The 2022 NBA Draft is now behind us. There were 19 trades agreed to involving 2022 draft picks. These deals ranged from the big trades that sent Christian Wood to the Dallas Mavericks and Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers to smaller deals where draft picks were swapped.
Now that the draft has passed, we have a better idea of what this offseason landscape might look like.
In general, teams slot into one of three categories in the offseason. There are Cap Space teams, Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level teams (can use the full $10.3 million MLE) and Taxpayer Mid-Level teams (can use the “mini” $6.4 million MLE).
Here’s where each team stands after the trade deadline:
Cap Space Teams
- Detroit Pistons - $44.8 million
- San Antonio Spurs – $32.6 million
- Orlando Magic - $27.9 million
- Indiana Pacers - $25.6 million
- New York Knicks - $16.3 million
These five teams are all in line to have cap space this summer. All five seem like locks to go the cap space route. Barring something unexpected with their own free agents, these five will be in position to do the big spending in the offseason. The San Antonio Spurs bumped up this list after drafting two more shooting guards. That means the generally player-friendly Spurs will likely let Lonnie Walker IV hit the unrestricted market this summer, while also creating the second-most cap space in the league.
The Knicks are still looking to shed another salary or two to get into range to make a big offer to a point guard, likely Jalen Brunson. If they can move off one more $9-$17 million salary, New York will be major players in free agency this summer.
The Portland Trail Blazers were on this list prior to acquiring Jerami Grant at the draft. That acquisition, via the C.J. McCollum traded player exception, made it a virtual lock that Portland will operate as an over the cap team.
The Memphis Grizzlies are the lone real swing team this summer. If they were to lose Kyle Anderson and/or Tyus Jones, Memphis could pivot to having over $20 million cap space. That’s somewhat of a frightening thought for the rest of the NBA, as the Grizzlies could add to what is already a good, deep roster this summer.
Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Teams
- Houston Rockets
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Miami Heat
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Sacramento Kings
- Toronto Raptors
- Washington Wizards
This group of nine teams is a mixed bag. Teams like Memphis, Miami, Minnesota and Toronto have their cores locked in. They’ll be looking to use the $10.3 million Non-Taxpayer MLE to supplement that group.
The Heat could be choosing between a combination of using some of the Non-Taxpayer MLE to re-sign Caleb Martin, using Bird Rights to re-sign Victor Oladipo and re-signing P.J. Tucker via his Non-Bird Rights. But they should be able to create just enough room under the tax apron to do two. Maybe they can squeeze in all three, if everyone takes a bit of a cut. It’ll mean filling out the roster with minimums, but that’s where most title contenders are at anyway.
The Rockets are well within range of being able to use the full MLE this offseason. Houston isn’t really one MLE signing away from contending, so this will be a targeted signing to help shepherd the young roster.
Some may be surprised to find Oklahoma City in this group instead of the cap space group. The Thunder have a major contract extension kicking in for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander next season, plus they have three first-round draft picks to sign, and they’ve got over $28 million in dead money on the books. That’s got them over the cap, despite still being early in their rebuild. OKC continues to build through the draft and through trades and may just sit on the MLE for now. They are also getting really tight on roster spots.
The Trail Blazers can re-sign Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons and probably still squeeze in a full MLE signing too. If they’re serious about pushing back towards the playoffs, they’ll need to do all three.
Then you have the factories of sadness that are Sacramento and Washington. Both have All-Star level players (assuming Bradley Beal returns to the Wizards). Both have solid role players. Yet, it never quite seems to come together for either franchise. In an offseason that will feature yet another retooling, these teams will spend the MLE on a player or players they hope will push them firmly into the playoff picture.
Taxpayer Mid-Level Teams
This group is so big we’re going to sub-divide them. The two categories will be “Close to the Tax” and “Over the Tax”
Close to the Tax
These four teams will be dancing around the tax line. Charlotte (Miles Bridges) and Chicago (Zach LaVine) have free agents to re-sign who are going to eat up most of their wiggle room under the tax line.
The Cavs aren’t going to re-sign Collin Sexton to anything near a max deal, but if he gets somewhere between $15 and $20 million in first-year salary, they’ll be doing the same dance as Charlotte and Chicago.
New Orleans is probably a move away from joining the teams who can use the full MLE and stay under the tax. They have 14 players under contract and are only one small salary-shedding deal from opening up full MLE space. The bigger challenge for the Pelicans is that they are getting really tight on roster spots.
Over the Tax
- Atlanta Hawks
- Boston Celtics
- Brooklyn Nets
- Dallas Mavericks
- Denver Nuggets
- Golden State Warriors
- LA Clippers
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Phoenix Suns
- Utah Jazz
This is potentially the largest group of tax-paying teams the NBA will have ever seen. It may not end up playing out this way, as some will shed salary or make free agent decisions that allow them to duck the tax. But as it stands, all 12 of these teams are currently over the tax, or project to be after they fill out their rosters for the 2022-23 season. That’ll have them limited to spending the $6.4 million Taxpayer MLE for help, or upgrading their rosters via trades. Since all fancy themselves as somewhere between solid playoff teams and title contenders, don’t expect to see a lot of salary-shedding from within this group.
The teams to watch are the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns. The Sixers have put themselves in range of being able to use the Non-Taxpayer MLE. A lot depends on what happens with James Harden and his player option or a new deal. If he plays ball, the Sixers can create a little more spending power.
The Suns are solely dependent on the Deandre Ayton situation. If he leaves with nothing coming back to Phoenix, they’ll have the full MLE and a big hole to fill at center. If it’s a sign-and-trade deal, the Suns will likely be limited to using the Taxpayer MLE to fill out their depth up front.
And, of course, there’s the circus in Brooklyn. For now, we’ll plug the Nets in here and assume that everyone decides to play nice and Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant stay put. If not, the Nets could end up just about anywhere on this list. It’ll be like pressing the reset button and basically starting all over in Brooklyn.