• Devin O'Brien

5 Eastern Conference Teams with the Most Cap Space

Philadelphia 76ers

Guaranteed Cap Space: $35.5 Million Maximum Cap Space: $62.7 Million

After injury sidelined Jahlil Okafor this year, Richaun Holmes emerged as a great rim protecting back up for Joel Embiid. It’s becoming more and more apparent that Okafor’s style of play is not very effective in today’s NBA, therefore Holmes may be a player the 76ers hold on to.

Philadelphia will also likely retain the rights to Robert Covington. He has a great contract and offers the 76ers a versatile wing defender with a decent shooting touch from behind the 3-point line.

They’ll potentially throw max offer sheets at Otto Porter, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, or Kyle Lowry, but expect each of them to sign with other teams.

Don’t expect them to make huge splashes, but rather depend on internal growth. Perhaps they can add a player like Tony Allen or Ramon Sessions to help with the development of their young core.

Chicago Bulls

Guaranteed Cap Space: $31.7 Million Maximum Cap Space: $53.3 Million

The Chicago Bulls need to stop treading water and commit to a plan. Whether they build around Jimmy Butler or trade him and begin to rebuild, they need some direction. Currently the Bulls are stuck between relevancy and the lottery and it is excruciating for Bulls fans, like myself.

Expect the Bulls to retain Joffrey Lauvergne, as he has the potential to develop into a more creative stretch-four than Nikola Mirotic. Similarly, grooming Cameron Payne for a bigger role is going to be important for a team that struggled to find a capable back up for Rajon Rondo.

Last off-season when they traded Derrick Rose, the organization claimed to be looking for a younger, better-shooting core. Days later, the franchise did a complete 180 and signed Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, the antithesis of what they said they were looking for. In the likely scenario that Butler stays in Chicago, management will probably run it back with more or less the same group.

Miami Heat

Guaranteed Cap Space: $35.0 Million Maximum Cap Space: $43.1 Million

Miami is a prime location for big name free agents, for reasons that have nothing to do with basketball. South Beach is one of the most popular destinations in the United States with amazing weather and one of the top night life scenes in the country.

In terms of basketball, Pat Riley can pitch the idea of playing with a human windshield wiper in Hassan Whiteside and a roster that is built to cater to any stars strengths.

James Johnson and Dion Waiters, two of the heroes from the Heat’s late season surge, will command hefty new deals in the off-season. Look for the Heat to retain Waiters, as well as picking up three point specialist Josh Richardson’s team option.

If they whiff on the Blake Griffin’s of the world, then attempting to pick up high upside guys (as they did with Johnson and Waiters last year) is the likely road. Danilo Gallinari seems like a nice fit here, as are players like Joe Ingles and Tim Hardaway Jr.

Indiana Pacers

Guaranteed Cap Space: $33.7 Million Maximum Cap Space: $42.9 Million

Indiana is in a similar position to Chicago - they can run it back with more or less the same team, earn a playoff berth somewhere between the sixth and eighth seed and get bounced in the first round, or they can hit the reset button.

The Pacers have two franchise corner stones in Paul George and Miles Turner; if they can improve the surrounding cast of players with their $37.4 million in cap space they have a chance to build something special in the Hoosier state. Look for the Pacers to attempt to move the contract of Thaddeus Young ($13.5 million), Al Jefferson ($9.8 million), or Monta Ellis ($11 million) and re-sign CJ Miles, Jeff Teague, and another quality piece.

If they see strong development from Paul George and Miles Turner, the Pacers are a few smart signings away from being a very good team. Finding willing partners for Ellis, Jefferson, and Young will be hard, but not impossible.

Brooklyn Nets

Guaranteed Cap Space: $37.14 Million Maximum Cap Space: $40.54 Million

During the Sam Hinkie Era in Philadelphia, the 76ers would bring as many players into their locker room as they could. By signing a bunch of 10-day contracts the franchise was able to get an extended look at a lot of young talent which allowed them to find players like Robert Covington and TJ McConnell. Brooklyn should execute a similar strategy - let their young players (Caris Levert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Isaiah Whitehead) learn through some growing pains and bring in as many pieces as they can in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.

Free agents interested in winning will avoid the Nets given the state of current state of the franchise, however there may be some young, overlooked players that find a home in Brooklyn, similar to Jeremy Lin last off-season. Don’t look for Brooklyn to re-sign any of their expiring contracts, but it is likely they pick-up options on both KJ McDaniels and Sean Kilpatrick.

The Nets have two 2017 draft picks late in the first round, so targeting any player who falls in the draft or who offers athletic upside, will be a good fit. As for free agents, guys such as James Young, Wayne Selden, or Terrence Jones offer potential upside.

#NBA #76ers #Sixers #Bulls #Heat #Pacers #Nets