NBA Free Agency 2020: Which Teams Have the Most Cap Space?

Having ground the NBA season to a halt for three months, the coronavirus pandemic is now poised to make its impact felt on the NBA free agency, which begins this Friday at 6 p.m. ET.

Earlier this week, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) agreed to keep the salary cap unchanged from last season, due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The NBA and NBPA also agreed to a 72-game regular season, which could further dent the coffers of the league and the teams.

According to an estimate from sports business intelligence firm Team Marketing Report, with each team losing five home games this season, all 30 franchises stand to lose a collective $405 million.

The salary cap is normally based on a projection of the following season's revenue, but doing so would have substantially lowered the bar, hence the decision to keep it unchanged from last season.

Here's a breakdown of the key figures for this year's free agency.

What is the salary cap this season?

Because of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on its revenues, the NBA, the NBPA and team owners earlier this month agreed to keep the salary cap at $109.14 million, while the luxury tax remained at $132.62 million.

Both thresholds were already in place in the season that ended last month, and reflect the financial hit the league suffered because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The salary cap could fluctuate sharply in future, depending on how much revenue is generated this season. The latter point remains a major question mark in itself, if teams continue to play behind closed doors, which would all but wipe out their revenues from ticket sales and arenas.

Which teams have salary cap space?

Before getting any further, there are two important disclaimers to make. As ever, teams that are under the salary cap will have their cap holds—which are essentially a placeholder for players a team is expected to re-sign—while teams that are over the cap won't have their cap holds applied but must use all their salary cap exceptions.

For the purpose of this article, the figures from Spotrac indicate the practical cap space, which is defined as "the cap space with cap holds renounced if a team's salary was below the cap maximum".

The second disclaimer is that the figures are fluid and subject to change, should teams renounce some of their free agents to clear further cap room or, conversely, complete trades that may result in them reducing their cap space.

With that in mind, Spotrac projects 14 teams to head into free agency with salary-cap space available. Two of those teams—the Washington Wizards and the Minnesota Timberwolves—have flexibility in name only, as they are approximately $240,000 and $1.33 million under the cap respectively.

The Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons, on the other hand, have $43.5 million, $41.1 million and $31.4 million available. The Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat all have north of $20 million available.

At the other end of the scale, the Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets are all significantly over the cap, and either in luxury tax territory or very close.

Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors
Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors controls the ball during the second half of the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at The Arena in the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 1 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. VanVleet is an unrestricted free agent this season.Ashley Landis/Pool/Getty

How much can players make?

As ever, the maximum amount a player can make depends on how long he has been in the league, as well as the current salary cap. Players with 10 or more years of service can earn up to 35 percent of the current cap in the first year of a new deal, which this season amounts to $38.19 million. The figure drops to 30 percent for players who have been in the league between nine and seven years and to 25 percent for players who have been in the NBA for six years or less. In other words, players in the former category can make up to $32.74 million this season, while those in the latter category can earn a maximum of $27.28 million.

NBA teams projected cap space

(All figures according to Spotrac. Figures in between brackets denote team over the cap)

  1. Atlanta Hawks—$43.5 million
  2. New York Knicks—$41.1 million
  3. Detroit Pistons—$31.4 million
  4. Sacramento Kings—$27.1 million
  5. New Orleans Pelicans—$25.7 million
  6. Charlotte Hornets $20.5 million
  7. Miami Heat $20.4 million
  8. Toronto Raptors—$17.5 million
  9. Oklahoma City Thunder—$11.3 million
  10. Phoenix Suns—$7.50 million
  11. Portland Trail Blazers—$7.29 million
  12. Denver Nuggets—$6.14 million
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves—$1.33 million
  14. Washington Wizards—$238,920
  15. Dallas Mavericks—($2.81 million)
  16. Chicago Bulls ($3.96 million)
  17. Memphis Grizzlies—($4.19 million)
  18. Los Angeles Clippers—($6.70 million)
  19. Cleveland Cavaliers—($7.45 million)
  20. Los Angeles Lakers—($7.68 million)
  21. Utah Jazz—($9.41 million)
  22. San Antonio Spurs—($10.1 million)
  23. Milwaukee Bucks—($10.7 million)
  24. Orlando Magic—($12.1 million)
  25. Indiana Pacers—($16.1 million)
  26. Houston Rockets ($19.7 million)
  27. Brooklyn Nets—($283 million)
  28. Boston Celtics—($33.4 million)
  29. Philadelphia 76ers—($41.5 million)
  30. Golden State Warriors—($45.3 million)