Early Financial Busts
The Washington Wizards (3-9) & Houston Rockets (5-7) are easily the early busts of the 2018-19 NBA season. These two franchises, each with Top 5 payrolls were legitimate contenders coming into the season, but are now poised for change after just 12 games.
Houston took a low risk chance on Carmelo Anthony after his trade & buyout from Atlanta this summer, signing him to a veteran minimum $2.3M salary for the season. That salary is fully guaranteed, even if the Rockets do release him as reports swirl, leaving behind a dead cap hit of $1.5M.
On the court, Houston is trying to combat key losses on the defensive side of the ball by simply outscoring teams - a feat that’s been unsuccessful early on in 2018, as much of the team is struggling to score with any consistency. It’s very possible Daryl Morey, one of the more progressive GMs in the league, explores trade options over the next few weeks to shake up a team that should be contending for June.
Financially speaking, the Rockets have $97M allocated to their guards, the most in the league by a whopping $25M, while their $132M total payroll ranks 4th in the NBA.
Related: The Best & Worst Value NBA Teams
Trade Winds in Washington
The Wizards hold the 5th highest payroll in the NBA, thanks to a 5 year, $127M extension to Beal & a what-appears-to-be brutal 4 year, $106M deal for Otto Porter Jr. They’ve also extended Wall to another 4 years, $169M, a contract that doesn’t even kick in until the 2019-20 season.
Of the three players mentioned here, Beal is the most likely to be traded based on his production & financial situation. He holds a $25M salary this year, followed by $27M & $28.7M through the 2020-21 season.
The 2019 Lakers
At $89M, the Lakers (7-6) hold the 27th highest (4th lowest) active payroll in the NBA, 34% of of which belongs to LeBron James. Next year though, LA has just 8 players under contract for a total of $62M, 60% of which comes from James’ $37M salary. The Lakers, who possess $41M of practical cap space, are primed to add at least one big name next offseason, or even sooner should they become active leading up to the February 8th trade deadline.
Butler to Philly
Jimmy Butler ’s move to Philly puts them in position to become major contenders over the next 3 seasons. By acquiring him via trade, the Sixers can now extend him next July using Bird Rights, which won’t require the use of cap space. This will allow Philly the opportunity to fill other needs early in the offseason, before likely rewarding Butler a much deserved pay raise.
As for the rest of their core, Ben Simmons is eligible for restricted free agency after the 2019-20 season, Markelle Fultz holds salaries of $9.7M next year, then a $12M club option in 2020, and Joel Embiid is cemented in through 2022-23. It’s possible Fultz is the odd-man-out here going forward should Butler remain after this season.