The 2022 NBA trade deadline is now behind us. There were 10 trades made on deadline day alone, and 16 total trades made during deadline week. These deals ranged from the blockbuster James Harden-for-Ben Simmons swap to small salary-clearing trades for teams looking to dodge the luxury tax.
Now that the deadline 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 $10.2 million MLE) and Taxpayer Mid-Level teams (can use the “mini” $6.3 million MLE).
Here’s where each team stands after the trade deadline:
Cap Space Teams
- Detroit Pistons - $31.4 million
- Orlando Magic - $28.1 million
- Indiana Pacers - $23.8 million
- Portland Trail Blazers - $20.0 million
- San Antonio Spurs - $17.6 million
These five teams are all in line to have cap space this summer. Detroit and Orlando seem like locks to go the cap space route. Barring something unexpected with their own free agents, or with trades before the deadline, these three will be in position to do the spending in the offseason. The only major changes that could come to this projection is if either team decides to hang on to former high draft picks, Marvin Bagley III or Mo Bamba.
Indiana and Portland could both choose to stay over the cap via keeping free agent rights and or trade exceptions. Both made considerable changes leading up to the deadline and more big changes are likely to come this season. Neither team has said they are rebuilding, but rather “resetting” around some of the players they kept after making several trades.
The Spurs took on some money at the deadline by acquiring Romeo Langford and Josh Richardson, and by acquiring two additional first-round picks. That takes their projection to under $20 million. If San Antonio was to move on from restricted free Lonnie Walker IV, they could push the Pistons for the most space this summer.
Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Teams
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Houston Rockets
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- New York Knicks
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Sacramento Kings
- Toronto Raptors
- Washington Wizards
This group of eight teams is a mixed bag. Teams like Cleveland, Memphis, 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.
After salary-dumping Daniel Theis at the deadline, the Houston Rockets are now in range of being able to use the full MLE this offseason. They’ll likely split it, as the Rockets are still more than one MLE addition away from competing for the playoffs.
New York is a bit harder to project. They could be a team that makes a major pivot after a disappointing season following their 2021 playoff appearance. Look for whatever the Knicks to do to come via trade vs clearing enough salary to get in the cap space derby.
Some may be surprised to find Oklahoma City in this group. The Thunder have a major contract extension kicking in for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander next season, plus they project to have three first-round draft picks. That’s got them over the cap, despite still being early in their rebuild. OKC will continue to build through the draft and through trades and may just sit on the MLE for now.
Then you have the factories of sadness that are Sacramento and Washington. Both have All-Star level players. 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 three 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 room under the tax line.
New Orleans is probably a move away from joining the teams who can use the full MLE and stay under the tax. They have 13 players under contract and are only one small salary-shedding deal from opening up full MLE space.
Over the Tax
- Atlanta Hawks
- Boston Celtics
- Brooklyn Nets
- Dallas Mavericks
- Denver Nuggets
- Golden State Warriors
- LA Clippers
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Miami Heat
- 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 may shed salary or make free agent decisions that allow them to duck the tax. But as it stands, all 13 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 $6.3 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.
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