With recent reporting by USA Today that the salary cap for next season is likely to surpass $92 million, the Nets could have as much as $45 million in cap space, the seventh biggest number in the NBA But assumes a lot. It does mean Sean Marks and Trajan Langdon should have some maneuvering room come July 6, when teams can start signing players.
The Nets basic numbers are these: $69 million in salary if ALL options -- players and team -- are exercised. That includes paying Jarrett Jack his full $6.3 million instead of a $500,000 buyout -- highly unlikely -- and Thomas Robinson, Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin opting out of their contracts. That's a little more than $4 million. It also assumes the Nets will make qualifying offers to Markel Brown (likely) and Willie Reed (highly unlikely). It also doesn't take into account any draft picks, whether a first rounder acquired on draft night, or second rounders bought for cash. Neither are likely to amount to much. (We are not getting into cap holds and other minutiae at this point.)
A better number would be somewhat (but not much) higher than $46.7 million --the total without options or qualifying offers. Subtract that from what Jeff Zillgitt says are the new numbers, sent out by the league and you get roughly $45.3 million. The only teams expected to have more are the Lakers, Mavericks, 76ers, Celtics, Wizards and Rockets. The Blazers and Nets are projected to have about the same and the Knicks could join them if, as expected, Derrick Williams and Arron Afflalo opt out.
Of course, all of that could change with players opting in or out and a Draft Night trade. Moreover, all that cap space means there likely will be more trades. With every team having some cap space, there's less need to match salaries.
What that likely means is that the Nets will have enough cap space to hand out one max contract and a lot of room to fill out the roster with solid veterans ... and if they don't get what they want, have a little left over. Before the slight uptick reported by USA Today, max contracts were projected 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. They'd be only slightly higher with a cap of $92 million rather that the previously expected $89 million.
That means players like Mike Conley and Nicolas Batum would get $25 million in their first year. Same with Kevin Durant. If the Nets choose to offer a young restricted free agent the max, he'd get $21 million. LeBron James, who'd have to opt out, would get the big number at $29.5 million. And no, we are not projecting KD or LeBron will be wearing black-and-white next season. They're just examples.
In fact, this isn't much more than an academic exercise overall. No one knows what Marks, Langdon et al are planning. No one knows who they have their eyes on ... or if they play here or overseas. Everything could change on Draft Night. For example if the the Nets traded Bojan Bogdanovic or even Thaddeus Young for a first rounder on Draft Night without taking back any or only a couple players, cap space could increase.
So, the best advice for now is, stay tuned."