As noted by some others, this year’s free agency may not be as smooth as the past couple. Players and their representatives have been able to cash in nicely since the new TV deal money kicked into the BRI. But the projections weren’t entirely accurate and the cap has not increased as expected since the major jump. Strategies that were made with now, misinformation, had to be re-tooled and re-calibrated to the appropriate amounts. Some teams’ plans were so off the mark that they may not spend any money this summer. In fact, recent reports have stated that the LA Lakers are focusing on the 2019 class instead of the 2018 class!
We’ll eschew the moral/legal implications of that sentiment and how the Player’s Association will react to it and focus more on why the 2018 Summer may not be what everyone expected.
Here’s a quick history of the salary cap via Real GM. As we dive deeper into the reality of the situation, there are a few figures that stand out to us. In the Summer of 2016, the salary cap went from $70 million to $94 million, an increase of 34%…which was unheard of.
It took the cap more than a decade to add $24 million to get to its all-time high of $70 million. What we saw that Summer may never happen again. 15 players signed contracts where the average-annual-value was $20 million or more! For context, only 6 players signed for $20 million+ in the summer of 2015; interestingly, Paul Millsap was the smallest player to sign in that stratosphere
The Summer of 2014 saw only two players signing above that mark, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. In total, roughly $1.13 billion worth of contracts were signed that Summer. 2015; $2.54 billion. 2016; $3.66 billion! 2017 saw the regression to the mean as a total of $2.41 billion went to free agents.
Depending on where you get your salary figures and what a few teams do to alleviate their space, roughly half of the NBA teams do not have projected cap space for the Summer of 2018. In fact, Real GM has just 5 teams with projected cap space. All but 6 teams have ways to manufacture some space, but that’s highly unlikely event as teams will continue to have to field a full roster.
So, what does all of this mean, other than the obvious less money available to spend. Teams didn’t extend their rookies; only Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid received max-extensions.
Wisely, the NBA executives saw what was coming and didn’t over-react/overpay the rest of that class. Call it a market correction, unlucky for those that weren’t free agents in 2016, but the reality of the situation with no cap-smoothing agreed to.
Teams are going to be more cautious. Agents are probably panicking, as they don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a chance that some have promised their clients that they’ll be able to get them a similar deal as “X Player” even though that figure isn’t available.
Marcus Smart, may have gone into this year thinking he could command a similar salary to Evan Fournier. Now, that looks unlikely.
We think he’ll start his asking price around the $17 million range and will find that number as a non-starter. Which is probably why Boston is shopping him around, so they don’t have to deal with a crowd-favorite walking away for nothing.
Detroit just sent Avery Bradley to the Clippers, they made sure they didn’t end up empty-handed when he’ll ask for a significant raise this off-season. Lou Williams, who is having his best season as a pro just signed a 3-year extension, rumored to be in the $8 million per year range. $8 million for a guy who is averaging 23.3 points per game!!!!!
It takes Bismack Biyombo at least 5 games to score 23 points and he’s getting more than double. Just in case you were wondering what the effect of this market correction was going to be.
It’s going to be a very different, and we aren’t sure that everyone is prepared for what will happen. But, there is always one person, every year, that just wants to see the world burn and will throw a wrench in the free agency dance.