The NBA recently broke the 4-way tie in the draft order where the Atlanta Hawks will now have the 21st pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. This all but fills out what the Hawks cap sheet will look like entering the 2016 off-season, unless the Hawks decide to make roster moves prior to July 1st. So here's an updated look at their cap sheet and a few tidbits of information relating to the upcoming off-season.
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||$1,304,520||$2,281,605||$5,704,013||$3,586,125|
|Mike Muscala||$947,276||$1,015,696TO, NG||$1,014,746||$1,962,972|
|2016 NBA Draft (#21)||---||$1,249,800||$1,306,000||$2,555,800|
|Total (only guaranteed)||$72,162,768||$52,951,457||$1,306,000||$126,417,225|
|Total + FA cap holds||$72,162,768||$85,667,539||$86,726,379||---|
Notes: Red denotes cap hold; PO-Player Option; TO-Team Option; NG-Nonguaranteed.
Although Petteway is not on the roster, he had $75,000 guaranteed on his contract for 2015--16.
Exceptions that carry cap holds are in the last row. The Holiday trade exception expires 2/18/2017. The 2016+ exceptions are Non-Taxpayer MLE and Bi-Annual Exception.
(Contract data from BasketballInsiders.com)
In addition to the above, there are numerous reports that the NBA released a new, official projection of $92 million for the 2016--17 Season. We won't know officially until July 6th, but for the sake of consistency let's go with the $92 million assumption. Accounting for the cap holds of all free agents and exceptions for the Atlanta Hawks implies they will roll into the 2016 off-season with $94,445,815 on the cap sheet will assuredly start the off-season over the cap. This can clearly change rapidly if their free agents (Al, Kirk, Kent, and Kris) sign elsewhere, which would remove cap holds and, in turn, remove the Hawks ability to use the Non-Taxpayer MLE and Bi-Annual Exception.
Under the reasonable assumption that the Hawks renounce Kirk and their exceptions (including the Holiday Trade Exception), then Atlanta will have $79,975,123 on their cap which translates to $12 million in cap space. Renounce Kris, and they'll gain an extra $1.2 million....this scenario raises the obvious question
What about Kent?
I have previously talked about the rights that the Hawks have on Kent previously, but it bears repeating here:
Kent's Early Bird Rights will allow the Hawks to exceed the salary cap in order to re-sign him to a contract starting at 104.5% of the 2015--16 Average Salary. We won't know what this value is until after the season, but a good guess is that the NBA will spend around $2.34 billion in Salaries for the 2015--16 Season and that equates to an average salary of around $5.9 million. So Kent should ballpark his Early Bird starting salary in the $6 million to $6.25 million range versus his cap hold of $2.6 million. If the Hawks end up re-signing Kent using his Early Bird Rights, then they should use up all of their cap space before re-signing Kent.
If Kent decides that he will not accept a contract for less than $6.25 million, then the Hawks will have to use cap space in order to re-sign him. One advantage the Hawks retain over any other team is that they are the only team that can offer Kent 7.5% raises, all else are limited to 4.5% raises.
About the only thing that may have changed from above is that the starting salary for the Early Bird Exception should probably be revised to upwards of $6.5 million but this is certainly irrelevant in that Kent should have an offer starting at well above this amount. Zach Lowe previously spent some time informally polling executives on Bazemore's next average salary which "drew answers ranging from the mid-level exception, to $12 million, to 'who the hell even knows?'"
In the above scenario of renouncing Kirk and Kris, the Hawks would have $13.2 million in cap space. But this includes Kent's cap hold of $2.6 million, of which this implies Atlanta can offer Kent a contract starting at
$15.6 (edit: typo) $15.8 million. Is this enough to keep him? I am not in a position to answer this question, but I do want to address a similar question.
How Can Atlanta Clear Cap Space?
I have previously documented a few ways that Atlanta can clear cap space, so let me repeat myself (reminder that the assumed salary cap in the scenario was $89 million):
But Atlanta does not only have $10.3 million to offer Kent because that figure accounts for his cap hold of $2.6 million. Atlanta would be able to offer a starting salary of up to $12.9 million to Kent and have the added ability to include 7.5% raises. If you think Kent would command a higher salary, then one may consider that Atlanta can add on $3,333,334 in cap space by waiving Mike Scott. Atlanta can also start to fiddle with their Draft Pick ($1,199,900), Mike Muscala ($1,015,696) and Lamar Patterson ($874,636) but removing any of them will incur a roster charge of $543,471 as Atlanta would drop below 12 roster holds. Would waiving Mike Muscala to free up $472,225 in cap space really be worth it?
As another potential option for clearing cap space, the Hawks could utilize the stretch provision on a player such as Tiago Splitter if they feel that he is not worth a salary of $8,550,000. Stretching Tiago's contract would not absolve the Hawks from paying Tiago, but it would adjust their payment schedule and cap hits. If the Hawks waive Tiago before August 31st, then they could stretch the remaining payments over the next 3 years in equal installments. This would result in a cap hit of $2,850,000 for the 2016-17 season thus freeing up $5,700,000 in additional cap space (assuming the Hawks do not incur an incomplete roster charge after waiving Tiago). There would also be a cap hit of $2,850,000 in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 season, which could potentially hinder the Hawks willingness to utilize the stretch provision.
The above are options that the Hawks have complete control over. The Hawks do not need anyone to collaborate with in order to waive Mike Scott or stretch Tiago Splitter, although these two options are not likely. This is because the value of these two players likely far exceeds their cost. If the Hawks are able to find a willing partner (and this is highly likely), it would make more sense to trade away the players than waive them. If one believes that teams will struggle to meet the salary floor, then surely a team would like to obtain productive NBA players on relatively cheap contracts in exchange for cash or draft picks.
Answering the ways in which Atlanta can clear cap space basically boils down to Atlanta finding a willing trade partner, but this becomes a bit of a puzzle as to whether nor not Atlanta should trade to clear cap space or trade in order to change the complexion of their team.
Regardless, there's playoff basketball to be watched and that's way more interesting than detailing the salary cap.