The 2023 NBA offseason is mostly behind us. Why only mostly? Well, Damian Lillard and James Harden still call Portland and Philadelphia home, respectively. Until those guys are traded (more likely) or show up for training camp (less likely), the offseason won’t really be wrapped up.
But outside of those two stars, rosters are more or less set to open the 2023-24 season. And that means we can start looking ahead by nearly a year to what the landscape looks like for the 2024 NBA offseason.
The NBA CBA negotiations wrapped up without any sort of major hitches. No work stoppages and everything is moving forward as per usual. The salary cap settled at just over $136 million for the 2023-24 season. That was a 10% increase over last year’s cap of about $123.6 million. The luxury tax landed at $165.6 million, with the tax apron coming in at $172.3 million. The new second tax apron (it really is a shame that “super tax” hasn’t caught on more!) is set at $182.8 million.
For the 2024-25 season, the NBA is being very conservative. Initial projections are that we’ll see just a 4.4% increase. That means a cap of $142 million, a tax line of $172.5 million, first apron of $179.9 million and second apron of $190.8 million. The reason for this conservative projection is likely driven by the uncertainty with several Regional Sports Networks (RSNs). Diamond Sports Group, the parent company of Bally Sports, currently broadcasts games for about half of the NBA teams. They are going through bankruptcy proceedings, and that’s caused issues for those teams, and the league as a whole. Thus, the conservative cap projection.
We’re basing everything on the NBA’s official projection. Yes, there is a good chance the cap raises by more than a modest 4.4%. It might even go up the full 10%, which many smart capologists are betting on. But for now, for consistency purposes, we run with the league’s official projection.
With all of that said, here’s our first pass at what the spending power landscape might look like in the summer of 2024.
(Note: These projections are made using the noted cap and tax figures above, draft pick cap holds based on projected standings and a projection on all option and guarantee decisions by players and teams. No extensions or trades have been projected. We will call out where those types of situations could impact a team projection.)
Cap Space Teams – 7 Teams
San Antonio Spurs: $55.3 million
Orlando Magic: $51.3 million
Utah Jazz: $41.6 million
Charlotte Hornets: $40.7 million
Detroit Pistons: $38.7 million
Philadelphia 76ers: $32.9 million
Washington Wizards: $20.1 million
Seven teams project to have cap space in 2024. Not only will these teams likely go the cap space route, but they’ll also have the $8.1 million Room Exception too. In the new CBA world, the Room Exception has more spending power than the Taxpayer MLE does. So, these seven teams are kind of in control of the free agent board.
The Spurs are highly likely to use some of their $55 million in an extension for Devin Vassell. But even a deal of $20 million or more would leave San Antonio with considerable cap space. There’s also a world where the Spurs choose to keep Vassell’s moderate cap hold of $17.7 million on the books to maximize their cap space, while re-signing Vassell after.
This projection for the Magic is largely dependent on Orlando moving on from Jonathan Isaac. Given that his deal is fully non-guaranteed for 2024-25, and he still can’t stay healthy, it’s probably time for the Magic to go in a different direction. Orlando may use a chunk of this space to re-sign Markelle Fultz and/or Cole Anthony. They could also extend Fultz and/or Anthony before it gets to that point. Either way, the Magic should have the ability to add some major talent to a developing young roster.
Utah is sitting pretty. They’ve got all of their core players under contract, with a ton potential cap space. Some of this spending power could be used to renegotiate-and-extend Lauri Markkanen’s deal. That’s en vogue at the moment, with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, as well as Jazzman Jordan Clarkson, having inked such deals in the last year. If Utah chooses to let things play out with Markkanen, they could be a major player in free agency, as they’ve got a ready-to-win roster.
The Hornets are a tricky projection. As of this writing, P.J. Washington hasn’t re-signed. If he signs a long-term deal, that will eat into some of this $40 million in spending power. If Washington signs his qualifying offer for this season, a la teammate Miles Bridges, he’ll be headed towards unrestricted free agency and a potential departure next summer. We’re betting on the latter for now and the Hornets having cap space to build around an extended LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller.
Detroit feels like they are perpetually in this spot of sitting on a bunch of cap space with an interesting roster of vets and young players. This season will give us a big sense of the Pistons plans. If they’re competitive, they might use some of this space to add more veteran talent. If they struggle again, then it’s probably time to move on from some of the older players and reset once again around the kids.
The 76ers are a bit of a mess. The James Harden drama lingers over the team, but Philadelphia has given us some clues as to their plans for next summer, independent of the Harden situation. By not extending Tyrese Maxey, who is the organization’s second-most important player behind Joel Embiid, the Sixers are signaling they intend to have cap space next summer. It won’t be the “double max contract” cap room that’s been bandied about, but Philadelphia will have enough to make some moves as they rebuild around Embiid and an ultimately re-signed restricted free agent Maxey.
Washington cleaned up their cap sheet considerably, despite taking on Jordan Poole’s contract and re-signing Kyle Kuzma. But both of those guys make less than Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis by a considerable amount, so the Wizards are in a better spot both short- and long-term. They could easily stay over the cap, as $20 million is right in range where that becomes and either/or decision. If the Wizards retain Tyus Jones, they’ll end up staying over the cap. If not, then they’ll be hunting for a point guard to put next to Kuzma and Poole.
Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Teams – 10 Teams
These 10 teams project to have access to the beefed-up Non-Taxpayer MLE of $12.95 million. This group is mostly full of playoff contenders, or teams trying to get into that position.
The Nets have rebuilt on the fly in an impressive manner. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson are signed for the next three and four seasons, respectively. The draft pick situation has been reset with the trades of their former Big 3. Of the team’s free agents, Nic Claxton is the most important one to get re-signed. Brooklyn can do that and still have plenty of clearance under the tax line to use the full Non-Taxpayer MLE.
Chicago didn’t make a lot of their fans happy by extending Nikola Vucevic and re-signing Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu. This wasn’t a group that was screaming “Run it back!”. But the Bulls have a solid group, even if there are question marks. Pending what happens with re-signing or extending DeMar DeRozan and/or Patrick Williams, Chicago could have enough room to use the Non-Taxpayer MLE. That’s not bad, considering the team is still working around Lonzo Ball’s salary on the books, while he tries to come back from his knee injury.
Houston spent big this summer, and that probably took them out of the cap space derby for next summer. That’s fine. The Rockets are trying to push things forward. The roster remains pretty full, so Houston should be able to spend the full MLE on a targeted signing.
The Pacers are kind of in the same spot as the Rockets, but about a year ahead on the rebuilding timeline. Indiana is ready to win now. Their young guys are ready now, and they’ve got vets in place. Indiana’s cap sheet is also relatively clean. They’ve got a few pending free agents, but even if they re-sign or extend guys like Buddy Hield and Obi Toppin, the Pacers will likely have the ability to use the full MLE.
Miami…what to do with Miami? Projecting where the Heat will be next summer is kind of an exercise in futility. If they trade for Damian Lillard, they’ll likely be a tax team, and potentially up against the super tax. If they don’t, the Heat could have the Non-Taxpayer MLE to add someone alongside all the names you already know. We’ll definitely be updating this one down the line, as this situation remains very much in flux.
The Pelicans are dancing around the tax line this season, but could have enough clearance to use the full MLE next summer. A lot depends on what happens with Jonas Valanciunas. He wants an extension, but New Orleans seems at least as open to trading him, as they do extending him. If the latter happens, the Pels could have some money to spend in the form of the MLE.
The Knicks are probably going to spend a good chunk of change to extend Immanuel Quickley. Or they should, at least. Even so, they should still have room to use the full Non-Taxpayer MLE. The only way this projection changes is if Evan Fournier is traded to bring long-term money onto the books. Then, the Knicks will probably be a Taxpayer MLE team.
It might be a surprise to see the Thunder here, as opposed to in the cap space section, but they’re carrying more money than most think. The good news? None of that is bad salary. A few years of high and multiple draft picks, along with a few smart re-signings, have the team just over the cap. Also working for Oklahoma City is that they can use the full MLE on a targeted player, because they have a mostly full roster too.
Sacramento is coming off their best season in forever, and they’ve got the ability to keep the good times rolling. The Kings should be about $20 million clear of the luxury tax line next summer. They’ll use some of the clearance to re-sign Malik Monk, but Sacramento should still have enough room to use the full Non-Taxpayer MLE. For a team that doesn’t need a lot, that’s a great spot to be in.
The Raptors are in a weird spot. Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. will likely be free agents, along with probably Precious Achiuwa. If those guys all came off the books entirely, Toronto could have a ton of cap space. If one of two them return, the Raps are over the cap. If all returned, they’re probably up against the tax. It’ll probably fall in the middle, and that leaves Toronto with the MLE to spend.
Taxpayer Mid-Level Teams – 7 Teams
The Taxpayer MLE is no longer much of an advantage for the NBA’s more-expensive teams. It’s been knocked down to just $5.22 million in value for 2024-25. The real kicker is that using the Taxpayer MLE hard caps a team at the second tax apron. That makes it hard to find the right amount of wiggle room to use this MLE, while staying under that hard cap.
Atlanta reset their cap sheet by salary-dumping John Collins. Pending extensions for Onyeka Okongwu and Saddiq Bey, the Hawks could be right back to bumping against the luxury tax line. Extending Okongwu seems important, given the trade of Collins and Clint Capela having just two years left on his deal. There’s also the fact that Okongwu is pushing Capela for the Hawks best big man status. Add it all up, and Atlanta is probably working right around the tax apron next season.
The Cavs spent a good chunk of money this offseason. Combine that with Darius Garland’s extension and Donovan Mitchell’s and Jarrett Allen’s deals, and Cleveland is as expensive as they’ve been since LeBron James was on the team. If Ricky Rubio retires, the Cavaliers could probably angle themselves in a spot to use the full Non-Taxpayer MLE. But for now, put them in Taxpayer MLE territory.
The Mavericks are just below the tax line, but that’s before extending or re-signing Josh Green. He’s an integral part of the team’s rotation (and a likely starter this season), so Green will be extended or re-signed. That’ll leave Dallas working with either the Taxpayer MLE, or maybe dancing just below the second apron line.
Denver is sitting about $6.3 million under the second apron. That should give them juuuuuuust enough room to use the Taxpayer MLE and to sign a player to a minimum deal. That’s good news, because Denver should only have one or two roster spots to fill. If they can shed a salary or two, they’ll have even more wiggle room under the super tax.
The Lakers have rebuilt their roster, but still left themselves some room to work. And if some guys move on, then Los Angeles will have even more room to work with. They’ll probably have several roster spots to fill, so using their MLE in a productive way is very important to the Lakers. Things will probably look similar to this summer, with lots of movement through re-signings, using the MLE and minimum deals.
Minnesota is going to be up against the tax to open next summer. They’ve got most of their core guys signed, but if Jaden McDaniels extends, they’ll be well over the tax. If not, they have to carve out room to re-sign McDaniels next summer. He’s their best all-around defender and a better-than-you-think offensive player. Pending what he signs for, the Wolves could even be approaching super tax status.
Portland is in a similar place to Miami and Philadelphia. We don’t really know where to put them. For now, with Damian Lillard’s $48.8 million on the books, the Blazers are close to being a super tax team. If they move on from Lillard, they’ll still probably take back at least some long-term money. We’re going to split the difference and call them a Taxpayer team for now, owning that this could change greatly.
Super Tax Teams (no signing exception) – 6 Teams
This is the same group as this current season, minus swapping out the Heat for the Grizzlies, and there’s a good chance Miami lands back here again too. This group also comprises some of the top contenders in the NBA. If you’re going to spend this much, you better be in the mix for the Finals.
Reminder: Super Tax teams are limited to re-signing their own free agents, signing their draft picks and signing minimum deals. And in the summer of 2024, the new and far-more restrictive trade rules will be in full effect, as well.
Boston is set to be over the second apron by virtue of signing Jaylen Brown to his super max extension. The Celtics also extended Kristaps Porzingis. They’ll likely have a few roster spots to fill, and that’ll happen through the draft or veteran minimum signings. With extensions looming for Jayson Tatum and Derrick White, Boston will probably be in this spot for the next few years.
Golden State could get out of the super tax mix. Could. Not likely to happen though. That would mean the Warriors re-signed Klay Thompson to a deal worth a fraction of what he makes now, or they let him walk entirely. If Thompson looks good and the Dubs contend, they’ll run it back for at least a couple more years of the super tax.
The Clippers are fascinating. They could be the most expensive roster in the league if they extend or re-sign all their major free agents (including maybe James Harden?). Or LA could be resetting their roster with around $100 million in cap space. Bet on the former, as the Clips are going to try to keep this group together to get them to that elusive Finals berth. With a new arena opening, LA isn’t going to want to be rebuilding.
It might surprise some to see Memphis here. The Grizzlies have been thought of as an up-and-coming team with great flexibility. Well, they’re here now. Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. will all be on their extended deals, and the team traded for Luke Kennard and Marcus Smart in the last year. All that salary has Memphis just below the second apron and without any kind of signing exceptions projected for next season. That’s no big deal for the Grizzlies, because their roster is basically full as is.
Milwaukee’s projection mostly involves an idea that the team will extend or re-sign Jrue Holiday. If Holiday approaches a deal in the range of $35 to $40 million in first-year salary, then the Bucks will probably be right around the super tax. If Holiday takes a discount, Milwaukee could be far enough under the second apron to use the Taxpayer MLE.
Phoenix has over $185 million committed to the foursome of Deandre Ayton, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. That’s less than $6 million under the second apron with 11 roster spots to fill. Much like this past summer, when the Suns nailed their minimum signings, they’ll be in the same boat for at least the next couple of years. They’ll need to do similarly good work to flesh out their roster around their big-money quartet.