Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders writes this weekend that the Nets could have as much as $41.1 million in cap space this summer, but that number apparently assumes the four free agents signed to two-year deals last summer will all opt of their player options.
Those four deals -- roughly $1.5 million each for Andrea Bargnani, Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin plus another million for Thomas Robinson -- could constrain Nets spending plans. But with the new TV rights-infused salary cap, they are likely to opt out, says a league source.
Pincus's analysis, which gives a range of available cap space, is based on a projected salary cap of approximately $89 million. However, in recent years, those projections have been conservative. Some pundits suggesting that this year's number could go as high as $95 million.
Assuming the Nets do get $41 million to play with, they will rank eighth in the NBA in cap space, behind the Lakers, with as much as $64 million, the Mavericks at $57.2 million; the 76ers at $55.7 million; the Celtics at $49.4 million; the Wizards at $46.7 million; the Rockets at $44.2 million; and the Trailblazers at $44 million. Included in the Nets payroll is Deron Williams $5.47 million stretch payment.
The Nets would have enough for one max deal, as well as another $10 million to $20 million for other contracts. As Pincus notes, max contracts project to start at $21.1 million for players with up to six years of experience, $25.3 million for those with seven to nine years, and $29.5 million for those with 10 or more years. So a max contract for DeMar DeRozan would start at $21.1 million while LeBron James would get $29.5 million. If the salary cap is raised, the value of max contracts goes up as well.
Signing free agents is not simple math, however. There are cap holds and other vagaries of the collective bargaining agreement that complicate matters. As Bobby Marks has written, there's also the issue of timing contract signings, as the Nets did in 2012 when Billy King used iPhone and iPad signings, noting "certain guys had to sign at certain times so we could use the cap rules to our advantage."
The salary cap and luxury tax threshold numbers are announced just before free agent signings begin at the end of the first week of July.