In addition to being the only two teams in the NBA to have a cap room available this season, the Pacers and tracks are also the only two clubs whose team salaries remain well below the ‘floor’ of the league.
As we explain in a glossary, the salary floor is the minimum amount that NBA teams must spend on player salaries in a given season. That amount is set at 90% of the season limit, rounded to the nearest thousandth. So since the limit for the 2022/23 campaign is $123,655,000, the minimum price is $111,290,000.
By our estimate, the Pacers team salary for the 2022/23 season is just under $96 million, while the Spurs’ figure is just under $95 million. Both clubs have the opportunity to create more than $28-30 million in caproom – they are also both more than $15 million short below the salary floor.
There is no rule that states that the Pacers and Spurs should sign free agents or trade for players to make up for that $15MM+ difference. Last season, for example, De Donder ended the season far below the salary floor.
In that scenario, the team is simply obligated to make up the difference by dividing the shortfall among the players on the roster. Players in Oklahoma City earned a nice year-end bonus last season, and players in Indiana and San Antonio may be hoping their teams don’t add big paychecks in the coming months so they get similar pay raises at the end of this season. season.
However, it is unlikely that the Pacers and the Spurs will both simply let all of their remaining cap room go unused. It will come in handy ahead of the February 10 trade deadline, when teams around the NBA may be looking to sign a contract or two. Indiana and San Antonio are well positioned to absorb paychecks when their trading partners tempt them to take on unwanted contracts by adding draft picks and/or young prospects.
The two teams’ caproom also allows them to investigate mismatched trades. For example, there were rumors that the Lakers and Spurs would have discussed the possibility of a deal Russell Westbrook and design fee to San Antonio in exchange for Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson. McDermott’s and Richardson’s combined cap hit is just under $26 million, which wouldn’t be nearly enough to match Westbrook’s $47 million+ salary if both teams worked above the cap. But the Spurs could take that extra paycheck using their cap space.
As we discussed last week, the Pacers have another potential path to using much of their cap space and rising above the pay floor. Sign Miles Turner to a contract extension that includes a salary renegotiation for the current season, giving him an immediate raise, would be a way to leverage their cap flexibility and incentivize Turner to sign on the dotted line, assuming there is mutual interest is in a long-term contract agreement. The Spurs do not have a single player eligible for renegotiation.
The Thunder’s relative inactivity during last season’s trade deadline reminds us that we shouldn’t necessarily expect major action when a team sits on unused cap room during the season. Still, it’s safe to assume teams in the league will engage with the Pacers and Spurs in the coming weeks and months, proposing creative ways for the two clubs to leverage their cap flexibility. Indiana and San Antonio will be two teams worth watching closely as February 10 approaches.