This time of year, it frequently seems as though hours and hours of work are only relevant for a brief window, before something changes and everything has to be adjusted.
I wrote the most popular article of the off-season yesterday afternoon, titled “Do the Clippers have cap room?” It’s the kind of topic that always gets the people going.
The conclusion of that article, in short, was “no.” The Clippers, if they released Milos Teodosic (only owing him $2.1 million of his $6.3 million salary) and C.J. Williams (who is on a non-guaranteed minimum-salary deal), would only be able to get $8,160,966 below the projected $101M salary cap threshold. That’s less than the projected $8.568 million mid-level exception, and you can’t use both cap room and the MLE. If you click that link, you’ll find a list of additional cost-cutting moves that the Clippers could consider if they really need the dough for a free agent they like, but the easy path ends once you hit $8,160,966.
Fortunately for the Clippers, we don’t have to work with a projected salary cap anymore, and the actual numbers favor LAC’s off-season flexibility. Instead of the cap being set at $101,000,000, it’s instead been set at $101,869,000. In a multi-billion-dollar league, a marginal difference of $869,000 turns out to be significant for the Clippers.
That higher-than-expected cap tweaks the value of virtually everything in the NBA universe upwards—from exception values to rookie scale contracts. So, it isn’t as simple as adding $869,000 to the existing $8,160,966 in room, and figuring out that it gives the Clippers a $461,966 advantage if they use cap room instead of the mid-level exception. The mid-level exception is no longer $8,568,000. Instead, it’s now $8,641,000, so we can go ahead and strike $73,000 from that number—the Clippers only have a $388,966 advantage over the mid-level exception.
Additionally, the rookie scale contracts for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson will both be marginally higher than expected. Shai was projected to have a cap hold of $3,346,560 under the old salary cap, while Jerome was projected to have a cap hold of $3,020,280. The actual $101,869,000 cap is 100.86% of the projected $101,000,000 cap, which means that both Shai and Jerome need to be adjusted upwards proportionally. Shai now is set to make $3,375,354, while Jerome should come in around $3,046,266. Those marginal increases—$28,794 for SGA and $25,986 for Jerome—are added to the Clippers’ team salary figure, and subtracted from their cap room. That reduces their advantage over the mid-level exception to $334,188, giving them up to $8,975,186 in cap room.
It isn’t that much more money than the mid-level exception,but it’s still more—better than before, when their cap space was about $400,000 less than the value of the MLE.
If the Cilppers end up using the MLE, their secondary free agency tool will be the bi-annual exception, which is now worth $3,382,000. If they utilize cap room, their secondary tool will be the room exception, which is now worth $4,449,000—just another advantage towards being able to use cap room. However, in order to access the cap room/room exception set of tools, the Clippers need to renounce Avery Bradley’s bird rights and waive both Teodosic and C.J. Williams. Those moves aren’t necessary to use the MLE/BAE set of tools.
The Clippers can also create more than the aforementioned $8,975,186 in cap room by executing one or more smaller, cap-clearing deals, which I wrote about yesterday.