NBA Teams That Need to Dump Salary
The spending bonanza that followed the NBA’s 2016 cap spike has forced many teams to be largely inactive this offseason, and now many of the teams who sat out free agency will be looking to shed excess salary before the start of the 2018-2019 season. Already, we’ve seen salary dumps like the Mozgov-Biyombo trade and the sending off of Dwight Howard and Kenneth Faried in separate trades to the Brooklyn Nets (Howard was bought out and signed with the Wizards), as well as the Carmelo Anthony salary dump to the Hawks. Even with those trades in the books, here are four squads who should still look to shed some salary before the start of the season. Get ready to finally use that cap space Sacramento!!
Oklahoma City Thunder
The most blatant of the teams who need to shed money is the Thunder. They certainly weren’t inactive in the free-agency period, adding Nerlens Noel while retaining Jerami Grant and Paul George. While these moves, especially George, were a coup for the front office and should help OKC continue to compete with the upper echelon of the Western Conference, the Thunder will now be paying an exorbitant price for a team that likely isn’t a championship contender. OKC has finally shed itself of Carmelo Anthony and his massive salary for next season in a deal where they acquired Dennis Schröder, which helps OKC on the court but does negate some of the financial benefits of Melo’s departure. Now, the Thunder are either going to have to shed some salary or shoulder a record breaking tax bill, which seems the more likely move considering the important roles played by their highest earners. With such a financial burden on ownership, the pressure will be on the players to be a championship contender and challenge the Warriors; any other outcome could lead to future salary dumps next offseason.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland had had one of its most successful regular season campaigns since they lost their old core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, but their 49-win season ended ignominiously with a first round dismantling at the hands of the Pelicans. Besides the appropriately high salaries paid to the superstar backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ Mccollum, Portland’s cap sheet is clogged with Evan Turner’s inflated contract from the 2016 free agent period and overpays for incumbent role players like Meyers Leonard and Moe Harkless. Even the newly minted contract of Jusuf Nurkic looks like it could be above his market value, and it came at the cost of losing valuable backup Shabazz Napier to the Nets. The Blazers have paid a heavy price in retaining their core, and they now return nearly the same roster in a conference that improved around them, all while being over $7 million over the luxury tax. Either Portland is going to have to exceed expectations with internal growth, or something is going to have to change in Rip City, as shelling out so much for a non-championship contender is untenable.
After a 2017 campaign that saw the Heat’s jumble of role players come together for a rousing second half that nearly landed them in the playoffs, Miami broke through last year with a consistent 44-win regular season before losing in the first round. After a silent free agency period, it seems Miami is content to ride it out with this group in the depleted Eastern Conference, and while Erik Spoelstra should be able to guide this group back to the postseason, the Heat have no real hope at threatening the best teams in the conference. The Heat have been rumored at times to have interest in moving Hassan Whiteside, but with six players making over $11 million next season, plus Josh Richardson pulling in over nine, the Heat have no shortage of players they can deal for salary cap relief. Just getting rid of one of their overpaid role players in return for a player making the minimum salary or slightly above would get Miami under the luxury tax while hopefully having a minimal impact on the team. If Bam Adebayo looks ready early in his second season, look for Whiteside’s name to re-enter trade rumors.
The Hornets missed the playoffs in the moribund Eastern Conference, and even after jettisoning Dwight Howard, they’re still over the cap and toeing the luxury tax line. Star Kemba Walker’s name has been intermittently discussed in trade rumors, but his contract isn’t really the issue for Charlotte financially, and clearly his on-court production isn’t why the team has struggled. Instead, it’s the immovable contracts of overpaid role players that’s hampering Charlotte, with five players pulling in more per year than Walker. Considering the contracts of Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams and Bismack Biyombo are at least on the surface immovable, new GM Mitch Kupchak and the Hornets front office will need to get creative in order to increase the team’s financial flexibility, especially if the ownership group fronted by Michael Jordan is against blowing up the roster for a full-scale rebuild.
All contract info via spotrac.com