How the Draft Lottery Could Affect Free Agency

Let's take your head for a little spin.

By now, everyone knows  the conventional wisdom: if the Nets get lucky May 18, it will help them dramatically in their pursuit of both a new coach and free agents.  We accept that, but what if they don't get lucky and fall to #4? It's not first prize, but there is some minor consolation.  The Nets would have some extra cap space for free agency.  

Here's how it works.

The Nets' currrent payroll projections assume they'll get the overall #1 pick. According to the rookie salary scale, the #1 pick gets $4,286,900 but the NBA permits a team to add 20% to any first round pick's salary as a bonus. That means John Wall will get $5,144,280 next season...and that is what the Nets are projecting.  But if the Nets pick fourth, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors or Wesley Johnson will make only $3,726,600--again scale plus 20%, giving the team an extra $1,417,680 to play with in free agency.  

The "savings" is less with the #2 and #3 picks, but for argument's sake, we'll go with the comparison between best and worst case scenario.

That same bonus can be given to the player taken with the Mavs pick at #27. With the added 20%, the salary for that pick goes up to $1,042,320.  Grand total for the two first round picks if they're #1 and #27: $6,186,600. If they're #4 and #27, the total is $4,768,920.

Barring any other moves on Draft Day, and assuming the Nets get to keep both Kris Humphries and Chris Douglas-Roberts, they're likely to have $23,566,328 committed to seven players. Add the 1/27 option rookie salaries and the payroll number goes up to $29,752,928 for nine.  The 4/27 option drops it to $28,335,248.

Subtract those numbers from the projected salary cap of $56,100,000 and the Nets will have $26,347,072 in cap space if they're lucky at the Lottery; $27,764,572 if they're not and somewhere in between if they pick #2 or #3.  Of course, if Humphries exercises his option and the Nets don't exercise theirs on CDR, add $4,054,389 to each of those numbers.

However, there is another way for the Nets to increase their cap space...simply not sign their picks til after they've signed their free agents.  Why do that?  That 20% bonus doesn't get counted against the cap til they sign.   There's nothing to prohibit that.  As long as they're signed by training camp, it's not an issue.  That would save the Nets a little  more than a million dollars if they got the first pick, a little less if they got the fourth.  Don't be surprised if they  do just that.

Not to get too far afield here, but there's another factor to think about.  For each unfilled roster spot under 12, teams have to add $473,604 to their "payroll". WIth Humphries, CDR and two first round picks, the Nets will have nine players and three unfilled roster spaces. So, add $1,420,812--three times $473,604 to their "payroll". The Knicks, on the other hand, have to add $3,788,832--eight times $473,604, because they'll have only four players and no first round picks on their roster come July 1. So you can tell your Knick fan friends, with the aid of a calculator, that the disparity between the two teams, at least in terms of cap space, is not as great as advertised.

Is your head spinning yet?  Imagine what it's like to be the Nets capologist, Bobby Marks!

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