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The Hornets' Salary Cap Situation and Restricted Free Agency

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An exciting restricted free agent season is upon us, so here's a quick primer on how the Hornets fit in and what they can and can't do!

To start, here's what the Hornets' current roster situation looks like. (Going with numbers to the nearest hundred thousand, since the exact salary cap value isn't known yet anyway).

Rashard Lewis - $13.7M
Jarrett Jack - $5.4M
Anthony Davis - $5.1M
Al Aminu - $2.9M
Jason Smith - $2.5M
Xavier Henry - $2.3M
Austin Rivers - $2.1M
Gustavo Ayon - $1.5M
Greivis Vasquez - $1.2M

Total - $36.7M

The NBA is completing its annual financing audit over the next ten days; those will be completed when the July Moratorium lifts on July 11th. Until then, we won't know the exact salary cap value (the NBA lost 16 games in revenue per team last year), but it's expected to be around last year's mark of $58M again. Given that, we can make a rough estimate on just how much money New Orleans can offer free agents.

The above values don't list Eric Gordon of course. While he could get any amount of money up to his individual maximum ($12.9M for the first year of his new contract), for the purposes of cap space calculations, his "cap hold" is used - 250% of his previous salary. In other words, the league only adds $9.6M as the value for Gordon, even though he's basically guaranteed to make more than that. If we add Gordon's cap hold to the above total, we get:

New Total - $46.6M

That puts the team about $11M below the projected salary cap. As things currently stand, New Orleans would actually lose the ability to use either the midlevel exception or the biannual exception. A team either has exceptions or cap space (since exceptions inherently exist for teams that don't have cap space). This means that the Hornets essentially have $11M to spend (though they also have access to the smaller "room exception" which starts at $2.5M). Additionally, any contract for Eric Gordon exceeding $11M will put the Hornets above the projected salary floor ($49M).

Additionally, this means that if the Hornets did want to make an $11M offer to a restricted free agent, they'd need to not only make the offer but also have the player accept and have his team decline to match before bringing matching a Gordon offer.

And so that brings us to restricted free agents. Among the notables:

JaVale Mcgee, C, Denver
Nicolas Batum, F, Portland (New Orleans meets with him this week, Minnesota has already offered 4 years/50)
Omer Asik, C, Chicago (already agreed to 3 year/25M deal with Houston that Chicago can match)
Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana (Portland has already offered him a max deal)
Brook Lopez, C, Brooklyn
Ryan Anderson, F, Orlando

Teams have three days to match an offer sheet a player signs with a different team. For the offering team, their cap space is tied up on an accepted offer until the player's original team accepts or declines to match.