Tuck: NBA Salary Cap Floor Will Influence Rebuilding Teams

Let’s face it: The NBA salary cap isn’t exactly a ceiling.  Heck, it’s not even a lid.  It’s more like a screen door.  You know it’s there.  You can’t just walk through it.  But you can run through it if you want to.

The top teams in the NBA really just concern themselves with the luxury tax.  We can overspend, we just can’t overspend.  This is a good thing for the league.  It’s like speeding.  Going 50 in a 45 really isn’t going to get you in trouble.  We’re all okay with that.  But going 60 is going to cost you some money.

Teams always want salary cap space.  The new CBA makes that a little trickier however because of the introduction of the salary cap floor.

Rebuilding teams are forced to spend money.  You can’t just say, “We struck out on landing big free agent X, Y, and Z so we’ll just save our money and wait until next year.”  That can happen in MLB, but no longer in the NBA.  You have to spend money, or you’ll be penalized. Think of it as driving 30 in that 45 zone.  You’re as much of a hazard as the guy going 60.

The NBA salary cap is expected to be about $63 million this coming year.  The salary cap floor is expected to be set at around $56 million.

So how does this effect teams???

I give you the Orlando Magic.  They are projected to be around $45 million.  They’ll (likely) add two first round picks to the mix bringing the total to around $52 million.

They could still bring in a high-priced free agent with the money they have remaining.  Or not.  But they’ll have to sign somebody of some consequence.

Furthermore much has been made of Jameer Nelson’s buy-out in his non-guaranteed deal and the Magic parting ways with their point guard.  While that might make sense on paper to free up more minutes for younger players, the reality of the Magic keeping him may have everything to do with the salary cap floor.  If they were to waive him, then they’d be responsible for replacing that $6 million savings.  So instead of being around $4 million under the floor, they’d actually become $10 million under it.

If Orlando’s goal is to spend money on a guy or guys then cutting Jameer Nelson makes sense.  If they are looking to continue the slow rebuild, then paying him the final year of his contract looks not just like a possibility, but a likelihood.

The solution to the NBA salary cap floor for teams is overpaying guys on one-year contracts.  It is essentially what the Lakers did last season and what Dallas did the year previous.  You find short-term answers while delaying a presumable long-term solution.  For fans that like free agency, trades, and player movement, then the floor should only foster more of those things in the NBA.

Rebuilding will take on a different look in coming years.  And in some cases could lead to more rebuilding teams becoming competitive in short bursts.  Some may even stumble upon answers right underneath their noses.  Gerald Green anyone?

Expiring deals will still be thought of as valuable assets in trading.  Now strangely, for rebuilding teams, a bad contract, may actually serve as a useful tool to eat up cap space without wasting rotation space.  Emeka Okafor’s contract was just that for the Phoenix Suns this year.  All it means is that your mistake can actually be valuable on some level to another team.

The players wanted the floor to insure they’d not only have jobs, but keep it so that the average salary remains strong.  One of the off-shoots of that is changing attitudes and decisions in what we be the most effective rebuilding process.