Larry Coon last week came out with some critically important new information for NBA franchises. Updated salary cap predictions.
Also noteworthy is that the projections themselves have increased over the course of this season. Last July the cap projection for 2014-15 was $62.5 million, which itself would have represented a 6.5% increase over this season. At the All-Star break the league revised its projection to $62.9 million, which would have represented a 7.19% increase over this season. And now they’re projecting a 7.7% increase, which indicates that not only is the league making a lot of money, it’s coming in even faster than they anticipated.
What does this mean for the Pelicans and Dell Demps?
First, there are more options on the table. Below you will find two very different tables. The first is the whole shebang: every single unguaranteed deal (Ely, Babbitt, Withey), Morrow's player option, cap holds for Jason Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu, and qualifying offers for both Brian Roberts and Darius Miller. The Pelicans do not even have a roster spot available (teams get a max of 15) to use the Mid-Level Exception if they wanted to do so.
Second is the roster stripped bare to maximize cap space. Every unguaranteed deal (Ely, Babbitt, Withey) is waived, Morrow opts out, bird rights to Smith and Aminu waived, and qualifying offers to Roberts and Miller are not tendered. In this scenario the Pelicans have $7,082,143 ($63.2M minus $56,625,193 plus one cap hold of $507,336) in cap space (good for a max offer of 4 years/$30.24M), the room exception of $2,732,000 (2 years/$5.586M), and the ability to bring in additional players on minimum contracts. So much for the Pelicans lacking cap flexibility. This would not mean Jason Smith could not re-sign with the Pelicans for example, just that the maximum they could offer (unless they used the room exception) would be the minimum for a 7 year vet, $1,227,985.
I think a lot of this is going to depend on if the team wants to bring Jason Smith back. If they determine that his health is not worth the financial commitment or if he agrees to come back at the veteran minimum the team cutting bait with nearly everyone is a distinct possibility. The least likely to be waived in my estimation is Jeff Withey. Keeping him on the books means the Pelicans have $6,772,987 available in cap space and the room exception of $2,732,000 available.
At maximum this means the Pelicans could offer a 4 year/$28.92M contract with cap space and a 2 year/$5.586M with the Room Exception. The cap space available is more than J.J. Redick (4/$27.7M), Kyle Korver (4/$24M), and Martell Webster (4/$22M) signed for last summer. The Pelicans hypothetically can get a good wing player for that amount. If there was one to be had.
As I have discussed previously, all that cap space is probably useless this summer. Only three candidates I can see will command the $6M+ price point this summer who fit the Pelicans. Yes I think it is safe to rule out LeBron, Carmelo, Wade, Bosh, etc from coming to New Orleans. Even if Demps had $30M in cap space.
- Luol Deng - who has a ton of miles on his legs, and will probably command more than the $6.2M the Pelicans can offer.
- Spencer Hawes - who doesn't fit what Monty wants to do, might be too expensive.
- Marvin Williams - He's got about 7,000 fewer NBA minutes on his legs (26,167 vs. 19,225) than Deng. A lesser defender (significantly so), but a more capable shooter.
It is probably best, considering the effects of a large salary obligation to Luol Deng if he would take it (and the inevitable effect of the New Orleans training staff) that the Pelicans avoid him. I am not saying Deng is injury prone, I am saying that twenty-six thousand minutes is a lot in the NBA and the track record on the Pelican training staff is beyond poor. Hawes could be a great signing if he panned out, but a lot of that will depend on Monty Williams being willing to adapt his defensive scheme to something more conservative and Monty choosing to win with offense first over defense.
Marvin Williams might be the answer, if the price is right. Not because I think Williams is a great player, but because I fully expect Monty Williams to continue to be the coach. He loves playing a veteran (see: Stiemsma) even when that veteran is woefully inadequate. With Marvin Williams the word "adequate" seems apt. At this point in his career Marvin is a league average shooter with below average defensive metrics but that "young veteran" smell that draws Monty like a moth to flame.
The problems the Pelicans run into is not a lack of flexibility. It is a lack of availability of talent in the free agent market. The team's obvious weaknesses are SF and C. Take a look at the upcoming free agents at small forward and center for yourself. Let me know if there is an obvious upgrade at either of those positions I am missing.