The Budget

Free agency is coming! (And as the Germans might tell you, the British are not).

Last summer, I split free agency into two posts- The Budget and the Shopping List, and since those were so successful/awesome, I'll do the same this time around.

2010 edition: what have we got left to spend!

I'll begin by quoting 2009 version of myself:

Not a whole lot. Before starting, I need to mention that these analyses would not have been possible without the salary information of wyn at Canis Hoopus.  Extraordinarily useful stuff. 

Our current salary situation, post-jump:

Player Dollars (in millions)
Chris Paul 14.9
Peja Stojakovic 14.3
Emeka Okafor 11.9
David West 8.3
James Posey 6.5
Darius Songaila 4.8
Julian Wright 2.9
Darren Collison 1.4
Craig Brackins 1.1
Quincy Pondexter 0.9
Marcus Thornton 0.8
Free Agent #1 ---
Free Agent #2 ---
Free Agent #3 ---
Free Agent #4 ---
Hornets Total
67, 540, 045
Projected Salary Cap
54, 841, 000
Projected Luxury Tax
67, 298, 000

 

The projections were accurate to within $30,000 last year, and so I have a good deal of confidence in them. The current projection indicates that New Orleans is minimally above the tax, though we won't know for sure until the official figures are released. We do know that the Hornets will be about 12 to 14 million over the cap line, for sure (or put another way, the contract of Peja Stojakovic over the cap. Hmm.)

Both Brackins' and Pondexters' contracts are derived from the current rookie pay scale. This will likely be the final run of the current iteration with a new CBA around the corner. It also means that, for the second consecutive year, Marcus Thornton will be the lowest paid player on the team. At $800,000 for six months of work, he shall simply have to overcome.

As we've become accustomed to, the luxury tax line will be critically important. In previous years, the tax level has been announced on Wednesday, July 9th, 2008 and Wednesday, July 8th, 2009. According to my pretty solid source in David Stern's office, this year it will be announced on, er, Wednesday, July 9th, 2010. So we're a week away. 

Here's the current depth chart:

Paul/Collison
Thornton
Stojakovic/Posey/Wright/Pondexter
West//Songaila/Brackins
Okafor

Sure Pondexter might slide over to play the 2 every now and again, and Brackins may play center, but those certainly don't seem like extraordinarily viable options at this point. As it stands, there are definite needs at shooting guard and center. 

It's unclear right now (a) if Chouest is actually ever going to take over the team, and (b) whether he'd be willing to exceed the luxury if he does. I'm choosing to operate under the assumption that New Orleans needs to stay under the tax because, frankly, that seems more likely. Keep in mind that the CBA specifies that the tax is calculated based on players under contract on the final day of the regular season. The Hornets have the expiring contracts of Songaila (4.8) and Stojakovic (14.3) to move, if necessary.

Essentially, if they're going to stay under the tax, the Hornets need to make sure the dollars they spend this summer are dollars they can move by the trade deadline. If the FO is certain they can dump the entirety of those two contracts for trade exceptions (which seems very unlikely), then the Hornets could stand to use all of their midlevel exception and biannual exception (projected 8.1 million total). The super conservative estimate would be just the loss of Songaila's contract (4.8 million total).

A final caveat: the league office projected the cap to be 56.1 million, back in April. If that's indeed the case, the Hornets can spend almost the entire midlevel and biannual exceptions and only have to rid themselves of Songaila's contract. Next Wednesday's announcement will be interesting, but overall, it seems fair to peg the Hornets' budget in that 5 to 8 million dollar range regardless of the exact tax amount. 

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