bird Rights (Early Qualifying Veteran Free Agents): A player that has played two seasons without clearing waivers or changing teams as a free agent. The team can offer this player the greater of 175% of his previous salary or 104.5% of the league average salary in the previous season. The Clippers have Early-Bird rights for Big Baby and H3do, so they could offer them anything from the minimum up to about $5.6 million.
  • Bird Rights (Qualifying Veteran Free Agents): A player that has played three seasons without clearing waivers or changing teams as a free agent. The team can offer this player up to his maximum salary. The Clippers have Jordan's Bird Rights, so they can offer him from the minimum up to a full max contract next year starting at about $19 million.
  • Limited Bird Rights: If the team does not choose to pick up a rookie player's 4th year option, then the team can only resign that player with bird rights with the first year being no greater than that 4th year. See the New Orleans Pelicans declining Austin River's fourth year contract. He was then traded to the Celtics, then to the Clippers, with his Bird Rights remaining intact as he wasn't didn't clear waivers or changed teams a free agent. Thus, the Clippers have Doogie's Bird Rights to resign him, but it is limited in the first year by the declined fourth year's salary so they can offer him the minimum up to a max of $3,110,796.
The Clippers' options for soliciting outside help this off-season are limited, because even though the team is (for once) likely not facing a hard-cap scenario, this year it's because they will already be over the hard cap threshold without utilizing any of the tools that enable it, or even if they tried would be unlikely to remain under it.  By rule, utilizing the full, non-taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, the Bi-Annual Exception, or acquiring a player in a sign-and-trade cause a team to be bound by the hard cap. This season, the Clippers will have none of those three options--they will likely already be over the luxury tax of $82 million and apron of $86 million, with their held salary number being over $90 million, as outlined above.

This limits Doc Rivers and the front office to only a few options. They don't have the full, non-taxpayer mid-level exception, and instead have the taxpayer mid-level which is a bit smaller at around 3.376 million; while they may not be able to get a bigger player with the full MLE, the lack of a hard cap will allow the Clippers much more flexibility if filling out depth. They will also be able to sign veterans at the minimum exception. So in total, without trades, the Clippers free agency options are their players on Bird Rights, the mini MLE, and vet minimums.

The Clippers, currently, have nine players under contract for next year: Paul, Hudson, Redick, Crawford, Wilcox, Barnes, Hamilton, Grififn, and Hawes.  Here is the toolbox of all of the ways they can add players (besides a trade):

  • Taxpayer mid-level exception: 3.376 million, can be used on any player or split between two players.  The Clippers can use this despite being over the cap and tax lines.
  • Minimum exception: the Clippers can exceed the cap to sign any player for the league minimum
  • Rookie exception: if the Clippers acquire a draft pick, they can exceed the cap to sign their own rookie
  • Non-bird rights: Slightly over the min to retain Udoh and Jones.  It's unlikely that this will provide much of a help.
  • Early-bird rights: Allow the Clippers to pay Davis and Turkoglu up to about $5.6 million for a minimum of two years.  While neither is worth that number and Turkoglu is only a minimum-value player, Davis could be worth slightly more than the minimum to other teams seeking solid veteran backups, and the Clippers would likely do worse than Davis if left to only the minimum at backup PF.
  • Limited bird rights: The Clippers can give Austin Rivers up to $3.1m, which will allow them to keep a young, athletic guard who will give them more than they'd get elsewhere for the minimum.
  • Bird Rights: Allow the Clippers to max out DeAndre Jordan, which is kind of the biggest thing that will happen this summer.