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I used to think that at a time when cap space meant something—the word “max room” was all it took to get team fans excited about the possibility of an All-NBA superstar hitting home team courts next season. I’m old enough to remember when
At least you had the excitement of the moment you were playing the game, right? Just being one of the teams selected to meet at our seaside retreat on July 1st made me feel special.
now? Only one free agency team made an All-Star this summer — one-time All-Star Fred VanVleet. Only two people, Kyrie Irving and VanVleet, have reached the max. James Harden, a Hall of Famer who scored 42 points in a road playoff game six weeks ago, showed little interest and opted to join the final year of his contract. And so did Kristaps Porsis, for that matter.
It wasn’t because I didn’t have the money. Eight teams—Detroit, Houston, Indiana, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, San Antonio and Utah—entered the offseason at or near their full free agency budget. The other three (Charlotte, Washington, Lakers) could have given up free agency and jumped in if they wanted. That’s over a third of the league! While some of those teams were rebuilding, they also had ambitions to take a big step forward this summer.
But the end result of all that cap space was a truly nasty free-agent transfer (VanVleet to Houston) followed by…a few incidents. Let’s just say Detroit fans weren’t thinking of Joe Harris when the phrase “maximum cap space” came up this spring.
I must stress how much change this represents.
As recently as 2019, seven all-stars He changed teams in free agency in just one summer. Kawhi Leonard secured cap space and moved from the Raptors to the Clippers. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving teamed up in Brooklyn for a rare and spectacular ‘double max’. Kemba Walker left Charlotte for Capspace in Boston. Jimmy Butler left Philadelphia, though he didn’t make it into cap space, but once he did, the Sixers had plenty of room to sign Al Horford in the void away from Boston. . D’Angelo Russell may not be your All-Star image, but he was seventh when he left the Nets as the outbound division in a sign-and-trade with Durant.
First instinct is to blame Big Bad New CBA for this, but the real culprit is last CBA. The easing of restrictions on contract extensions, especially the emergence of supermax extensions, has significantly reduced the pool of star talent that goes into free agency in the first place. The summer of 2019, which also included trades for Paul George, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, was like the last gasp for the old-world free-agent model.
With that in mind, let’s see what our friends with cap space did this summer. We understand it’s not completely over yet, but there are a few restricted free agents in particular left on the market who may receive offer sheets. Nonetheless, there is no one in that group who can win the 2019 class, so I think this point stands regardless.
• Houston was the only team to pursue the “old model,” entering a feed frenzy as the Rockets traded three former first-round picks to sign VanVleet, Dillon Brooks and Jeff Green. Everyone else went in a different direction.
• Detroit, with near-maximum room and a clear marching order to improve, gave nearly $30 million in cap room to Harris and Monte Morris and picked up one second-round pick.
• Oklahoma City had more room than Detroit.The Thunder will use it to A) pay $33 million for promotion two spots To face Davis Bertans in the draft, B) Acquire Victor Oladipo’s second-round pick, C) Sign Vasa Micic to a deal that fits in the room exception if the remaining cap space is actually used. to do.
• Indiana turned the cap room into a short-term overpayment to Bruce Brown (at least he had some on-court vigor) and a trade for Obi Toppin. I’ll talk more about the deal with Braun later.
Orlando should have waived players like Gary Harris and Markelle Fultz to leave the most room, but would have chosen not to. Still, Magic’s only real move was to fill that space with Joe Ingles for a year.
• Sacramento broke new ground by using cap space to pay its own players more than others, giving Domantas Sabonis a $217 million renegotiation extension. , which can be said to be player-friendly.
• San Antonio has self-propelled itself as a dumping ground for Cedi Osman and maintains a large cap room to soak up any wreckage created by the inevitable trade of James Harden and Damian Lillard.
• Utah used most of the room to take on other people’s problem contracts, turning Rudy Gay into John Collins. The Jazz still have plenty of room to renegotiate and extend Jordan Clarkson or sign another bad contract.
• Charlotte and Washington could have gotten into the fray, but didn’t really want to jump in. The Wizards somewhat oddly chose to (over)pay Kyle Kuzma. The Hornets’ situation is still unclear awaiting restricted free agency in PJ Washington and Miles Bridges, but so far they’re not unrestricted free agent players.
• Even the Lakers — lakerspeople and free agent destinations Outstanding For decades, we took one look at the options and decided, “Well, this is it.”
So if you have a total cap room of around $30 million…seconds? ? ?
Things really seem to have changed. You can’t get elite players for free anymore. Teams have become too savvy and recruiting players has become too easy. Conversely, no one is so stupid as to spend money arbitrarily just because they have money. Den and Mozgoff’s summer seems to be a thing of the past.
In fact, some of the smartest plays I’ve ever seen come from teams like Orlando and Indiana, which are basically like hybrid strategies by turning cap room into both useful players and trade exceptions. adopts something
Bruce Brown is overpaid at $45 million over two years, but with a second-year team option, it basically works as a trade exception. If any deal comes up for the Pacers to get a player who really makes a difference, they’ve got the big deal with the time limit they need…and that’s what they’ll do over the next two years if they choose the option. It also applies to time. In the meantime, they’ve acquired some really useful players to help their backcourt. This is much higher up the food chain than absorbing a payroll dump.
Orlando has implemented a similar concept for half the money. Ingles hasn’t quite reached Brown’s level, but having him on record will allow the Magic to quickly turn around if a trade opportunity presents itself.
I thought this was a particularly clever use of cap room for teams like the Magic and Pacers who are still figuring out what they have, but there are teams that don’t use short-term overpayments as a tool. I was a little surprised by the increased space for the rollover cap.
One thing is for sure, cap spaces aren’t cool anymore. The dream of signing an All-Star player to a free-agent contract would be impossible if none of them became a free agent in the first place. As a result, teams will need to think more strategically about what max-type cap room means anymore and what are truly viable options for franchises in that position. Many of them have earned 50 cents on cap room dollars this year, and with so few real stars going free agency, it’s unclear if their ROI will improve significantly in upcoming seasons.
(Fred VanVleet top photo: Cole Burston/Getty Images)
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