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NBA Offseason: Shedding Salary Is Priority Number One for These Five Teams

The 2016/17 offseason saw a historic cap spike of $24.3 million. Adam Silver believed an incremental increase over the course of five years to be the wisest course of action. However, his attempts were rebuffed, and the actionable raise of $70 million to $94.3 million came to pass.

These teams have been paying for the mistakes that followed ever since.

You’ll notice a common theme shared between these teams who find themselves in no man’s land heading into the 2018/19 offseason.

  • Each have surpassed the luxury tax

  • Each team a fringe playoff contender, not a true championship one

  • Each team, in most instances, overpaid a big man

From Bismack Biyombo, to Joakim Noah, to Timofey Mozgov, to Omer Asik, many of the league’s most immovable contracts lie within a position fast becoming a relic of the NBA’s former most valuable resource.

Clogging the lane, and forcing tough shots in the paint is no longer enough to stay on the floor. Creating space, and chasing shooters out on the perimeter is the new NBA at every position.

Some teams, such as the Golden State Warriors, either correctly navigated the future of the NBA, or simply got lucky by finding diamond in the rough, Draymond Green.

While the center position can still be a valuable one, most of these teams will have to pay dearly to rid themselves of theirs.

Washington Wizards


An eighth place finish in Eastern Conference will not be enough to convince Ted Leonis to pay into the luxury tax, even with a nucleus of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter.

At $134.6 in salary cap allocation, the Wizards have a few choices before them.

John Wall’s contract is set to spike from $19 million to $38 million in the next two seasons, as his new max contract falls into affect. Will the Wizards move on from their superstar and hand the reins to Bradley Beal?

Or will the Wizards ‘simply’ try to rid themselves of one or all three of their big men.

Jason Smith becomes the likely target. He almost certainly will exercise his $5.4 million player option, and in a dwindling market, he is right to do so. The Wizards may be able to move him for a second round pick.

Ian Mahinmi, with two years and $31 million is immovable. No NBA team will take that contract without adding something quite significant, IE two first round picks or more.

Otto Porter is a contender, due to knee/hip concerns and the elevated play of Kelly Oubre, but there are few teams across the NBA with the space for a player with a three year $82 million figure and 15% trade kicker.

That leaves Marcin Gortat, and the final year of his $13.6 million expiring contract. Teams looking to shed space in the following offseason may take a bit of this contract as the trade deadline approaches.

Oklahoma City Thunder


Even should Paul George take his talents elsewhere, the Oklahoma City Thunder still find themselves just beyond the tax threshold, much of it due to Carmelo Anthony.

Melo is certain to exercise his $27.9 million dollar player option, though a buyout could be in everyone’s best interests, as was Dwayne Wade’s. Should a buyout become difficult, the Thunder may seek to move on from Andre Roberson and his remaining two years and $21 million.

The next candidate would be Alex Abrines and his $5.4 million dollar figure that will take him into restricted free agency, followed by two years and nearly $10 million of Kyle Singler.

With Nick Collison’s impending retirement, the Thunder will look to hold onto Patrick Patterson and his two years and $11 million, but Sam Presti will do whatever it takes to remain under the threshold following what will likely be a disappointing season.

Portland Trail Blazers


Things are getting interesting in Portland, with Damian Lilliard’s meeting set with Blazers’ owner Paul Allen.

While certainly not their first meeting, speculation insists it may be time for the Blazers to change things up, after a 4-0 sweep suffered at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans.

With Jusurf Nurkic, a restricted free agent, the Blazers have no way of avoiding the tax, even should Nurkic walk.

With CJ McCollum and Dame Lilliard combining for $54 million, the Blazers’ eyes will turn to Meyers Leonard and his two years $21 million first, and then to Evan Turner and his two years and $36 million.

These players will be difficult, if not impossible to move, so next we visit Moe Harkless (two years, $21 million), and finally Al Farouq Aminu, and his expiring $7 million dollar deal.

The Blazers could seek to move on from Nurkic with promising rookie Zach Collins, and they should also seek to bring back Pat Connaugton if they can in addition to Ed Davis.

Detroit Pistons


With Stan Van Gundy out of town, and Dwayne Casey likely to replace him, the Pistons are set to suffer a disappointing season by all accounts, with a whopping $59 million dedicated to both Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.

The Pistons will need significant work done if they seek to get back into the playoff conversation, and while not impossible, it will necessitate some clever salary shedding.

At $122, the Pistons find themselves just below the tax, but will need to create space to utilize the Mid-Level Exception ($8.9)as well as Biannual ($3.3).

The likeliest candidates include Jon Leuer and his two years, $19.5 million, Langston Galloway and his two years $14 million, and Ish Smith, and his expiring $6 million.

Should a team across the NBA desire Andre Drummond, it’s not impossible to imagine a Piston squad void of the All Star big man next season.

New Orleans Pelicans


Much conversation will be had this summer as to the future of All Star DeMarcus Cousins, following the Achilles rupture what turned out to be the best season of his career. On January 26th, DeMarcus averaged over 25 points per game and 12.5 rebounds, and was selected an All Star starter in the West.

Should the Pelicans seek to bring him back at the full max, they will find themselves unable to bring back Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark, Cheick Diallo, Emeka Okafor, Darius Miller, or anyone else for that matter without paying the tax.

General Manager Dell Demps has made it clear that the Pelicans will not pay the tax without confidence of title contention, and also made it clear they are not there yet with their current roster as is.

So who will leave town? The Pelicans would love to move off of the final year of Alexis Ajinca, who is all but dead salary at this point in the final year of his $5.3 million dollar season.

After that, the Pelicans will be forced to move on from their Solomon Hill experiment. Hill was an effective stopper in the mold of Andre Roberson in his first season with the Pelicans, but following his torn hamstring, suffered a major regression. With but two years and $24 million, Pelicans will hope to find a team willing to give him another chance.

After that the most likely candidate includes E’Twaun Moore and his two years, $17 million. The Pelicans would be devastated to move on from their most efficient shooter, and all around versatility belt at the 1,2, and 3 positions, but desperate times could call for desperate measures.

Notable Mentions

Cleveland, should LeBron seek to return will need to shed Tristan Thompson or Kevin Love.

Los Angeles Clippers could require a Tobias Harris trade should Deandre Jordan pick up his player option.

The Warriors have no avenue of shedding salary should they seek to bring back Curry, Durant, Thompson, Green, Iguodala and Livingston. They will carry the richest tax the NBA has seen yet.

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